Taming the paper clutter beast

So…there’s one thing that’s an ongoing struggle for me in this house. Every year I go through a decluttering process and try to figure out a better way to make things work in our home. And I think it’s normal that it’s an on going process – maybe?

I’ve mentioned a few times that after nine years in our home, I feel like I’m finally finding a spot for everything…slow but sure. Even with that there will always be stuff to purge. ;)

But for years I’ve tried to figure out the solution to my biggest nemesis, and that’s the paper. I’ve blogged about it numerous times and every time I think that solution is the one that’s going to work for me. And little by little it does help – but it’s never a perfect fix.

organizing all the paper in the house

Here’s the thing – the older I get the more I know what processes I’m going to stick with. When it comes to the paper clutter, a perfectly organized routine is not one of them. And the older I get, the more I’m OK with that. ;)

If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a million times – the key to keeping the paper under control is touching it once. Getting it out of the mailbox or the back pack or the purse and dealing with it immediately. But it’s just not in my DNA. I mean, really. It’s just. not.

organizing the mail

Now that the Bub is in school it brings the paper insanity to a whole new level – and even though my process is never going to be a perfect one, it’s mine and I own it. For me that means I have piles and I have hiding spaces (for the paper, not me) and I procrastinate. But I have learned some things along the way that I know will help some of you who have the same struggle.

Step 1. Stop it from coming in.

This is KEY for me. Muy importante! The biggie, in my opinion, is to cut down on what even comes in your mailbox. A few minutes on the computer will help quite a bit. First off – you know all those monthly bills for things like the mortgage, the utilities, the bills? Most of them would rather not send you something in the mail, honestly. It saves them money and makes things easier for you if they can email it. So mark that little box on your bill that says “stop sending me paper statements.”

Of course this one comes with the added stress of remembering eleventy billion usernames and passwords, but I can only fight so many battles. ;)

Another big one for me is cutting down on the catalogs we get in the mail. I mentioned this one years ago, but it’s worth telling you about again. The site I use is Catalog Choice – you sign up and then can search hundreds of catalog titles to unsubscribe. You can also do this by calling the company directly, but this is a much more time efficient way to do it, especially if you have more than one.

Yesterday I updated ours again – this time unsubscribing from American Girl (uhhh…I have a six-year-old boy) and Restoration Hardware (have you SEEN their catalogs? A bit crazy – they are SO thick, like a phone book!) I feel like I may have saved a tree with that one. ;)

And along the same note – you can opt out of receiving unsolicited mail (like credit card offers) by going to this site. It will take you to another site where you’ll have to enter some personal info in order to do so. We did this years ago and it helped a ton but we need to do it again.

Step 2. Find a spot.

So this is where I struggle. I don’t have a perfect spot to put all the incoming paper every day. It ends up on the island and on my desk, and that used to drive me crazy. Well…the island part still does. ;) But I’ve come to terms with the fact that having a small (key word) pile on the side of my desk is just fine…for me. Once I hide things away I tend to forget to deal with them.

I have a box on the dresser in my office where I keep a pretty storage box, and honestly I think I may just get rid of it. I’m learning the more places I have to put the paper the less I deal with it:

organizing paper clutter

HELLO. That’s a big thing for me – I think I just had a break through. :) I used to have about five places to put the paper before I actually filed it away. I’m getting closer to that whole “touch things once” mantra and have it down to maybe two or three. ;)

Now if the pile is on the island I move it to the desk. If it’s in my car I move it to the desk. I just focus on keeping that pile under control. Once I’ve gone through it, it goes into one of two spots in my little hanging file folder I showed you here:

hanging file folder

Our big file cabinet is down in hubby’s office, so when the folder gets full I know it’s time to take a trip down. (Which is every few weeks.)

Step 3. Decide what to keep.

For years I kept a shredder by the mud room door from the garage and decided I would take care of junk mail before I even walked in the door. Well, when 90 percent of the mail coming in is stuff that needs to be shredded, that meant I was standing there for a few minutes, feeding everything in. (I shred anything with our name and address on it, even the back page of catalogs.)

Well, I got things to DO people. It wasn’t working. Then I would let the piles and papers add up and this would happen:

shredding bills at home

OK, well that time it was a little extreme, buy you get the idea. Ain’t nobody got time. For that.

So now I use a small recycling bin and fill it up and once every few months I spend $10 and take it to a local shredding place. It’s SO much easier, for me anyway. The ten bucks is so worth it – they take care of it and I know it’s secure and done and I only have to deal with it a few times a year.

And then of course there’s figuring out where the paper you’re going to keep will stay. Like I said we file most everything away in our file cabinet, and most household bills and statements we keep for a year. Anything tax related we keep pretty much forever.

Things like the Bub’s school stuff, magazine tear outs, blog stuff – it all goes into binders I keep in my office, just so they’re within reach and easy to access:

organizing incoming paper in bindersIt’s helpful to have it right there when I need it – especially stuff for the kiddo.

My process has changed over the years and I’ve given up on it being a perfect one. I will always have piles of paper – it’s IN MY SOUL. I told you, I’m a piler. I guess the biggest point here is that someone else’s method may be pretty and organized, but you gotta do what works best for you. (Small) piles…they work for me. As long as I can stuff them in a drawer when company comes over. ;)

Do you have a method that works for you? Does it involve piles? Have you just come to terms with that like me? (It’s OK to pile, I swear.)

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