Paper clutter is one of those things a lot of us have trouble confronting, mostly because it looks like pain and so it gets put off for later and later never comes.
Paper clutter collects very easily in places in our homes like random drawers, cabinets, near a computer ( and if you are like me you have a very special place dedicated to only junk mail).
There comes a point when enough is enough and you need to give the issue some attention. We’ve all been there. We take a day off to declutter our paper piles, and eventually, we are faced with the same problem. It’s a cycle.
I’m here to help you get started with decluttering and organizing your paper clutter! Below are a few tips and tricks that I’ve personally used (as have others) to get rid of and better organize your paper mess.
Best Ways To Organize Paper Clutter!
Like with anything when it comes to organizing, you must first determine those eye soring obvious gotta go items. Decluttering and organizing go hand in hand, and with paper clutter, it is no different.
Sorting Your Paper Into Three Piles
Start by working through all your paper clutter and sorting it simply into three piles – keep, discard, unsure.
Keep: In your keep pile would be all the things you know that you should definitely keep. This includes birth certificates, SSN, medical paperwork, financial paperwork, taxes, insurance cards, etc.
Discard: This pile is stuff you know you don’t need (or want). All that ‘junk’ mail you’ve been saving for some reason, expired coupons, or whatever other random paper you have you know you don’t need.
Unsure: Use this pile when you aren’t sure if you need it. For example, you might have some proof of payment, receipts that you’re (currently) unsure if you have to keep or discard (for warranty purposes). It might be the extra paperwork that you brought from work that you don’t need, but find useful.
Get Rid Of What You Dont NEED!
Take your Discard pile and sort it into three categories – Sensitive Info, Unused Paper, Recyclable.
Sensitive Info: In this pile place all your discardable paper clutter that has any of your sensitive information. Anything financial, medical, or legal that has any non-public information on it.
The next step is to get rid of it properly. Do this by investing in a good paper shredder. Shredding your info is one of the best ways to make sure that you’ve destroyed what you needed to.
An alternative solution, and one I personally like to do, is to just burn all my sensitive info paper. I just light a small fire in my backyard and not only enjoy getting rid of some of my paper clutter but also the lovely coziness of a warm fire as well.
Unused Paper: This pile is optional, but one that I personally like doing. Inside this pile should be all the paper you’ve discarded that still has part of it blank. This could be something where you printed off something single-sided, and so have a blank page on the opposite side.
If you’re like me, and always need something to write your thoughts and ideas down on, or if you have kids who love to draw or paint, then this is a great pile to have.
Just cut up the paper into halves or quarters, and keep it around for yourself (or your children) to use.
Recyclable: Goes without saying, but I will anyway. Take this pile to the recycling bin. Here you would place all your junk mail, old magazines and newspapers, or any other non-sensitive paper that you want to get rid of.
Once done with sorting paper clutter into this pile, just set it out for it to be picked up to be recycled, or take it to the recycle center.
Revisit Your ‘Unsure’ Pile
Now that you’ve started discarding what you don’t need, go back to your ‘Unsure’ pile.
Most of the paper clutter in this pile really can go. Sometimes we just need to give it a little time, maybe to expire. The paper found here will never remain. Eventually, it’ll transfer over to keep or discard. I come back every 2 weeks and that is manageable for my lifestyle. It’s the middle where it doesn’t get out of hand and yet isn’t a chore.
(NOTE: some people have had to dispute claims, and were successful in the disputes because they had some of these bills to prove what they were disputing. A good rule of thumb is if you’re unsure, always look it up online and see what the policy is!).
Go The Paperless Option When You Have The Chance
Nowadays, many companies have started a paperless option for you to get your bills. Most of my household bills are paperless.
If you haven’t set this up yet, I would highly recommend it. It puts an end to the problem before it even starts, as well as you then being able to start digitizing what you can (and thus being able to save things so much more efficiently).
Contact the companies that you get billed from regularly (or login to their websites), and see if you can change to a paperless option. It will save you so much more time and energy in the long run.
Scan Documents Onto Your Device To Save Them Digitally.
Something that I started doing is regularly scanning all the documents that I wanted to keep onto my computer, so I could either then get rid of it physically or have a backup copy.
Check out some affordable scanners and printers online that will get you started with this.
Or if you don’t quite have the budget to purchase one yet, you can also scan items with your smartphone.
While it might not turn out as good as an actual scanner would, it does work fairly well for what you’ll need to do.
Store Your Physical Items Appropriately.
Now that you’ve eliminated both your Discard and Unsure piles, you should really only be left with your Keep pile.
You are now ready to organize your Keep pile!
Place all your personal and very valuable information into one small pile. Examples would be your SSN, birth certificate, marriage license, passwords, land deeds and trusts, car titles, etc.
I personally store all of this in a locked fire-resistant box, so that I know that this will all be safe in the event that some tragedy happens.
For all my legal paperwork (tax forms, returns, etc), I keep them separately in the attic space, each year in their own binder. Every year, when I add the new year’s taxes to the box, I take out the oldest tax year binder and get rid of it properly (since I don’t need it anymore).
What do I do with the rest of the paper clutter?
Most of it sits organized into several binders that I have stored neatly by my computer desk. I’ve been able to stay away from getting a filing cabinet, although they are handy to have around.
Sentimental Items You Can’t Get Rid Of? Try Scrapbooking
Do you have a bunch of sentimental items that you don’t want to get rid of, but are unsure what to do with them?
A good way to declutter this is by scrapbooking. Use these items to make a scrapbook of your favorite memories, a timeline of your life, or something else. I make this an event, as I truly do enjoy arts and crafts.
Get Your Paper Clutter Organized Today!
You’ve been given the tools to get your paper items decluttered, so why not start today? Start organizing your paper clutter into three piles, and slowly, but surely, work through it.
There is no time like the present to get started, and I guarantee you’ll be so much happier the sooner it is all decluttered and organized.
Start decluttering your paper today!