How to control paper clutter
Learn how you can fix your paper-clutter problem.
The best way to control paper clutter is to get rid of a piece of paper immediately if you don't need it. As soon as you receive a piece of paper, recycle it, file it, or give it to the appropriate party.
One glance at your bulging mailbox, your over flowing office inbox or your children's school papers strewn on the kitchen counter shows how easy it is to get overwhelmed with paper. On a daily basis, our paper volume increases with lists, mail, bills, school papers, documentation and warranties.
Many of us see this growing accumulation as an annoyance but do not take the time to handle the papers immediately. When you allow the accumulation to expand, it's going to be even more of a pain to get it under control. Piles tend to get taller and taller, until even the idea of dismantling them seems colossal. This can result in lots of piles and even more stress.
How to Control Your Paper Mess
- At home, walk straight from the mail box to the trash can or recycling bin. Today more and more communities are expanding the list of what can be recycled.
- Dispose of the junk mail. Be on the lookout for credit card solicitations, but do not toss these until you shred them. Identity theft is growing and credit card applications are increasingly the source.
- If you receive your mail at the post office, go through it before you walk out the door. Unless you are seriously interested in that ad for computer hardware or a digital camera, throw the flyer away in the trash can that is thoughtfully provided by the USPS. The same goes for circulars, slick ads, pamphlets and catalogues.
- Sort mail, school papers to sign, reading materials and even notes to each other. Set up a file or basket for each member of your household.
- After a designated period of one to six days, dispose of your newspapers, read or not. Recycle them if possible.
- Tear interesting articles out of magazines to read later. Put them in a to read file or basket. Dispose of the remainder of the magazine.
- Avoiding piles means making a decision on each piece of paper.
- Set up the simplest filing system possible. Use broad categories and you'll be more likely to file. Buy a portable file box so you can file while watching TV.
- Post information where you need it. Put a stain-removal guide in your laundry room, tape instruction manuals to appliances and electronics or have a separate folder just for instruction manuals.
- Place mail order catalogs in a reading basket near your favorite chair, but keep only the ones you truly enjoy. Have sticky notes and pens ready for ordering notes.
- Make a hold file for sports schedules, tickets to future events and department- or specialty-store coupons you might want. Use this file for anything you will need at a future date. Weed it out monthly.
- Use an accordion file for each child with headings such as permission slips, event schedules, special projects and homework.
Basically, there are only five things to do with paper:
- Do something with it immediately.
- Place it in an action or project folder to do something with it later.
- Route it or delegated to another household member.
- File it.
- Throw it away.
The paper-sorting process also involves this approach, as does routine mail. By dealing with each piece of paper one by one it is not hard to discover what is worth saving and what needs to be discarded. The accumulation of paper will occur when you don't know to orchestrate it into your life or business. The success to controlling paper clutter is to give every piece of paper a home and to put it there immediately.