Baby Steps for Tackling Paper Clutter

When I met my husband, he always used the term “baby steps” and we happen to agree that baby steps are a better route to success than a complete revamp of your current methods. Overwhelmingly, paper is at the top of the list of struggles for many moms so I wanted to share a few ‘baby steps’ to help you get started on tackling your paper clutter:

  1. Tackle the mail as soon as you bring it into the house. This means getting rid of the outer envelopes and inserts that come with bills, any obvious junk mail and sort/file the rest into action and reference categories. Check back for a future post on eliminating junk mail when I go into more details on the Eliminate step.

  2. Set up a ‘bill paying’ center if you prefer to do so via paper. Designate an area/container to place your bills once you have opened them. It may also help to designate a bill paying day or days…find something that works for you. If you feel you only need to pay bills once a month, choose a day and try to stick to it. You may feel that every 2 weeks works better for you. Try asking your spouse/significant other to help you remember your designated bill paying day (but only if you feel that would help you remember- not cause you to be resentful). Better yet, consider online bill paying solutions and eliminate the paper altogether.

  3. Be more selective about the paper you keep- Here are some questions you can ask yourself when dealing with the decision, remember it only helps you to keep it if you can retrieve it when you need it!

  • Is it expired (or soon to be)?

  • Can you reference the information quickly and easily elsewhere? Or more importantly, ARE YOU more likely to reference it elsewhere? It isn’t really necessary to file the paper if you are more likely to go online to search for the info.

  • Can you condense the paper clutter? If you have collected a brochure or other literature, can you transfer the pertinent information (web address, name, phone #, etc.) to a small notepad dedicated to that purpose and throw out the remaining paper? I use a Circa journal-sized notebook that I carry in my purse, for small reminders, phone numbers and reference information (like window measurements, etc. I even tape swatches into my notebook so I have them when I am out shopping).

  • Do you really need it? Be realistic and ask yourself – am I really going to read this article/magazine/catalog? If you decide to keep it, dedicate yourself to following through and then toss the item when you are done. (This will also help you determine if it is worth your time to keep those papers the next time.)

Of course, these are just some basic steps and there is much more to an effectively organizing your paper and setting up a paper management system. But it’s a start…

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