Does it feel as if you are drowning in paper clutter at home or the office?
Do you want to break through the surface and finally get a handle on all those scraps, sheets, envelopes, flyers, and mailers?
Even in today’s digital age, paper tends to accumulate quickly at home and the office.
All the more reason to learn practical decluttering skills so you can put paper in it’s place…once and for all!
In this post, I offer a collection of fourteen paper decluttering tips.
These tips are easy to implement and will help you better manage paper clutter floating around your workspace or living areas.
Setup a postal mail/paper processing area.
Make it easy to dispose of paper by creating a processing center in your home or office. Identify a centralized location such as a home office, den or living room sideboard, hallway, or corner or side area of your office or cubicle. Then, gather items to process paper in this space including: a bin for paper recycling, plastic recycling bags, an electronic shredder, and pair of scissors or a letter opener.
Unsubscribe yourself from mailing lists.
Limit the amount of paper material entering your home or office by unsubscribing from mailing lists. For starters, you can unsubscribe yourself from magazines, catalogs, and newsletters that no longer interest you. You can also remove yourself from junk mail lists. If you’re in the United States, you can learn more about opting out of unsolicited mail here; if you live in another country, visit your country’s or local municipality website for more information.
Open and process postal mail as soon as possible.
It’s extremely important to deal with pieces of mail as soon as they arrive. This greatly reduces the chance they’ll be misplaced and clutter up a space. Get savvy about sorting mail into four basic categories as soon as you receive it: bills and statements, correspondence, reading material (magazines, catalogs, newsletters, etc.), and junk mail. The latter should be shredded as soon as possible.
Conduct regular paper clutter sweeps.
Just because something is on paper, doesn’t mean you have to keep or hold on to it. Go through your home or office on a regular basis to dispose of errant bits of paper. To make it easier, simply grab a plastic bag or recycling bin and pick up items. You can do this before you leave the office for the evening, or after you’ve cleaned up dinner at home.
Remove notepads, sticky notes, and paper scraps from your reach.
Paper begets paper, so do everything you can to reduce it. If you know you’re not the best when it comes to managing small bits of paper, remove the offending items from your immediate environment. Opt for taking digital notes on your cell phone, tablet, or computer instead.
Use your inbox and outbox.
Do you use your inbox and outbox at home or work? If not, you might want to take a second look at these helpful office tools! Remember, the inbox should only be used to store incoming mail; the outbox for outgoing mail or those materials that need to be delivered to another office, department, and so on.
Stop collecting take-out menus.
Nowadays, you can find lots of restaurant menus online. If your favorite restaurant doesn’t have an online presence, or if you still want to keep paper menus, at least create a binder or manila folder to store menus when not in use.
Transfer information to a more permanent location.
Do you jot down notes, reminders, and thoughts on scraps of paper? While it’s perfectly fine to take notes this way, you may want to consider transferring your notes to more permanent location. At the end of every day or week, transfer information to your paper or digital calendar, schedule, journal, or address book.
Charge yourself for printing out documents.
Add a bit of financial incentive for you to stop printing unnecessary documents. Put a small container or jar next to your printer or computer and “charge” yourself $1.00 for each page printed. Apply the funds to your next ream or case of paper.
Use your bulletin board for bulletins.
Did you know? Not every scrap of paper you have in your possession needs to be placed on your bulletin board! Try using your bulletin board for timely information and notices, only. You may want to transfer relevant information to calendar, schedule, address book, or other reference item.
Transfer business card information.
After every meeting or conference, transfer business card information to your contacts. You can either do this by hand, or get a scanner to take care of the task for you.
Showcase special mementos.
A special thank you note, a congratulations message, a birthday or post card, a love note…these are all paper items you’d love to keep, so why not display them as art? You can either frame the items, or put them in a custom-made memo board.
Opt for emailed receipts.
Tired of fumbling with receipts in your wallet? When out shopping, ask for receipts to be emailed to you.
Create and use file folders.
If you haven’t yet created a filing system for your papers and documents, now’s the perfect time to do so! When your papers and documents have a specific home, it’s easy to file items away. This includes bills, invoices, personal documents, and household accounts.
How about you? Where does paper clutter seem to grow in your home or office? How are you going to tackle this area and put things in order? Join in the conversation and leave a comment below!
A version of this post appeared on the blog in 2015.