Paper clutter is still the number one source of clutter in our lives. It is ironic that technology promised us “paperless” a long time ago. Change your paper clutter habits to free up time to live your life. For paper clutter: Change the paper habit(s) you do frequently.
When you tweak a habit that happens frequently in your life, it has a big life impact. You get lots of chances to tweak it if your initial efforts didn’t fix the clutter problem. When you declutter any area of your life, including paper, that drains your time and energy, you free up time for your priorities—your family, friends, and passions in life.
Think about the paper clutter in your household filing system. Make it a habit to weed out a file every time go to file something there. Too many old receipts? Shred the old ones when you file today’s. The same applies to medical benefit statements and many other files you go to frequently.
When you start any kind of project or activity, make it a new habit to quickly make a folder for all the information you accumulate related to it. Also, look through your filing system and see if there are old folders for completed projects or activities that can be shredded/recycled. Folders look better than paper piles and keep all the paperwork information you need together in one place.
At tax time, make a point to research how long you need to keep statements and other things for your particular tax situation. You may discover that you have a habit of hanging onto paperwork longer than you need it. Some of this information may even be available long term from your bank or credit card company. Create a tax folder at the start of the year and then file anything you will need for tax time in the folder throughout the year—this eliminates hunting for things throughout your paper files when tax time arrives.
Do you purchase books or magazines frequently? If so, make it a habit to donate/recycle old ones when you bring home new ones. If a magazine subscription arrives in the mail, take a little extra time to weed out the older issues. With books, unless you truly enjoy rereading them, and some people do, consider just keeping the reference books.
Daily mail is another type of paper clutter. We get the mail 6 out of 7 days per week. This adds up to a lot of paper constantly coming into our homes, and it doesn’t even count the paper that comes home from work or school or shopping. Reducing just the mail clutter component of paper clutter would be well worth a little of your time because it will free up a lot of your time from here forward. This also includes unsubscribing or marking excess emails as junk.
Try these tips:
1. Process paper, including mail, every day. If you spend 5-10 minutes per day, it won’t back up or pile up on you.
2. Sort mail while standing over the recycle bin. A lot of paper clutter doesn’t need to come any further into your home to live on counters or tabletops.
3. Locate your paper shredder and recycle bin next to each other and as close to the entry point of your home as possible. When you can then shred and recycle at the same time, it will save you time and encourage better paper clutter habits.
4. Go to www.dmachoice.org to stop junk mail from coming to your mailbox in the first place.
5. Call or go to the Opt Out Request Line for Experion, Novus, Equifax, & TransUnion: 1-888-567-8688 or www.optoutprescreen.com to stop the unsolicited credit card offers hitting your mailbox weekly.
6. Organize all matching types of paperwork together in one place. Take business cards, for example, and train yourself to keep them all in one place. This eliminates wasted time hunting for information.
7. Encourage family members to develop good mail handling habits too. You won’t need to pick up after them, and they will learn good life habits! Work with them to decide on designated spots and containers for their mail.
When you tackle a habit like mail processing that happens frequently, it is a great investment of your limited time and resources: Something that happens often can get you into a lot of clutter trouble in a hurry. If you make a mistake or need to adjust something, you will soon get an opportunity to try again. When you are successful with the mail, it will inspire you to move on and tackle other paper clutter and other kinds of clutter in your home!
Barbara Tako is a clutter clearing motivational speaker and author of Clutter Clearing Choices: Clear Clutter, Organize Your Home, & Reclaim Your Life, a seasonally organized book of clutter clearing tips readers may pick and choose from to fit their personal style. She is also a breast cancer and melanoma survivor who wrote Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools—We’ll get you through this. Her website is http://www.clutterclearingchoices.com.