31 Days of Finding Freedom in Simplicity - Paper Clutter

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Paper clutter is something that is difficult to get a handle on.  Between bills to pay, what you need to keep for your business, what you need to keep for your kids’ school/activities/memories, important documents that you should always have, calendars, schedules, chore charts, magazines, lists; there can be a lot of paper clutter

I have a love-hate relationship with paper.  I love all the pretty journals, I use an Erin Condren Life Planner there is the teacher planner for homeschool.  I am a list maker, and these lists have been everywhere in the past.  We also receive bills and other important paperwork that we need to take care of.

You might be the same as me.  Hating paper, but also loving it.  What should you do about it then?

There are some easy ways to take care of paper clutter.  You may be convinced that you can never get rid of it all, and honestly you can’t.  There are some papers that are going to constantly be coming into your life, and some you will need to keep.  But, there is a great many pieces of paper that can go right into the recycling bin.

Let’s start with mail.

You get mail delivered almost every day.  The first thing you need to do is to make sure that you deal with the mail as soon as it comes out of the mailbox.  When you immediately weed out the junk from the important, and get it in the correct spot (recycling bin for junk, and either a file or to-be filed place for the important), you relieve some of that stress from paper clutter.
I try to do this all the time, however, there are instances when I grab the mail on my way out the door, and set it on some shelves near the door…and it sits there.  Or I will pile it on my management hub table, and it will sit there for a while (see my kids aren’t the only ones that mess up my clean surfaces).  There it will sit until three days later when I finally stop to take care of it.  And most of it is trash!  Stuff that we don’t need at all!  It just takes up space.
So when you check your mail, immediately deal with it.  If you can’t immediately deal with it (like when I check my mail as I am on my way out the door), wait to get the mail until you get home.  It will take you 2 minutes to sort through everything, and then it is done, you can move on without trying to remember if x bill was in that pile.
This will lead to bills.  I plan to talk more about financial paperwork in another post, but wanted to briefly touch on bills here.  Thankfully we live in a time when there are a lot of automated bills.  Bills can be delivered to your e-mail, many banks offer services that allow you to have bills delivered to your online banking, where you can then pay for and file the bills right there. 
However, there will most likely still be some bills that you cannot automate or get through e-mail.  We have water and sewer bills that are not delivered through e-mail.
When you receive a bill in the mail, you need to immediately put it in a spot where you will remember to pay for it.  The system that I use is to put the bill in a pocket in my planner, and then write the date the bill is due in the monthly calendar section.  That way I know that when I pay my bills, I know what needs to be paid when.
You may put an alert in your phone or e-mail, or you might write it on a wall or desk calendar.  Whatever is your method for paying the bills is fine, but making sure it is put somewhere where you remember and can actively pay the bill is important.
For bills that you receive in the mail, it is easy to scan those and digitally file them away so that you can recycle the paper bill and get it out of your house.  I have a compact HP printer that easily allows me to scan bills as I receive them.  You could even do this if you live a more digital life.  Immediately scan the bill and then pay through online banking when it is due.
As a mom I think the most paperwork comes from my kids.  There is always something that needs to be dealt with.  Either new artwork, school work that the kids have done that either needs to be filed for their portfolio, or thrown out.  If your kids go to public school I have heard the amount of paperwork that comes home on a weekly and even daily basis can be astronomical.  Dealing with that immediately is part of the solution.
If you wait to deal with the paperwork until later, it will pile up and be more overwhelming to deal with.  And, in the example of school work coming home in their backpacks, you may miss important dates if you wait around to go through it.
What about the paper that you need to keep?  What should you do with that?
Well, you can do several things.  You can have an old fashioned filing cabinet – which is what we have.  We keep important documents in file folders, so they are accessible.  There are some things you just need to have the original for – things like your social security card, birth certificates, marriage license, passport, wills and other estate documents, life insurance policies.  All of these paper items need to be stored, hopefully in a safe and accessible way.  If you do not want to keep them in your home, you could get a traditional safe deposit box at the bank. 
There are places where you can decrease the amount of paper you bring into your home as well.  You can cancel paper magazine subscriptions and instead read them online (or at your local library for free!).  Most newspapers have a website now where you can see a few stories for free each month, or pay a fee for a digital subscription. 
And if you want to completely remove junk mail from your mailbox each week – you can try a service such as DMA Choice which will help remove you from mailing lists for a small ($2) fee for 10 years.
Do you have a love/hate relationship with paper?

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