Tackle Paper Clutter

Paper can pile up fast in our homes. Kids come home from school with papers. Mail comes to our door every day. Tax related papers can fill up file cabinets. And user manuals come with everything we buy. What do we do with all these papers? Sure, some we need to keep, but maybe we can recycle more than we realize.

A Recent Paper Decluttering Story:

I recently attended Information Night at my kids’ school. I ended up coming home with a manila folder of papers for each child, so a grand total of 3. Some papers needed to be filled out and returned to the school, but most of the papers were just information. I stacked the pile of papers on my kitchen counter and decided to take care of it later. Every time I walked into my kitchen I saw the paper stack and it stressed me out. Finally, I decided to tackle it.

Here are the steps I took to turn 3 folders worth of papers into one small folder with a few papers. And in 2 weeks I will no longer need the folder!

  1. First, I got rid of duplicates. I had 3 of everything. So if there was a sheet I needed to keep, but had three, I recycled the other two.
  2. Next, I created a pile of papers that I could recycle right away. These were papers that didn’t pertain to me or I already knew the information – bus information, health insurance form, custody form, PTO sheet, etc.
  3. There were a few sheets I needed to fill out and return to the school. I filled those out and am now ready to bring them to Back to School Night.
  4. Any paper with a little information on it I needed: I wrote it down on the front of one folder. For example – Back to School Night times, school picnic date & time, reminder to order school t-shirt, etc. Then I was able to recycle those papers.
  5. In the end, I had one manila folder with basic information written on the front and a small to-do list (cash for school pictures needed, email teacher, order t-shirt). And inside the folder I have one School Handbook (which I can probably whittle down to a page or two to keep instead) and a variety of forms that I am returning to the school.

I defeated the paper clutter and after Back to School Night I can recycle the folder and easily slide the school handbook into my expandable file folder where I keep important papers.

4 Paper Piles You Can Tackle

1. School Papers

When your kids come home with papers, tackle them asap. Most papers are information sheets. If you need the info, type it into your phone calendar or memo pad and recycle the papers. Finished homework – Recycle. And if you need to sign something, sign it and return it to your kid’s folder.

Art Projects - Display the art your child comes home with, but here is the key – follow a 1 in 1 out rule. When your child comes home with new art work, take the old one down. Ask your child if he/she would like to keep the old piece of art. Have a bin where your child can store these creations. Then at the end of the school year have your child pick his/her favorite. You can recycle the rest and keep the one piece of artwork as a memento.

Are there any other school papers you aren’t sure how to handle? Send me an email and I’ll respond with an idea.

2. Mail

The best way to tackle mail clutter is to move from the mailbox to the recycling bin. In front of the recycling bin, look through your mail and place any junk mail in the recycling bin right away. Only take into your home the important stuff.

If you have bills, pay them right away and stack your return mail by your door so you can swing through the post office next time you are in the car. That should be the majority of your mail. If you have other important mail and not sure what to do with it, email me and I will probably have an idea or two.

Unless you run a business, you probably don’t have to keep much. Keeping 3 years of tax related papers is probably good enough - so if you have papers older than 3 years you are probably safe to recycle/shred.

A lot of papers you need for tax purposes can be kept digitally. Create a file on your computer to save these documents: emails with charity donation receipts and other documents can be printed to pdf and saved instead of printed. If you have paper copies, you can scan them in and recycle/shred. If not, hopefully you now have a few pieces of paper left to store instead of a box full. We keep our few papers in 3 slots of our expandable folder (one slot/year).

4. User Manuals

Honestly, you can probably recycle them all. If you have a problem with any of your items, you will most likely forget you have a manual and google it anyway. The internet is an amazing resource, take advantage of this and say goodbye to these stacks of papers, packets, and booklets.

Do you have any other categories of paper clutter that are taking up space in your home or creating stress in your life? Feel free to email me with your paper clutter debacles and I’ll try to provide you with some decluttering solutions.