“I have a paper problem,” a woman said to me in Starbucks, after she noticed my stack of hand-written thank you cards and complimented my beautiful Russell + Hazel notebook. “You should see my office," she said. "I have an entire drawer full of stationery. For me, there's just something about getting and sending mail." I agreed with her, but I told her I am used to hearing about and helping clients with other "paper problems." Did you know paper is the #1 problem that we help clients with when setting up systems for organization?
Junk mail, stacks of opened and unopened envelopes, and bills accumulate. Paper clutter can make a room look messy and disorganized, even when the rest of the space is organized and clutter-free. So, what most people do is buy storage containers and filing systems to make organizing paper more exciting, but many people end up throwing papers in without organization just to hide the clutter. Then it becomes too much.
You must develop a system and get in good habits for decluttering and organizing any paper that comes your way. Below are 6 Ways to Cut Paper Clutter.
6 Ways to Cut Paper Clutter
- After you get your mail, go to the nearest recycling bin. Of course, don’t dump it all in, but open it there. I would say 80% of the mail you get on a weekly basis is unnecessary (and often not useful.)
- Organize from the inside out. Don’t just shove paper in bins, boxes, filing systems, or on trays. Yes, “out of sight, out of mind,” until you see it — or need a specific document. Then, you panic, so organize it (and declutter) from the moment you decide to use a storage container or filing system.
- Use a 5 day rule for any trays for miscellaneous items. If it’s been over a day, it should find a home, even if that home is the recycling bin. Do not let it go for more than 5 days.
- Have an easy to use, daily system that you know where to find the papers you need to act on and what system you will use for those future papers in limbo ie. get a new driver’s license, sign up my child for camp (even though it is January.)
- If you don’t need it now, you probably don’t need it. There are always exceptions to the rule (leases, insurance paperwork, etc.) but for the most part, think the 80/20 rule. 80% of what you file, you will never look back at again. So, ask yourself, do I really need it? What about those notebooks from college?
- Create a system for filing paper but make it easy to do and set up a date on your calendar to review these files AT LEAST once a year.
Here’s what you can do now. Challenge yourself. Set your phone timer for 10 minutes to sort through your paper. Turn on music. Put the TV on. Make it interesting. Sort your paper into three piles: 1) to recycle 2) to file 3) action.