Get Rid of Paper Clutter: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid

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Do your attempts at eliminating paper clutter often tend to fail?  Or are you too overwhelmed by the sheer amount of papers on your desk to even try? You might be making some understandable but self-sabotaging mistakes. Read on to learn how to avoid the most common mistakes people make when managing paper clutter.

1. Not Eliminating Paper Statements

You may still need to get some bills the old-fashioned way, but most utilities make it easy to switch to paperless billing. While you’re at it, see where else you can cut down on excess paper. If you receive catalogs you never glance at, take a few minutes to contact the companies and request to be removed from their lists. If you subscribe to multiple magazines and newspapers, think about which ones you prefer to read in print and which ones you wouldn’t mind reading online.

2. Letting Papers Pile Up

This goes for papers you don’t want (e.g. junk mail) as well as those you need (e.g. bills.) The longer you wait to handle these, the greater the chance you’ll never do it, leading to missed payments or boxes full of a year’s worth of the Sunday New York Times. The easiest way to manage your mail is to handle everything as soon as it comes in. As for papers you need to throw out, make recycling a regularly scheduled task, not just something you do when the papers are threatening to bury you.

3. Having an Inconvenient or Nonexistent Filing System

If you have no place to store the papers you need and no easy way to dispose of those you don’t, you’ll probably just stack them all up and mentally file them under “to be dealt with…someday.” Avoid this by creating a system that works for you, whether that means acquiring an old-school filing cabinet, a reliable scanner or a shredder.

4. Not Having a Launch Pad

A launch pad is a dedicated space near your front door where the things you need every day–keys, glasses, etc.–are kept whenever they’re not in use. A launch pad won’t help with all types of paper clutter, though it is an excellent way to make sure outgoing mail gets out of the house. What’s important is the concept of the launch pad, and the habits it helps you develop.

Essentially, a launch pad makes it easy to do the same thing in the same way every day. Hanging your keys in a certain place as soon as you come inside is the same type of behavior as throwing away junk mail as soon as you get it, or opening important mail in a timely fashion. When you think about other related daily tasks, like sorting your mail, they can become part of that system.

5. Being Vague

This is one I’m guilty of. Here’s an example: In my file box, I have a folder marked “car.” That means that if I have to search for my car title, I need to wade through car service receipts, documents about car insurance, information about my old car I don’t own anymore, and so on. (I also have a folder marked “misc.” which is an organizing disaster waiting to happen.)

When organizing papers that you need to keep, it’s best to be as specific and clear as you can. Introducing folders with labels like “car insurance,” “car maintenance,” and “car financial” would make using my filing system much less of a chore.

You can also cut down on a good deal of excess paper by learning how long you need to keep documents. If you’re storing outdated papers that you’ll never use again, finally getting rid of them will cut a lot of clutter out of your life.