Do you struggle with controlling the paper clutter in your home? You are definitely not alone! I get daily requests for help with paper clutter, so I know it’s not easy to control. I also know that it is possible with some consistent effort, and I’m here to help.
If you are ready to take control of your paper clutter, then I encourage you to take on the “Taming the Paper Clutter” challenge. I’m going to break up the project into small, concrete tasks that you can follow along with. There will be a new post in the series each Thursday.
I don’t want to simply inspire you with photos of beautifully organized file drawers and a look into my systems, but I really want you to take action and get the paper in your life under control. Therefore, each post will end with an action step for you to complete. When you complete it, come back and leave a comment so we can all celebrate your success!
This week we need to do just a couple things. First, gather up all the existing paper clutter in your home and put it in one place. Don’t get discouraged if this takes a while, because this is a one time task that you will never have to do again.
Pick out one larger container and one smaller container. These can be beautiful baskets or ugly boxes or anything in between. It really doesn’t matter. The point is that you are corralling all the paper.
Walk around your home with these containers. Put all the papers that are not super urgent or in need of dealing with soon in the larger box. This box will get set aside until later in the challenge. In the smaller container, place any papers that you really need to deal with soon (bills to be paid, permission slips that need signing, an invitation for a party you’re going to soon, etc). This way you don’t have to worry that you’ve buried a paper that you really need.
By now all the surfaces in your home should be free of paper! How does that feel? The best part is that it’s going to stay that way from here on out.
Here is the secret to keeping it that way. Find a pretty basket or bin and place it in a central location in your house. Anytime any paper comes into the house, put in the basket. When you walk in the door with the mail and you don’t have time to sort it right away, DO NOT place it on your counter. Place it in the basket. It doesn’t even take 15 extra seconds to place it in a basket. When you take receipts out of your wallet or grocery bags, DO NOT just lay them on the table. Place them in the basket. This takes me at most 20 extra seconds to walk to the basket and throw them in. When your son or daughter creates a beautiful drawing that you want to save, you guessed it – place it in the basket.
Here’s my basket that’s on the bookshelf, which is in the living room, near where we enter the house. It’s super easy just to toss the paper into that white basket.
Don’t worry too much about what’s going to happen to the papers in the basket. We’re going to tackle that next week. For now all we need to worry about is creating the habit of placing all our papers in the basket. Anyone can do this part even if you are crazy busy, because it really takes at most a few extra seconds per day.
Also, make sure you teach everyone else in your household to do the same. If they don’t right away, it’s okay, too. It will only take you a minute or two each day to do it for them, and likely they will catch on as they see your good habit.
If you often have papers that you need to deal with in less than 24 hours (like homework to sign for your kids for the next day), I would make another bin for that to ensure that nothing is overlooked or late.
There’s no rule against dealing with some of the papers before you even put them in the basket when you have the time. For example, I usually go through the mail and throw away the ads and junk mail as soon as I bring it in. However, if I happen to be in a hurry, I just throw everything in the basket so I don’t have to clutter my countertops.
Here’s a video showing you this process:
Tame the Paper Clutter Assignment #1 Recap:
Step 1: Gather up all the existing paper clutter in your home into two bins (one for things that you need to deal with soon and one for things that can be left alone for a while).
Step 2: Create a landing spot for all the incoming paper in your home, and start the habit of putting it all there.
Once you’ve completed this, leave a comment and let us know how it went. Are you still struggling? Leave a comment and we’ll try to help you.
Once you're done you can also progress to the next steps:
Part 2: Process Paper Weekly
Part 3: Set Up a Finance Binder
Part 4: Set Up Receipt Organizing System
Part 5: Set Up a Home File System
Part 6: Tie Up Loose Ends