You know those things that just suck the life out of you? Maybe it’s dirty laundry or gray days or head colds (or quarantine?). Or maybe it’s that never-ending stream of paper clutter. Yep, that one is definitely at the top of my list. It seems to accumulate on every surface, and each new wave of paper needs to be dealt with somehow, whether that’s filing or tossing or shredding or responding.
We all make neat piles that turn into small mountains. We have good intentions that turn into an hour spent on Pinterest instead. Ugh, pesky paper. Life sucker, right?
Well, here are a few ways that I am taming that unruly paper beast.
Mail, Phone Books, Bills
Deal with it the same day it arrives. This is old advice, but it works. Five pieces of mail is much easier to manage than 50. Once you recycle or shred the junk mail, you’ll have very little to read anyway. I savor the real mail, set aside the bills, and add the magazines to the stack of things-to-read-someday. If you have five minutes a day to spare, you can stay on top of this one.
The best way to reduce the junk mail coming into your home (100 pounds per household each year!) is to refuse it in the first place.
Here are some resources for cutting down on unwanted incoming mail:
- Opt out of junk mail, credit card offers, and phone books
- Sign up at Optoutprescreen to stop receiving pre-approved credit card offers
- Remove yourself from Direct Marketing Association mailing lists
My next big project is to tackle our filing cabinets. I have been saying this for over a year now. I know I am keeping documents far longer than needed. It is time to fire up the shredder and get to work.
My second goal is to switch to paperless billing and auto-pay options. I have resisted this change for years, but I know it will save us money and reduce our paper clutter so I just need to get with the times on this one.
Just feel like you have SO much and don’t know where to start? JUST DO ONE THING.
Cards & Kid Art
I understand sentimental. I still have my soccer jersey from when I was five and notes from high school. I believe in keeping things that are of value, even if it’s just sentimental value.
However, I am really strict with myself on things like birthday cards or Christmas letters. Will I ever read this again? Is it meaningful (or will it be to my kids)? If you answered no, then enjoy it for a week before tossing or repurposing into gift tags or art projects. If you answered yes, then keep it in a special place.
Pinterest has a ridiculous number of ideas for keeping your kids’ masterpieces, from framing to making photo books to creating new pieces of art with it. I keep one medium container for each child’s baby books, best artwork, and important keepsakes. These store easily in the closet and keep everything neatly contained.
To be perfectly honest, though, a great deal of it just needs to be tossed or recycled. For the sake of the environment and my sanity. More paper clutter comes through the door with my kids than any other source. Those of you with school-age kids are dealing with a massive amount of paper on a weekly basis (when school is actually in session and in-person of course). I’m not there yet, but I imagine I’ll stick with the deal-with-it-as-it-comes strategy.
UPDATE: For school-aged children, consider keeping a heavy-duty plastic file box for each kid, with a file folder for each grade. Keep class pictures, favorite assignments or reports, drawings, report cards, even things like Christmas lists or sports pictures from that school year. The size of the file folder itself will help keep in check what you keep or toss.
When it comes to clutter in general, I am usually too impulsive. If an item doesn’t fit the useful/beautiful rule, its days in our home are numbered.
However, I am slowly learning that frugality demands patience. I have wasted money by getting rid of items and receipts that would have served a purpose down the road. I am determined to get a handle on this area, starting with receipts.
I bought this handy little 13 compartment accordion file at WalMart; you can also find them in the dollar bins at Target. Pre-printed labels for all twelve months slide easily into the tabs. Instead of a nest of messy receipts in the bottom of my purse, I now have an easy way to store and organize my receipts. Simple fix! This has been a huge help with matching prices, tracking spending, and returning items.
Also, because of the paper it is printed on, most receipts cannot be recycled.
UPDATE TO ADD: Now that we’re in 2020 and a little more technologically advanced, check each store that you purchase from and see if you can scan your receipts digitally or if your purchases are saved through your rewards/membership card.
Shopping Lists, Coupons, Errands
I found Simple Fix #2, thanks to Sherry Petersik over at Young House Love. She posted about this great little notebook, found in the office section at Target for $5.99. This had my name written all over it.
I keep my notebook in my purse and use it to organize errands. Shopping lists and errand reminders go on the notepad. Receipts, checks, or coupons are easily split up in the adjacent accordion files.
This has streamlined my errands, eliminating those frustrating, I-forgot-that-stop/coupon/item-moments so I can focus on the Take-that-out-of-your-nose/mouth/sister’s-ear-moments instead. Seriously, if you feel like you’re the ringmaster of a small circus every time you step into a store, this is the notebook for you. Love it.
While none of these organizational ideas are earth shattering, they have definitely contributed to a calmer, cleaner life and home for me. If I can stay on top of paper clutter, I have more time and energy for other things, like
watching Downton Abbey playing with my kids and folding laundry.
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