Paper clutter accumulates for a variety of reasons, but the end result is the same: you’re overwhelmed by the stacks of papers in your home or office and you don’t know where to even start to get rid of them. To prevent the most common causes of this situation, and to tame your already overgrown stacks of papers, follow these seven steps for how to get rid of paper clutter.
Reduce Junk Mail
If you have too much paper because of all the catalogs and flyers are arriving in your mailbox, there are some ways to reduce their quantity. Most retailers that send out catalogs have a phone number to call if you no longer want to receive them. You can also request to be removed from the mailing lists of charities and nonprofits. The Better Business Bureau has tips on the latter. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission provides resources for removing yourself from some direct marketers' lists and other companies who send unsolicited offers through the mail.
Organize Only What You Need To
Once you've cut down on junk mail you'll have less to declutter and organize. This is a good thing. Schedule time to declutter every few months, but also try to be more discerning about what you save on a daily basis. This is especially true if you have hoarding tendencies or grew up before everything was on the internet. There's no need to save takeout menus or catalogs when their contents are available online.
If you’re holding on to papers you want to throw away because you’re worried about privacy, buying a small shredder is a simple solution. If you don’t have much to shred, you can take documents to select FedEx locations and have them shredded for a fee. In some areas, you can also take papers to a bulk shredder on certain days. Google your town name plus “shredding” or “shred day” to see if that option is available where you are.
If you’re keeping old newspapers, magazines, and flyers because you don’t want to throw them in the garbage but you don’t know the proper way to dispose of them, take a few minutes to research the recycling rules where you live. Just knowing what can be recycled and where to bring it can break the cycle of laziness.
Throw Out Old Papers
If your excess papers are of the “this might be important” variety, find out which old documents you really need to keep. Unnecessary old records might not look like stereotypical paper clutter, but they add weight to your boxes when you move, and they take up precious space in your files.
Scan What You Can
If you’re storing papers because they contain information you want, remember that you don’t necessarily need that information in paper form. Instead, scan them and save them on your computer or an external drive. A decent, inexpensive scanner is very useful to have around, but there are also apps that use the camera on your smartphone phone as a scanner.
Pay Bills Online
The easiest way to deal with paper clutter is to keep it from coming into your house in the first place. Switch to online bill pay if you haven't already. You can also choose to receive some other types of records, like bank statements and receipts, in digital form.
Organize Those “In-Between” Papers
Lastly, if your desk is covered in papers that you need to deal with soon but not right away, designate a place just for them. This could be an accordion folder, a simple box, or a clipboard. Stash coupons, bills awaiting payment, and other time-sensitive documents here until they can be used, filed, scanned, or tossed.