declutter paper

So you’ve started some habits to reduce clutter in your home, but you have piles of bills on the counters, children’s art covering the fridge, and boxes of paper in the basement.

Paper clutter can build up so quickly. It’s hard to keep clearing off the counter or table every time it becomes buried in paper. Many homes have a corner or a table that quietly becomes a mountain of stuff, and a lot of it is paper that comes in to the house bit by bit. Maybe you think that if you organize the mess today, it will likely be there soon. But it doesn’t have to be that way! You can stay ahead and declutter paper piles in your house with some of these ideas.

1. Plan a good time to bring in the mail.

As soon as you pick up the mail, make sure to sort through it right away. You could even plan to get the mail at a time when you know there are a few minutes to go through the pile. This organizes the paper coming into the house straight away so that it doesn’t sit there for later.

2. Recycle.

Go through the pile and do one quick sort. Open any envelopes and make two piles: recycle and keep. Anything that doesn’t need to be kept can be recycled immediately: old envelopes, unneeded flyers, unnecessary notices. Even if you don’t have time to go through all of it right away, you’ll have gotten rid of unneeded paper in the pile. If your recycle bin is outside, you can even do this quick glance-through before it enters the house!

3. Attend to bills right away.

Since you followed step one and picked up the mail at a good time, you have a few minutes to deal with the bills now.

4. Make an ‘inbox’.

If you really can’t deal with any mail right away, have an organized ‘in-box’ for things that need to be attended to as soon as possible. Since you’ve already sorted, this is only essential papers and not the extra envelopes/flyers.

5. Unsubscribe from mailing lists.

If there is anything that you don’t want to be receiving, then unsubscribe from these lists. You can also ask for flyers and ads to not be dropped off at your house.

6. Move to online billing.

For anything you still want to receive, or for household bills, see if you can access these online instead. Many companies have online billing and you can be notified by email instead. You’ll still get the reminder, but it won’t be physical clutter in your home.

7. Create an organized filing system.

Keep a filing system for anything you need to keep long-term. Once documents are no longer needed (old tax years, etc), shred or recycle as needed. I’ve started using a scanning ap on my phone to keep any documents where the physical copy isn’t needed. This reduces the files to only essential physical documents.

8. Sentimental cards and notes.

Maybe you’re holding onto old cards, notes, or art. This can be harder to part with since they are sentimental items. Take photos for things that you want to remember but don’t need to keep. Or keep a select few instead of everything. See this link for tips on how to get rid of sentimental items. This applies to birthday cards, thank you notes, or children’s artwork.

9. Purge Old School Papers

Get rid of the old school papers lying around the basement or packed up in the storage room. You don’t need them. For many, many programs the information is available online. And for other areas of study the science or practice has changed since you went to school. If this applies to you, it’s safe to say that you don’t need old school notes and textbooks anymore.

If you’re a new grad, try to sell or give away textbooks as soon as possible. The sooner you get rid of them, the more likely it is that they might get used again. If you wait too many years they probably won’t be relevant or updated anymore.

10. Children’s Art

We have a display on the main level of our house where the kids can place any drawings, school work, or colouring. If they’re proud of it and want to show it off, it goes in the folder. The great thing about this is that it gets full eventually. When it’s full, I go through it and keep some select pieces and I recycle the rest. If you’re teaching your kids about decluttering, then they can help by saying which ones are their favourites. Taking pictures can help reduce the amount of physical copies that you keep. The prized art goes in a folder that I keep with our files.

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