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 while taming your already overgrown stacks of papers, follow these seven steps to rid your home of paper clutter.
Reduce Junk Mail
If you have catalogs and flyers arriving in your mailbox in droves, 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.
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. There's no need to save takeout menus or catalogs when their contents are available online.
Shred Anything With Identifying Info
If you’re holding on to papers you want to throw away but don't because you’re worried about privacy, buy a shredder. 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. Check with your bank or credit union as they often periodically offer free shredding days.
Recycle Bulk Mail
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 spur you into action. You might also check with local nursing homes to see if they would like recent magazines.
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. A decent, inexpensive scanner is useful to have around, but there are also apps that use the camera on your smartphone 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 and paperless billing 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.