So here’s the deal: I love paper.
I also hate paper.
I love making lists with actual pen and paper, I love sending notecards and thank you cards in the mail, and I love pretty stationary and cute notebooks! Problem is, one of the biggest clutter issues in our home is paper! Paper everywhere!
No More Mail Please!
Mail is one of the biggest culprits! The amount of junk mail we receive is ridiculous!
Then you have school papers. This is a big problem especially if you have little ones who bring about 25 pieces of paper in their backpacks per day! We usually have a hard time throwing those away, since Ryan and I are both sentimental about the kids’ work.
Our Home Was in a State of Paper Overload
About a year ago, I really felt like all the paper in our home was consuming me! I was drowning in paper! It was so stressful to see so many piles of papers, not to mention the thought that something would be overlooked because it was buried in a pile of papers! The biggest problem came when we adopted a couple years ago. The number of papers that came along with the foster and adoption process was insane!
We definitely had a paper overload!
Enough With This Paper
I’ve always been very organized but it seems like when we started living in the U.S. our paper collection grew and grew! It just kept getting worse every year. I have a good filing system for important papers that I use daily, but it also seemed too much had landed in the “important papers” pile.
So I finally had enough!
Time to Solve This Paper Problem
I decided I needed to do something about all the paper consuming my home. I needed a simple system in place and I needed to get rid of A LOT of paper. Usually, when I organize a space in my home, my first step is to remove everything from the space and start from zero. Well, in this case, I brought all our paper piles from everywhere into one room.
I have a bonus room in my bedroom that Ryan and I use as an office and TV room, so I brought everything there. That’s where I keep my shredder so it was a perfect place!
First: Get Rid of the Unnecessary
The first step was getting rid of all the unnecessary papers. I went through tons and tons of papers and shredded anything that I didn’t need. Most of the foster and adoption papers were goners, except for a few very important ones. I shredded for several days! I got so excited, I even took out my small filing boxes I keep all my important things in, and went through those as well.
Our tax returns seemed to be taking up a lot of space in my daily filing boxes, so I decided to take them out and place them in their own box. I bought a nice filing box and we put those away in a safe place, where we don’t have to look at them, but they’re there if we need them!
I got rid of old papers for things we don’t even own anymore, like cars, houses, etc. I also got rid of papers that I was keeping “just in case”. I had a lot of papers from when we moved from Honduras to the U.S. Lists, moving company receipts, inventories, etc. It’s been almost 10 years since we moved, so there was no reason to keep holding on to those.
After several days of shredding, I was down to just the essential papers I needed to keep. But it can’t stop at just clearing out the papers you already have in your home.
Next: Setup a System and Be Intentional About It
So what now? You can’t stop there or else the piles will just grow again. You need to have a plan so that paper doesn’t take over your home again. So after you’ve gone through the paper decluttering process in your home, you will need to be intentional about the way you handle paper in your home. There are things that I do that have helped me so much with keeping papers at bay.
These are some simple steps you can take to reduce the paper clutter in your home:
- Toss the junk: Go through your mail as soon as you get it: Just do it. Right then and there. Stand next to your trash/recycling can and go through it. Immediately toss out any junk. I usually toss flyers and generic junk mail into the recycling. If anything has personal info or is something like a credit card application, then I shred! Once you’ve tossed out all the trash, you have to have a place to put the rest.
- Create a method: Come up with a simple method for filing important papers:
- For my mail, I have 3 categories. Trash (or shred), file, and take action. If I have time at that moment to file or take action, I do, but most times, I simply put papers in either the file or take action folder and once a day I go through them and do what needs to be done. I usually do this either at night before bed, when the house is peaceful, or in the morning after all the kids are either at school, or the homeschoolers settled in their work.
- For school papers, I use these boxes. As soon as my little one comes home from school, I go through his folder. I follow the same basic procedure as with the mail. I toss what needs to be tossed, I put his special work in the box, and I have a magnetic calendar where I put up any flyers of upcoming events, picture order forms, birthday party invitations, etc.
- All other papers that need to be filed live in my filing boxes. I love these boxes because they’re light and they come in all kinds of colors and designs. You have to keep things pretty right?! I have two, and that seems to be enough for our family. These are perfect for keeping papers from categories such as insurance, medical records, mortgage papers, car papers, social security, passports, birth certificates etc. Our home office will be spiffied up soon, and when we do it, I’m considering buying one of these cabinets, as an upgrade for my boxes. I’m not sure it’s entirely necessary though since the boxes I use have worked very well for years. The benefit I see is it would help me to have everything in one place instead of two.
- Switch to paperless billing: Any bills that are still coming in the mail need to be switched over to paperless billing. Almost every single provider has paperless billing. Some even reward you for opting into paperless billing! This usually only takes a few minutes and can be done by logging into your provider’s website. So many bills that could be paperless: electric, gas, water, credit cards, mortgage, insurance, car payments, internet, tv, cell phone, pool maintenance, etc.
- Stop those unwanted catalogs: Most catalogs come with a number printed on them so you can opt out of receiving them. If you’re not even looking at them, what’s the point of receiving them? There’s definitely a couple I still look at, but for the most part, I was getting a bunch of catalogs from places I’ve never even heard of! There’s also a nonprofit online that helps you stop receiving these catalogs and mailers. www.catalogchoice.org gives you a centralized location to opt out of catalogs. It just makes it a little easier!
- Be ruthless: This one I learned from my dad. He is ruthless when it comes to going through papers. He shreds like a boss! I must admit, you may end up shredding something you need this way, but you have to be at least a bit ruthless. Don’t keep receipts you don’t need. If you need them for tax purposes, then file them accordingly, if not, trash! Also, so many stores now give you the choice of emailing you the receipt. Take that choice! Don’t keep every single paper your child brings home from school. Don’t save coupons if you’re not going to use them! (Guilty!) Don’t accept flyers and papers so easily from people handing them out. We used to be especially bad at going to fairs or events and coming back with stacks full of useless flyers and cards. We stopped doing that! So be strong when dealing with paper and only accept and save things you really need.
- If you can access it online, don’t keep it or print it: So much is available online now. There is no need to print everything like we used to. You can access it on your phone, or look it up on your computer. So before hitting the print button, ask yourself if it’s really necessary! A huge stack of papers we had was instruction manuals. How many times had we ever looked at one of those manuals? Zero! Anytime I needed to look something up, I was doing it online. Even Legos have the instructions online! I’ve had to look them up one too many times when a built Lego is magically destroyed.
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We are not 100% there as far as paper freedom. But we’ve definitely come a long way! Ryan has also made huge strides in his personal paper clutter. (though he hates clutter he has trouble getting rid of things!) He used to take notes in little pieces of paper and they were all over his desk. All over. Well, now he has been using Evernote and Trello for a while and he absolutely loves them. As for me, I still make lists on paper. But it’s pretty paper, and my lists are beautiful and organized, so that’s how it’s going to stay!