4 Easy Tips to Tackle Your Paper Clutter
Is the never-ending paperwork in your home making you feel overwhelmed and disorganized? Do you wish you could tackle your paper clutter once and for all? I get it, friend — paper clutter isn’t the sexiest topic in home organizing, but tackling it is so important and impactful all the same.
The truth is, paper clutter is making your home look disorganized and messy, and it can be seriously stressful. You know what I’m talking about — the scattered bills and receipts overflowing in your desk drawers, the high stack of flyers on your kitchen counter, and the important documents you can never seem to find when you need them most.
Today, I’m going to show you four easy tips to tackle your paper clutter: ‘quick wins’ you can do today to start organizing your paperwork. Plus, I’ll show you what to do next if you want to get on top of it, once and for all.
Why Do We Accumulate So Much Paper Clutter in the First Place?
In my experience, what holds most people back from tackling their paper clutter is this underlying fear that they’re going to get rid of something they need.
First of all, let me tell you that it’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed or anxious over organizing your paper clutter — or any type of clutter, for that matter. If you’re struggling to get started, you might like my blog post on crushing your roadblocks, which will give you tips on how to overcome those anxieties.
I completely understand where you’re coming from, but think about it this way: if you don’t get organized, you’re never going to be able to find what you need. And if you can’t find what you need, isn’t it almost as if that important paperwork is already gone, anyway? (Did you know that the average American spends 2.5 days a year looking for lost items? Seriously!)
That fear is what’s causing you to accumulate all the paper clutter that’s making your life so much harder than it needs to be. So, let me show you some quick tips that will help you overcome that fear and take action, step-by-step.
4 Tips for Tackling Your Paper Clutter
Before we dive into these tips, I want to remind you that any progress you make is progress. Seriously. Even if the only thing you do today is gather all of your paperwork into a single place or set a future date to get started, you’ve already taken an important first step in tackling your paper clutter.
Now, let’s get started.
1. Differentiate between past vs. current paperwork
There are so many ways that you can split up and categorize your paper clutter, but the first thing I want you to do is to get clear on whether something is current enough to keep.
As you start going through all your paper clutter, I want you to ask yourself…
- Are these legal documents the most up-to-date version?
- Is this address or label up to date?
- Do I really need to keep this old credit card bill?
- Will I really ever need to return this item I have a receipt for?
- Has this bill already been paid?
- Can I get this information online?
Those are some questions that will help you tackle your paper clutter, and show you what’s worth hanging onto versus what can be shredded or recycled.
Remember that you have to keep your tax receipts for seven years, but that isn’t true for your bills. I only recommend hanging on to a year’s worth of bills, and even then you should only keep a bill if you can’t get it online.
2. Organize what’s left into categories
Now that you’ve recycled or shredded all of your old paperwork, it’s time to organize the rest of your paper clutter.
Remember, the main reason you’re doing this is so that it’s easier to find what you need, when you need it — and the easiest way to do that is to categorize all your paperwork. That way, you don’t have to waste time trying to remember where something is.
The categories you use are going to depend on what kind of paper clutter you actually have, and what you’ve decided is worth keeping. But, here’s a list of some of the categories I like to use:
- Product Information (like manuals and guides)
- Utility Bills
- Medical Bills
- Legal Documents
- Tax Documents
- Work Documents
- Personal School Documents (You may want your kids’ input on this one. Read my post on how to organize a kid’s closet for more tips on organizing with kids.)
- Motor Vehicle
- Kids Paperwork
- Pet Paperwork
- Sentimental Items
I know it can be tempting to keep everything — especially when it comes to sentimental items — but remember that it’s not going to help you tackle your paper clutter! Purging is something I cover more extensively in my free G+G Paper Clutter Mini Bootcamp.
3. Get out that label maker!
Now that you have categorized your remaining paperwork, it’s time to give each category its own, easily-identifiable space. The easiest way to do this is to get some simple file folders and label them for each category. If you don’t have a label maker, you can just use a pen and paper or printable file folder labels.
You can even color-code your files — whatever it takes to make this all feel a bit more glam. That’s my biggest tip here, because the more glam your organizing systems are, the more likely you are to want to maintain them.
4. Commit to the long game
Remember that clutter is just delayed decisions. Instead of delaying, get in the habit of making quick, speedy decisions on whether a piece of paperwork needs to be dealt with right away, stored for a later date, or tossed.
If you really want to tackle your paper clutter, it’s not a one-and-done kind of thing. It’s so important to commit to resetting your systems every 3-6 months, depending on how often you accumulate paper clutter in your home.
Mark a date in your calendar right now to make sure you can purge your paperwork in a few months time, and set reminders for yourself so you don’t forget.
Want more tips on how to tackle your paper clutter, once and for all?
- Get clear on what paperwork you actually need. (Spoiler: You can purge a LOT more than you think);
- Organize your existing paper clutter, so you can stop living under piles of paperwork;
- And set up systems for your incoming paperwork, so you can not just get organized but stay organized — for good!
Want to become the most organized person you know?
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