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6 Strategies to Win the War Against Paper Clutter


By Joyce Reyes-Aguila

Receipts, magazines, letters, bills. Or simply, paper, paper, and more paper.

Among the things we accumulate, paper is probably the fastest to pile up. Most of us are often surprised with the sea of paper we are faced with at home and at work. Our paper problems are also not limited by the present stack we have. It may also involve our notebooks from grade school, term papers in college, letters from friends, and brochures we have held onto for years.

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The goal is to take control of paper clutter, The Organized Life author Stephanie Denton writes. “Once you put simple processes in place, making decisions about what to do with paper and acting on them will be a snap.”  By clearing surfaces, the organizational expert says we will be able to find information faster and even apply some best practices – via electronic information.

Letting go of paper clutter will not only clear space in our homes and offices, but also in our minds. Imagine the benefits of being able to find important documents quickly because you have all of it in one folder, and know exactly where they are. Or enjoying a trip down memory lane more because you have picked the most important birthday cards and letters you have accumulated allyour life. Let’s conquer our paper clutter together with these steps:

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1. Assign a paper inbox.

Yes, even at home! Denton says an inbox can be the designated place for you to put all the mail, bills, and notices you have to attend to. Centralize. This way, you prevent piles from growing in different areas of the house (even in your car). When you have time, deal with every piece of paper with finality, she urges. “Avoid reviewing the papers in the inbox…(and) leaving them there. You’ll just have to spend time sorting again later. Once you take a paper out of the inbox, move it forward in some way: pitch it, give it to someone else, file it, or act on it.”

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2. Deal with books and magazines.

“If you won’t read or refer to it again and it doesn’t have strong sentimental value, it has to go,” home magazine Real Simple urges. See if you can sell books or magazines online but give yourself a deadline. Whatever is not purchased by a certain date can be donated to schools or community libraries. Find organizations that work with schools in areas that were heavily damaged by typhoons or earthquakes. The reward, the magazine says, is discovering your bookshelf’s identity. Display your collection with pride by accessorizing the bookshelf with the extra space you now have!

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3. Sorting your bills lessens them.

If best-selling author Marie Kondo (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing)can have her way with paper, she will simply throw it all out. In her book, she suggests categorizing paper clutter depending on whether you are currently using them, need them for a certain period of time, and those you need to keep indefinitely. For bills, like credit card statements, Kondo suggests checking your bill and throwing them out once they’re correct. More companies are offering e-statements to clients as well. See if you can subscribe to these services so you can view your bills online and receive less paper monthly.

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4. Categorize and catalog your paper.

Find a system that works best for you. You can have 12 folders for every month of the year. This way, you can be reminded of urgent matters for the current ones, and move tasks that can be delayed or needed again to the next month. You can have three active folders in different colors to separate matters. Colors can represent urgency, or an area you attend to like your home, your kids, and your household.

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5. Attend to paper from your past.

Do you still have your college notebooks at your parents’ house? Are you holding on to every version of your college term paper (and three copies of the final version)? Real Simple advises you to treasure only the important ones and shred the rest! “All the info from classes you took years ago is either outdated or found online,” it continues. Set a boundary for what you can keep by getting a storage box that is sized just enough for you to keep. Consider also scanning some of your old school documents.

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6. Papers to review.

Warranties and instruction manuals are often kept longer than needed. If your warranty date has expired, get rid of the warranty cards. Check manuals online, suggests Kondo. Chances are manufacturers have them available there.

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