Organizing Paper Clutter

Organizing paper clutter is a common topic for many reasons, the most important being that there is just so much of it! Even though we seem to be going towards a more digital type of lifestyle, there is no denying the role of paperwork in the world today. From utility bills, to to-do lists, to tax documents, there is no getting around paperwork and the clutter that it can produce if you let it get out of hand.

What we can do to fight this type of clutter is have a plan in place to deal with the issue so that it doesn't become a problem. So, let's look at some ways to organize our paper clutter.

Organizing Paper Clutter
First off, have a plan to deal with incoming mail. This is usually the genesis of most people's (myself included) paperwork clutter. From sales flyers to bills, it can pile up quick and become a clutter issue. If you don't have a plan in place to deal with your mail, read this article and then come back to finish up your paperwork decluttering. Basically, you want to have a system in place to deal with the mail immediately, instead of just tossing it on the counter. There are several ways to do this and it is very easy - it's just a matter of choosing how you want to do it and sticking with it. See the referenced article for more specific info.

Now that you have your first major source of paper clutter taken care of, you need to put a system in place to deal with papers that come into the house through a different path. I organizing paper clutterrecommend using the same sort of mechanism as dealing with the mail. You could even use the same tray to hold the papers or grab a secondary box to deal with non-mail paperwork. Either way, choose a system and start using it immediately. You can even go around your house and gather up the loose paperwork laying around and put it into the "new" box - nothing like getting started to help the decluttering!

Once you have your paperwork sorting system in place you need to set a time and place to go through it and actually deal with it. So far you have managed to get it off the counters, tables, and bookshelves, but you will have to deal with it eventually! Pick a morning or night where you have the time to sort your paperwork so that you can stay up to date on your finances and other important matters. Going through the paperwork also lets you make quick choices about what to toss and what might need to be kept. I recommend a shredder - it makes the choice easier since you don't have to worry about personal info being discovered if you throw out documents, and to be honest, it's kind of fun to shred papers! You can see the shredder I use to keep my paperwork to a minimum; I love mine and use it regularly.

Your next step should be to take a look at what you have left and decide what needs to be kept in physical form and filed, and what can be scanned and put onto your computer. If possible, scan as much of the paperwork as possible so that you really reduce the amount of papers that you will be holding onto and filing. Here is a good article on how to go about scanning and saving your personal documents, it's the system I use to keep what I need without having a full cabinet of papers. I use my printer / scanner to accomplish this - it's nothing special and didn't cost much but really helps out in the paperwork clutter department!

Hopefully you have a small fraction of the original amount of paperwork left after sorting it, shredding the unimportant pieces, and scanning the documents that don't need to be kept on paper. The rest of the papers that you will keep need to be filed ASAP - I know that if I just leave them for a little while I will somehow end up with a growing pile of papers that "I will get to soon...". Don't let that happen! Either use an existing filing system, or grab a file folder or cabinet as soon as possible and start using it. You don't have to make an elaborate system at first, it's more important that you have something to start with that you will use regularly. Once you get in the habit of using it you can expand it as needed.

If you can follow these steps you can really organize your paper clutter. It really doesn't take very long and you can do most of it with stuff that you probably already have laying around the house. Take 10 or 15 minutes to set up a few of these systems and start using them today - it will save you time, declutter your house a bit, and give you peace of mind knowing that your important paperwork is being taken care of safely stored!

Do you have a unique way of dealing with your paper clutter? Leave a comment and let me know!

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