Paper Clutter Part 1 - Bar the Gate!

Paper clutter is postponed decisions. Paper management is making decisions.

-Barbara Hemphill

StepOne-Stock Photo-mail.jpg

My theme for this month is Paper and Digital Clutter.  Even in this digital age, paper has an incredible way of taking over our lives. If you are Gen Xer like me, you probably walk the line between a paper world and a digital one. I myself use a notebook to make to-do lists, take notes, and especially to work out ideas. For some things, my brain just needs pencil and paper. Like all parts of our lives, without proper maintenance your paper and digital stuff will overwhelm you.  So let’s work on this this month.

We must start at the gateway of all paper overwhelm:  The Mail.  Without fail, it comes 6 days a week, bringing a few action items, many distractions, and LOTS of junk directly to your front door. Ignored mail can lead to major problems – unpaid bills, missed government notices, un-cashed checks. It can take as little as a week to have a large, intimidating pile to procrastinate over.  My best advice to you is to deal with your mail as it deals with you:  EVERY DAY.  That doesn’t mean you have to pay bills the day they arrive.  If you are like most people though, 90% of the mail you receive is NOT a bill.  It’s catalogs, coupons, advertisements, credit card offers. Why save all that junk for your Saturday or Sunday night sit-down?

Here’s how to deal with what the postman brings ya each day:

1)    Sort the mail immediately. Pile catalogs, pure junk, important stuff.

2)    Toss the pure junk into recycling. The coupons you won’t use, the postcards for services that you don’t need, the financial prospectuses that you won’t read. Don’t waste another second          of your life on these pieces of paper.

3)    Review the catalogs – recycle those of no interest to you. Put the others aside.

4)    OPEN the important stuff. Yes. Open it now.

  • Toss the envelopes.

  • Toss the extra papers that aren’t necessary -- Your bills often have junk mail INSIDE them, don’t they? Get rid of it NOW with the rest of your junk mail.

  • Make a tidy pile of the pieces of paper that remain that require action – payment, review, whatever it is.  Usually, this is just a few pieces of paper each day.  

  • Put this pile wherever you put your ‘things to deal with’.  If you don’t have a place like this – make one. Doesn’t have to be fancy. A basket, inbox, folder, specific desk location. One spot will save you from losing things and you will always know where to look first. More on this on my next post.

5)    If you still have a little time to spare, flip through the catalogs. Quite likely you got a catalog from the same company last month and very little is new. If you see something you like, pull out that page and put it in the action pile. Toss the rest of the catalog.

This process probably took you about 5 minutes.  When the time comes for you to go through your paperwork; that will take you less time too, because you will only be dealing with the things that require action.  Even if you are already dealing with a backlog of paper, start TODAY with this system and stop the flood of paper in your home right now. You can gradually apply the same techniques to your existing paper piles.

Want to know how to make the daily mail sort even easier?  Make some of it stop arriving at all. Here are some amazing resources to stop the junk from coming all-together:

Paper Karma

With this free app, you simply take a picture of a catalog address with your phone and Paper Karma unsubscribes you from it.  Look for it wherever you buy apps.

Catalog Choice

Don’t want to get another app?  Sign-up with this non-profit dedicated to helping the environment by reducing junk mail.  Search the catalog or other junk mail you want to unsubscribe to and catalog choice does it for you for free.

DMA Choice

DMAchoice is an online tool developed by the Data & Marketing Association to help you manage your mail. It offers consumers a simple, step-by-step process that allows you to decide what mail you do and do not want. For a $2.00 fee, you can get this service for 10 years. It also has resources to help you reduce unwanted email, and solicitation phone calls.

Using these services truly does reduce the flow of unnecessary paper into your life. 


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