Monday, February 1, 2010

Paper Clutter

I don't know about you but a ton of mail and paperwork always flows through my house. If I don't have a system set up to handle it all, I can quickly become buried. But I am not perfect and sometimes have found myself buried. It is then that I reinforce my current systems and clean out.

The key to being free of paper clutter is to address it as soon as it enters the door of your home. For me that would be in the form of mail, kids backpacks, and email. Yes, email is a new form of paper clutter without being physical paper.

Here are a few ways I have set myself up to be as proactive as possible with this issue.


Sort through the mail over the garbage can.
Throw any junk mail away immediately. Shred if necessary.
Open up all bills and put them in the bill pile.
Throw the catalogs away (you can usually find them online).
Magazines that you truly want to read go into the read pile.
All other paperwork that you keep should be filed in an filing cabinet.

If there is not a place to put your particular piece of mail that you don't want to discard then find a place for it. The key to paper organization is finding a place to appropriately house your paper materials. The other key is knowing what you need to throw out.

Kids paperwork

I have four kids so I can quickly collect artwork, schoolwork, and other general paperwork from the school. I have set up a system to handle all of this paper that is fairly quick and simple.

I keep a folder for each child for artwork and schoolwork that I want to keep. This folder goes into the same filing cabinet as all of my other house papers. It's easy to keep it all in one spot. The easier the better. However the downside is that these folders can fill up quickly. To combat this, I purge these folders every so often. I have found that I tend to keep many of the papers that my child brings home from school but when I go back to look at these papers a certain time later I tend to discard more easily. The long term keepers are kept in a permanent airtight container that I keep in the attic for memory keeping.

To recap:

1. Papers come home from school. Some is kept and some is discarded.
2. Kept papers are filed in the child's folder in the filing cabinet.
3. After a few months, the folder is reviewed. More papers are purged.
4. The kept papers get moved to a permanent container in the attic.


It's almost everyone's personal experience that email can quickly get out of control if you don't set up a system to handle it as it comes in.

This is why I really love email programs such as Microsoft Outlook. Outlook (and other similar programs) is great for many reasons. One of those is the ease with which one can create and save emails to various folders and subfolders. Create logical folders so that your emails can be stored and retrieved easily. As soon as you get an email that needs to be filed, file it!

I love Outlook because I can create a "rule". Rules are good because you can have an action taken on an email right before it hits your inbox. You can have that email filed, deleted, or something else automatically for you. This is good if you get repetitive emails.

Unsubscribe to lists you don't want to be on. This happens to me all of the time when I register for something and you give them your email address. Almost all of the time (unless you uncheck those default boxes) you will get placed on someone's email list for all kinds of ads and promotions. Most of them allow you to unsubscribe. Take the time to do this up front will help you on the back end.

Taking care of your paper clutter is about setting up systems that work and addressing the paper right away.

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