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What is clutter? Nothing more than postponed decisions and that’s especially true when it comes to all that paper you have lying around the house.
Between the junk mail, important mail, the endless daily barrage of schoolwork and flyers, newsletters and Sunday school handouts, schedules, invitations, notes, and lists…as a society we are drowning in paper!
You would think that with all the ‘Save the Trees’ campaigns paper wouldn’t be such an issue, but it still is. So instead of going green where we can and ensuring we all get less paper to deal with, we continue to be bombarded.
In my family paper is an issue. It comes mostly in the form of junk mail and with three adults you can’t even imagine the paper the flows through the front door.
And from all the requests I get about doing a post about the paper struggle I know I’m not alone in the paper battle.
Uncomplicated Filing Strategies That Will Slay The Paper Dragon
If your home is overrun with paper then consider the following:
1. How much of what comes into your home do you read?
2. Do you have a place to put your bills when they arrive?
3. Do you have a filing system in place for important papers?
Grab your trash can or if you like to recycle a paper bag. Start in the kitchen and grab all the piles of paper you have in your home.
If it’s a bill, put it one pile, if it’s something that needs to be filed, put it in another pile. Kids art and schoolwork in another pile.
Any junk mail, newspapers, magazines, or catalogs that are more than a month old, I want you to throw them away. It’s old news at this point. Toss it.
Go from room to room doing this until all the paper is either in a pile or in the trash.
Have the older kids in the house take care of their rooms, help the younger children. Give Dad his own trash bag to sort through his piles of paper.
Learn to Put This Habit Into Manageable Action
People who have a clean and organized home don’t have piles of anything, least of all paper. Now it’s time for you to tackle your piles and to create new habits that will help you manage your paper.
1. Newspapers: If you’re still getting the paper, and you have a hard time reading it, cancel it. Stop wasting your money on something you don’t even look at. Plus, by the time you do read it, it’s already old news.
2. Magazines: If the magazine comes to the house and you don’t have enough time to read it before the next month’s edition arrives, cancel your subscription. Almost anything that might be of interest to you can be found online, not to mention you can subscribe to the online format.
3. Junk Mail: As soon as you’ve looked at it discard it into the recycle bin. There is no need to keep 99.9% of the junk mail that arrives at your door. Just dump it.
4. Receipts: Get a Pendaflex file folder, preferably one that is free-standing with a handle. Keep this somewhere in your house, either in your office or bedroom or if you have a desk/workstation in your kitchen where it is readily available. Divide the sections, depending on what you are tracking in your budget: food, medical, gas/parking/tolls, entertainment, etc. When you arrive home with a purchase, immediately file the receipt.
5. Important Documents: If you have a home office, you probably have access to a file cabinet. If not, consider purchasing a small file cabinet to store important papers. When bank statements, insurance documents, and the like arrive in the mail, review the paperwork and file immediately.
6. Kids Art/School Work: Sit down with your children and decide together what you want to keep and what can be discarded. Maintain a scrapbook of the favorite and get rid of the rest. Or, frame a few pieces of unique artwork and hang it in your house. Either way, when new art/school work arrives, hang for a week and then review with your kids.
7. Cookbooks and Recipes: The fact is we cook the same stuff over and over again. Purge all the cookbooks you’ve never cooked a thing from and keep a folder in your kitchen with the recipes you’ve collected through the years that are family favorites. Donate the old cookbooks to charity. Ditch everything else.
8. Bills: When the bills arrive, open them. More people who struggle with debt fail to do this one simple task each month. They ignore them instead and end up misplacing their bills, resulting in late fees and shut-off notices. Once you’ve reviewed the bill, without exception, put it into the first divider in your Pendaflex folder. Every time you pay your bills, you’ll grab your folder and have all your bills and receipts in one place.
If you think you can manage it, convert to online bill pay and have all bills sent to you electronically. You can set up a special folder in your email system to file them so they are easy to find. This will drastically cut down the amount of paper coming into your home.
Those are the main areas that should regularly be addressed. Yes, are there other paper piles lurking in your home? Probably, but this is a great start. Little by little you can get rid of things like 20 years of tax returns and old bank statements.
Remember, some things, like the above mentioned, should be shredded. Don’t just toss paper that has identifying information on it into the trash or recycle bin. Take the time to destroy it yourself or bring it to an onsite shredding facility.
Now step back and take a look around your house. The piles are gone, and you can see your desktop for maybe the first time in months!
Remember, consistently slaying the paper dragon means you tackle the paper as soon as it hits your front door. Don’t wait and put it off or you’ll find yourself drowning in the paper again. Instead, commit to managing the paper daily and soon you’ll have incorporated this new skill and habit into your regular routine!