Paper is one of the topics that we rarely discuss on the blog, but it’s actually one of the top problem areas for families. Between the daily mail, magazine subscriptions, and the daily influx of kid’s homework + art projects, the paper pile-up can be quick to get out of control. I mean, just look around your house? I know in my kitchen, paper is the number our number culprit of clutter.
I find that paper is a different beast when it comes to decluttering. There is a lot less sentimental attachment with the physical item, but the emotional grasp is still strong. There is still the “what if I need it…” feeling that comes with letting go, and in some cases you don’t realize how much you accumulating until you start shredding and realize that you have a long way to go. Right now we live in such a digital world where everything can be stored and found on our electronics, but that wasn’t the case 10 years ago when I started my business. I had desk filing cases with handwritten notes and sketches from each client dating back to 2007, and it wasn’t until this year that I worked on digitizing everything that I needed to keep for future reference (which ended up being way less than I thought).
Sure, there are definitely papers that you should hold onto for historical and tax purposes, but did you know that 80% of what gets filed never looked at again? Imagine if that were clothes in a closet or food in your pantry. The visual impact of the amount of wasted space is staggering.
So, how can you develop a system for paper decluttering and organizing your paper moving forward? Below are 6 ways to cut your paper clutter. And trust me, they might seem simple but they really work.
1. After you get your mail, go to the nearest recycling bin. Of course, don’t dump it all in, but open it there. You’ll be able to quickly throw in junk mail and sift through what stays and what can go.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.)
5. 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?
6. 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.
And to help you get started, here’s a handy reference chart: