Updated: Aug 17
Paper clutter is a huge annoyance and stressor for so many. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been hired to work with clients specifically to help them get rid of and organize their paper. Once it collects, it can feel overwhelming to tackle and if you don’t have a system in place it will just continue to pile up.
We want to help you devise a holistic plan that works in the long term to keep your paper clutter down as well as relieve your anxiety. No more piles of mail you haven’t reviewed and no more documents you can’t find when you need them. We have put together some simple steps below that will set you up for success if you commit to following them.
The most beneficial thing you can do to help keep the paper clutter down is to go paperless for as much as possible and don’t allow unnecessary paper in your home. This saves time and energy and once you do it you will wonder why you didn’t do it earlier.
We suggest following the steps listed here to get on Do Not Mail lists.
Dispose of unneeded paper as soon as it enters your home
Get in the habit of disposing of any paper you do not need the second it comes into your house. To do so, you need a recycle bin by the entrance where you bring in your mail or by the table or counter where you put your mail once inside. When you bring in the mail, pull out junk mail and any other quick throw away items immediately and put them in the recycle bin. This step only takes a minute and if you can multitask, it probably can be done by the time you walk from the mailbox into your home.
Go through all paper in your house and dispose of any paper you do not need
Now, this may feel like a daunting task and for some of you that have a lot of paper, it will take some time. The key here is to break this up into digestible chunks that are not too big that you avoid them. Even if you only get to one file or item each time you sit at your desk, you are still making progress.
Digitize all that you can from what you do need to keep
Use your calendar for time or day-specific reminders, add items to your to-do list if they are not time and date specific but need to be remembered, and scan items that you may need to reference again but don’t need the physical paper, (we love turbo scan or genius scan) and electronically store them.
Create and stick to a filing system
If you can, sort your mail and any paper that enters the home right away by opening and discarding envelopes and setting up piles for yourself for ACTION items, PENDING items, TO FILE items, and HANDLE IMMEDIATELY items (if they take less than 2 minutes). If you can’t sort your paper as soon as it arrives, it should be in a SORT items pile.
I personally love to use a file divider like this on my desk with the above-mentioned section labels (bonus, if you ever need to repurpose it, it works great for storing clutches in your closet too) other than HANDLE IMMEDIATELY since those items should be handled and discarded without being added to your filing system. I have found that filing paper in trays makes it harder to see and access so for me a system that allows me to place the paper perpendicular to the desk surface is best.
When filing items away for future potential use or storage, we suggest having labeled paper files in file boxes such as this or this. You can also use magazine files like this to store your labeled files. These can be placed on a shelf, desktop, or hidden away in a cabinet for a clean and clutter-free look.
Questions to ask yourself as you are going through paper clutter:
Do I need this now or will I need it later?
Will I need this physical paper again or can this be digitized and stored in the cloud for reference?
Can I transfer the info needed on this paper to a calendar appt, to-do list, or another more actionable place rather than keep the paper item?
If I need this paper, is it an action item or should it be filed away?
If it’s an action item, is it a small to-do task to accomplish immediately, a larger project, or are you waiting on something until you can move forward with it?
Shred and recycle your items
Once you have the paper items that you will be disposing of, you want to make sure you do so properly. Some items may contain personal or sensitive information and you will want to shred those items. If you need a shredder, we suggest buying this one since it’s small and easy to use or you can look into taking your items to a local shredding facility. Once shredded, the paper material can be recycled.
If you would like more help setting up your filing system or working through your paper clutter, we are here to help! Reach out to schedule a free consult.