It happens to the best of us. Paper stacks up on the kitchen counter or your dining room table becomes nothing put a place for newspapers, flyers and direct mail pieces. Too often when you need to clean up for company or if you’re showing your home to potential buyers, important paperwork gets jammed into drawers or thrown into a box and then it’s gone forever.
Paper can get out of control. You don’t have to be a certified hoarder to have piles of paper everywhere. Part of the issue is organization, but why is organizing paper such a challenge?
Part of the reason according to professional home organizers is that decisions often have to be made with each piece of paper and that can be difficult. A bill left in the open might be paid more quickly. Bank statements need to be filed in a specific place but you don’t have time for that right now. Children’s artwork is precious and that needs to be left out and admired.
Perfectionists, ironically, have difficulty with paper clutter. You might think someone who likes things to be perfect couldn’t stand to have piles of paper everywhere. However, perfectionists often want tasks done in a perfect manner and if a job is too daunting and can’t be done perfectly in a specified amount of time then it often isn’t started. Better to not do it at all if it can’t be done perfectly.
The sheer volume of paper that comes into your home can also be a challenge but luckily you can put some strategies in place to make decision making easier and your life a little less full of paper.
Ditch multiple file folders
Part of decision making is believing that each piece of paper should be filed by name or subject matter and when you don’t have file folders readily accessible it’s easier to leave them in piles. Plus, if you create a folder for each piece of paper you’re not really making a dent in your random piles of paper. You have paper inside another piece of (heavier) paper. Group bills or statements together. Make a file called insurance and put all your insurance documents in there. Life, auto, boat, home, health. Same with electricity, gas or water – those are utilities. They can all live together in the same file folder.
Throw it out or recycle it on the spot
Don’t leave flyers on the table – put them in recycling right away. Keep a garbage or recycling bin by the front door. Receipts from the store or gas station can be tossed right after your purchase if you don’t require them for tax purposes. Better yet, tell the cashier you don’t even need a receipt. Children’s art work can be hung on the fridge and when the next Picasso comes along, throw out the old and pin up the new. You’ll want to keep particularly cute drawings but really, you only need to keep a couple every year.
Get off mailing lists
Just like you unsubscribe to emails or limit the number of people you give your email address to, do the same with mailing lists. It will take a few phone calls but it will cut down on the unsolicited mail you get every week. Some of the companies that have your name and address sell that list to other companies. That should be incentive to get your name off mailing lists today.
Say no to paper
Most utility companies these days can send out electronic bills. Investment companies can also send electronic statements and pay stubs can also be send by ePost. Some trust companies have a duty to send out paper statements, but you could probably cut 90% of your incoming paper by going paperless. Again, all it takes are a few phone calls or emails.
Be ruthless and keep it recent
Unless you need to keep seven years of paper for tax purposes you really only need to keep the most recent copy of things if having paper makes you feel better. For example, if you make a contribution to an education plan or top up your RRSP you’ll get a confirmation notice. The previous one can then be shredded. The same goes for insurance policies and really, even your children’s report cards.
One you have less paper coming into your home the clutter piles will virtually take care of themselves.