How to Eliminate Paper Clutter Once and for All
Even in the 21st century, when technology is at its peak, we all still suffer from one thing, paper clutter. Whether you continuously get junk mail, you shove receipts in your wallet, or you aren’t sure what important documents you need to keep; one thing is true paper can easily take over your home and office.
Instead of feeling like you are drowning in paper, you can regain control and turn that ocean into a manageable puddle. In this post, we are sharing tips and tricks on how to get control of the paperwork that is flooding your home or office.
Purge the Paper
The easiest and possibly the hardest way to get started with purging the paper is to gather all of it throughout your home or office. This means going through your desk, emptying the filing cabinet, finding the magazines you stashed throughout the house; this means everything. It will feel a little intimidating at first, but you can cut back on the work by separating the paperwork into piles as you go. We recommend starting three piles, a pile for shredding, for filing, and recycling. Put all of the personal documents you no longer need in the shred pile, keep the important things, and take the opportunity to recycle the rest.
Out With the Old Paper
Whether your junk drawer is stuffed with takeout menus or you have a pile of paper sitting on the counter, it’s time to start getting rid of the pieces you no longer need. Take a deep look into what you have and what you actually need. Almost everything can be found on the Internet these days, so menus, phone books, advertisements, and more don’t need to be lingering in your home or office.
The Important Stuff
There is so much confusion on what you should and shouldn’t keep when it comes to paperwork. Do you really need to keep your taxes from 2000, or can shred them? We have created a handy list for our personal assistants on what you need to keep and what can be placed in the shred pile, so we are going to share it with you:
Keep these for one month or until you have reconciled them with your monthly statements.
Credit Card Statements
You can shred them after you have checked and paid them.
Keep them until you receive your W-2, and if it is correct, you can shred them.
Keep these for a year or until you file your taxes. Sometimes billing statements are necessary for taxes.
Insurance policies: You only need to keep the information for your current policy, the rest can be discarded.
If you are tracking spending or itemize deductions, organize them into a folder or other storage box; otherwise, you can get rid of them. For big purchases or items with a warranty, consider scanning and storing them digitally.
These can last a year to a lifetime, and the information is important. We recommend scanning them, but you can also organize them into folders like furniture, appliances, electronics, etc.
Once you have gone through your personal paperwork, we recommend that you send it through the shredder. You don’t want any of your personal information getting out there, and shredding is the easiest way to prevent that from happening.
While there is not a way to completely keep paper from entering your home, there is a way that you can greatly reduce the amount coming in. The first step is to set all of your bills and bank statements to paperless delivery. Instead of waiting for your bill to arrive in the mail, you’ll get an email when it has been posted, and you can take care of it all digitally. Honestly, it is easy digital organization that you aren’t responsible for keeping tidy.
Reduce Junk Mail
Is it just us, or does it seem like there is a new piece of junk mail sitting in the mailbox every day? Sure some of it may be catalogs you inadvertently signed-up for, but some of it may leave you feeling puzzled by its arrival. The good news is, you don’t have to keep receiving all of it. Did you know that most catalogs and mailing list documents come with contact information to remove you from the list? Just flip to the back and see if there is a phone number or other contact option to remove you. The Federal Trade Commission also offers resources for you to stop unsolicited and direct marketing mail.
Create Digital Storage
Just because the item shows up at your door on paper doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. With a NEAT scanner, you can easily scan all of your bills, receipts, warranty information, and more onto your computer. Create a digital organization system with item-specific folders so that the information is easily accessible when you need it. Don’t forget to organize your folders regularly so that they don’t get out of control.
Recycle Magazines and Newspapers
It’s time to get real with yourself. If you have a stack of magazines or newspapers you plan to read later, but it has been months since you even looked at them, then it’s time to start getting rid of them. Or at least narrow down the pile to only a few. While you’re at it, unsubscribe from the publications that no longer interest you. You’ll be happy to have less paper taking up your counter space.
Create a Filing System
Even if we wish we could, getting rid of all the paper in our home or office, just isn’t practical. There are documents that you just can’t get rid of. Creating an easy to use filing system is key to preventing piles on your desk as well as staying organized. There are many different types of desk organizers and filing cabinets to choose from, so pick one that works best for you and has enough space for potential growth. We also recommend using color and labels to make organization easier.
Use a Calendar
Fliers and event invitations often come through the mail, but that doesn’t mean you have to hang on to them. When you get the invitation, transfer all of the important information to your calendar and recycle the paper. If you use a digital calendar, you can even set a reminder so that you don’t forget.
Plan for the Future
Even though there are a lot of ways to reduce the amount of mail/paper you receive, there will still be a lot of paper entering your home. The best way to prevent paper overload in the future is to create a system for incoming paper. The key is to take action immediately, and here are a few ways you can do so:
- If it needs to be saved, file it immediately or put it into a scan pile.
- Don’t keep or print anything you can access online.
- Scan mail weekly and discard the paper.
- Throw the former magazine away as soon as the new one arrives.
- Only keep a catalog if you plan to buy something from it.
- Go through your children’s backpack and discard unnecessary paperwork every week.
- Clean out your wallet, purse, and bags weekly.
- Never keep a takeout menu.
No Time to Organize?
You’re busy, and this is a big project for any home or office. Don’t stress over the details of getting it done. LifeSquire provides organization service for homes and offices across the Oklahoma City metro area. For more information about our organization services, click here.