Paper clutter is an issue that I see and hear about from readers time and time again. As we near the end of 2016, you may assume that many of our homes and businesses are as paperless as possible. Sadly, that is not the case and many of us still struggle with paper clutter at home and at the office. Here are 15 ways you can reduce paper clutter right now!
I must warn you that even with the below systems in place, if you have multiple people living in your home, someone is bound to forget about the system and leave paperwork on the kitchen counter. It happens in every home, so try not to stress if you child leaves their “work-in progress” artwork on the kitchen island or your significant other leaves a bill on the kitchen table. Be sure to check out my post, 7 Steps to Get your Family On-Board with Organizing for helpful tips to encourage the rest of your household to be active with reducing paper clutter.
1. Take care of paperwork as soon as it enters your home
Any paperwork that comes into your home needs to be tackled it right away. I know the first thing many people want to do when they get home is relax, but you need to take an extra 5 seconds to decide where to put paperwork before it piles up! Remember, you are reading this post for a reason 😉
2. Sign up for paperless billing
Every big business should have a paperless billing option. If yours doesn’t you should inquire to find out why and ask if they can create an option for you. If you don’t have an option to automate monthly payments online through vendors, try setting up bill pay through your personal bank. Most banks provide a bill pay service where they mail a check directly to vendors and eliminates more paperwork for you.
3. Invest in a shredder, recycling bin and trash can and keep them near the entryway
Sort through mail as soon as it enters your home and immediately toss, shred or recycle items (we have this shredder and recycling bin). Place items that you need to keep in an appropriate place (see below for suggestions). Do not… I repeat, do not sit mail on a counter top or in a mail bin. You will end back where you started with a stack of cluttered paperwork if you don’t sort through mail immediately!
4. Create a command center in your home
You can check out what our command center looks like (and how to create one in your home) in this post. A highly functional command center should have:
- A large calendar with everyone’s schedules and important reminders (try this whiteboard or large chalkboard)
- Cork board or magnetic board to attach party invites, receipts and other misc paperwork (our calendar is multi-functional with a small cork-board and is magnetic)
- Meal planning system or menu board
- Chore chart/list for household members
- Wall hooks for keys and misc items
A command center should be located in a space that everyone in the home will pass by on regular basis. Our command center in in a hallway off from the kitchen and the mudroom/garage. The kids will frequently check the calendar and posted notes.
Consider the importance of creating an entryway “mudroom.” You can create an entryway organizing system easily and inexpensively with a few wall hooks, a bench with shoe storage. Having a mudroom makes it easy to put down items as soon as you enter your home so you can focus on sorting paperwork immediately. You can easily turn a closet or wall into a mudroom with tip form my post How to Turn a Closet into a Mudroom (for less than $30).
5. Develop a bill-payment system or station
When I was working a full-time day job, I would stick all our paper bills in a side pocket of my purse so I could take them with me to work. I would pay them online when I had down-time or a break at work. That system worked for us to pay bills that came in the mail.
Now that I work at home, the paper bills are left on my home office desk. My desk is ALWAYS clear of clutter, so I notice the bill right away and pay it as soon as I’m back at my desk.
The main focus for your bill-payment system is to make sure you pay bills right away. Put paper bills in a place that you will not forget about it.
Don’t stick it in a mail basket and plan to get to it later because later turns into a month (or months) later. Focus on getting rid of the paper clutter by paying that bill right away so you can shred it and forget it! If you must keep copies of your paid bills, scan it and save it to a cloud drive like Google docs.
If you don’t have the funds to make the payment right away, try using bill pay through your bank. You can set a scheduled date for the funds to be withdrawn from your account (just make sure you pay before the due date!).
6. Create an organizing system for kid’s school papers and artwork
As a mom with two kids under the age of 6, I know how fast artwork and papers from school can accumulate in your home. I’ve written a very popular post with details for how I organize the school paperwork in this post…be sure to read it for my best practices and a free printable!
Just like any other paperwork that comes into your home, you need to tackle the school papers right away. However, I will let you in on a little secret when it comes to my kid’s artwork – I don’t sort through it right away.
Shhhh! Okay, don’t tell anyone… but I have a basket (from the dollar store) that we hang in our mudroom that can hold about 4-weeks worth of my kid’s paperwork/artwork. At the end of each month, I sort through it (most of it gets tossed/recycled) and I keep the worthy items and store in the system that I use. Waiting a few weeks also allows more time to pass before the kids ask where that one paper went (my daughter asks where I put her latest masterpiece all the time!).
We have a few picture frames that we use to display some of our kid’s artwork throughout our home as well. That may not work for your household if you don’t dedicate the time to regularly change out artwork in the frames.
How do you determine what is worthy of keeping? That is for you to decide, but most importantly, you have to come to terms that you CANNOT keep everything (unless you scan it, lol)!
7. Check with your accountant/attorney and confirm what paperwork/receipts you absolutely must keep
Toss receipts if you don’t need them (or better yet, opt to not take a receipt – many stores ask if you need a receipt or prefer to have them emailed now-a-days). Bank transactions for purchases are available online in the worst case scenario! Another option is to invest in a Neat scanner and scan all of your receipts.
Since the hubby and I are both self employed, we keep any receipts for business purchases or items that are tax deductible. I have one drawer in the kitchen dedicated for receipts with 2 freezer-size zip-lock bags. I took a sharpie and labeled one bag with my name and the year and the other with the hubby’s name and the year. When I make a business purchase, I note the expense in my planner and file it away in my zip-lock bag!
Your situation may be completely different from mine – be sure to check with your accountant/attorney to discuss what paperwork you should keep.
8. Cancel subscriptions and junk mail
Magazines, newspapers and catalogs just add more paper clutter to your home. For several years, we had a newspaper subscription just for the coupon inserts. As soon as I pulled the coupons out, the rest of the newspaper went into the recycling bin. Over time, we noticed we weren’t even using the coupons from the Sunday paper so we canceled the subscription. No more Sunday paper means less waste for our household, less coupon-clipping and paper sorting!
Have you ever had a magazine subscription and found yourself “saving” the magazines because of some inspiration, recipe or DIY that you wanted to try? Just saving one magazine is creating more clutter.
The next time something interests you in a magazine, take a picture of it with your phone and create PIN to save to a Pinterest board that you can refer back to. Tip: you can keep your Pinterest board secret so no one else can see it! Taking a picture and uploading to Pinterest keeps it digitally organized and allows you to let go of that magazine!
You could tear inspirational pages out of magazines and create an inspiration binder – but that just causes more paper clutter and you will probably forget about the binder (which is probably taking up more space in your home).
Also, many magazine subscriptions offer online access to the same content that you get in the physical magazine. Consider canceling a magazine delivery subscription but keep access to the online content.
Go HERE to unsubscribe from junk mail 🙂
9. Simplify coupon organization
Do you receive coupons in the mail from retailers and are not sure what to do with them? Do you clip coupons from the Sunday paper and are not sure how to organize them?
Here’s my rule of thumb for retail mailer coupons:
- If you know you are not going to purchase anything from the particular retailer by the expiration date, toss it
- Does the retailer honor expired coupons? If so and you believe you might purchase something from the retailer in the near future, file it away (I do this with Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons since they never expire)
- If you can print the same coupon online (many retailers have printable coupons on their website now), toss it. I usually take a screen shot of online coupons using my phone (instead of printing) so the process is completely paper-free!
You have several options when it comes to organizing coupons and your system depends on how many coupons you collect and how often you use them. I rarely use paper coupons so I have a small flat clutch that holds my coupons and I carry it daily in my purse.
If you are a coupon fanatic, you probably already have an organizing system in place. I’ve seen coupon binders separating coupons by category (which I used to have) and I’ve also seen some people that keep the full insert until there is a really good deal and then they clip them.
If you have a lot of coupons, I suggest creating some type of paperwork organizing system for larger coupons/the full insert. We have a wall file system in our home office for larger coupons (like the BBB ones) and the rest goes in my clutch. If you have an Aldi store near you, try shopping there without coupons – their prices are already so low that you don’t need them!
10. Create a small file system
The key word here is SMALL. After consulting with your accountant or attorney about what paperwork you need to keep, you should be able to create a small filing system to keep things organized. This does not have to be very big, you only need the essentials that has been communicated to you. Your small filing system may include paperwork for your automobile, your home, insurance, business, taxes and receipts. Consider keeping important papers (living will, life insurance, passports, social security cards) in a secure (locked) space.
11. Create something out of those greeting cards
Whether it’s a thank you card, birthday card or love note – stop letting those greeting card pile up. Some may have sentimental value, but a majority of the ones I receive end up recycled. Here are several DIY projects using old greeting cards from Pinterest:)
If you are not a crafty person and don’t feel comfortable tossing them, try displaying the most sentimental ones on a memory board, bulletin board or picture frame in your home.
12. Add business card info to your contact list immediately (and toss the business card)
I wouldn’t be upset if you tossed my business card as long as you stored my information somewhere else. Take a picture if it’s a nice card and upload that bad boy to Pinterest (mentioned in #8), Google drive, or add to your phone’s contact list. Do this right away so you don’t end up with clutter on your dresser when you empty your pockets!
13. Sort through paperwork regularly
If you have stacks of paperwork currently in your home, it’s a best practice to regularly sort through items to continue to reduce the clutter over time. Make a commitment of at least 15 minutes per day to sort through a (manageable) stack. Keep the shredder near by!
14. Don’t print when possible
I probably sound like a hypocrite telling you not to print since I offer so many free printables, lol! That said, I know how easy it is to print something and then have it sitting around or worse, it doesn’t print right and it’s basically garbage. Ask yourself if you really need to print the item or if it can be kept digital.
- Use Google docs to share documents easily with others to
- Share online articles and recipes using social media save options (Pinterest, Facebook, etc)
- Save documents to your computer as a PDF
15. Keep a clipboard around for scrap paper
My kids love drawing on scrap paper so keeping some of it around benefits our household (as long as it’s contained well!). We have a clipboard in our home office that we attach scrap paper to as a way to “recycle” the paper and the kids use it to draw/color. You can try this method with any scrap paper as long as it is contained and not cluttering a space (and causing you stress).
Here’s a quick recap of how to reduce paper clutter:
- Take care of paperwork as soon as it enters your home
- Sign up for paperless billing
- Invest in a shredder, recycling bin and trash can and keep them near the entryway
- Create a command center in your home
- Develop a bill-payment system or station
- Create an organizing system for kid’s papers and artwork
- Check with you accountant/attorney and confirm what paperwork/receipts you absolutely must keep
- Cancel subscriptions
- Simplify coupon organization
- Create a small file system
- Create something out of those greeting cards
- Add business card info to your contact list immediatley (and toss the business card)
- Sort through paperwork regularly
- Don’t print when possible
- Keep a clipboard around for scrap paper
Conquering paper clutter is one more step in achieving a clutter-free life. Remember to be consistent and to get the rest of your household on-board with these tips. Bookmark or Pin this post for future reference if you find yourself struggling to reduce paper clutter!
Read more of my tips to get organized HERE.
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