Even in this digital age, paper clutter can be a problem, causing us mental stress and even costing us time and money. Below are a few tips to help you get – and stay – on top of your paper pile-up.
- Curb the flow of paper into your home. For example, decide which magazines you like to read and keep, and which ones you would be satisfied glancing at in their digital version; register to receive bank statements and bills online (this may actually save you some money, too, as many companies now charge for paper statements); and opt out of getting catalogues and coupons from your favorite stores by mail – you can get those online too.
- Have one dedicated spot in your home for collecting incoming paper, be it in your kitchen, family room, or home office. Having one "inbox" will keep you from accumulating different piles of paper throughout your home, reducing clutter, and make it easier and quicker for you to locate papers when you need them.
- Set aside some time on a regular basis – once every week or two, for example – to go through your "inbox" and deal with, organize, and put away your papers. Mark that time on your calendar or set an alarm on your smartphone – whatever you need to do to make sure you consistently keep that commitment.
- As you go through your "inbox", ask yourself if any of the papers you need to keep could be kept electronically. For instance, instead of holding onto that user guide that came with your fancy new camera, could you just download it in PDF form from the manufacturer's website? Rather than holding onto that receipt, could you take a picture of it and store it on your smartphone or computer? Just be sure to clearly label your files so you can find them later.
- Now it's time to sort your remaining paperwork into groups such as keep/file, mail (e.g. rebates, bills), use (e.g. coupons), and recycle for anything you don't need (be sure to shred or otherwise carefully dispose of sensitive information). Your keep/file group should then be further sorted into subcategories of like items such as Medical, Taxes, Bills and Receipts, for example.
- Next, find some sort of containment system for the papers you're keeping. That may mean large envelopes, paper trays, three-ring binders with see-through sleeves, an accordion folder, or file folders – whatever system makes most sense for the type of papers you need to store, and that you will actually use on a consistent basis, helping you stay organized.
- With the growing popularity of home offices, filing cabinets have come a long way from grey metal boxes fit for offices to stylish varieties that can blend seamlessly into home interiors; decorative storage boxes are easier to find too. Invest in some attractive housing for your file folders, or big envelopes and your papers can hide in plain sight as part of your décor, rather than contributing to unsightly clutter.