By in Personal

How to Avoid Paper Clutter

Having just spent countless hours going through stacks of bills, receipts and warranties, I realized I have to go back to a method that worked for me in the past to avoid all this paper clutter in the first place.

As soon as I return home from errands or open the daily mail, I take a few moments to decide what to do with each and every piece of paper at hand.

If there is something that requires an action or follow-through, that paper goes in the paper holder on my desk. For information that needs to be kept or perhaps referenced in the future, that paper goes in the to-be-filed holder. Paperwork with sensitive or confidential information that will be discarded goes into the holder for the paper shredder. Everything else finds it way immediately to the biggest "file" of all -- the waste paper can.

At least once a week, I then go back through each of the respective paper holders to file, act on or shred whatever has accumulated.

In this way, I never become to overwhelmed with paper, clutter is minimized and best of all -- I can find what I'm looking for when I need it.

What system(s) do you use to avoid paper or other clutter in your home?

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Image Credit » cocoparisienne PublicDomain/CC0 1.0 license via Pixabay

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Oceanblue wrote on January 2, 2015, 6:03 PM

Hi, I have three large filing cabinets in my office with baskets along a shelf for waiting paperwork. I thought we were suppose to be a paperless society.

MegL wrote on January 2, 2015, 6:04 PM

Junk mail gets dealt with as soon as it comes in. Most of my correspondence now is by email so I tend to let the letters pile up emoticon :sad: When I decide to deal with them, I sort them before opening. All the ones from the bank in one pile, etc. Then I just open those ones and file the contents as appropriate (or shred). Saves having to have several files open simultaneously.

oldies909 wrote on January 2, 2015, 6:07 PM

Paper clutter is the one thing everyone seems to have in every household.

WordChazer wrote on January 2, 2015, 6:11 PM

*Looks guilty.* System? What system? At the moment, no system apart from carrier bags of papers.

Kasman wrote on January 2, 2015, 6:37 PM

Fortunately, I don't have to worry about any of this. My wife used to be an accountant and she is well on top of this sort of thing!

VinceSummers wrote on January 2, 2015, 6:59 PM

For sure get rid of excess, and keep what is necessary carefully filed. But only what is necessary...

Feisty56 wrote on January 2, 2015, 7:12 PM

Being from the "old school," I feel better having my information recorded on paper myself, but yes, now that you mention it, what DID happen to that paperless society?

Feisty56 wrote on January 2, 2015, 7:13 PM

Sounds like a pretty good system. I am guessing that most any system is an improvement over my "throw it all in a pile" method of the last several months.

Feisty56 wrote on January 2, 2015, 7:15 PM

I think you're right. I keep old magazines, newspapers and more. When I must wade through the piles I always think to myself, "Never again," but it hasn't so far worked out that way.

Feisty56 wrote on January 2, 2015, 7:16 PM

Lol, your "system" is the same one I've been using recently. Ugh! I just can't let it get like that again.

Feisty56 wrote on January 2, 2015, 7:17 PM

Ah, you are a fortunate fella. Now I see one more reason why accounting didn't turn out to be a strength for me.

Feisty56 wrote on January 2, 2015, 7:18 PM

I get on my Mom all the time, as she finds it necessary to save the envelopes the mail comes in. Yikes! But at 83, I don't think I am going to change her.

VinceSummers wrote on January 2, 2015, 7:32 PM

My wife does that as well. Rarely is that necessary! But like you say, you are unlikely to get her to change it.

seren3 wrote on January 2, 2015, 7:33 PM

Thank heavens there is a large trash can near our row of mail boxes. From what I have to take home, much goes on the shred pile. Sorry to all those trees!

bestwriter wrote on January 2, 2015, 10:10 PM

I am an expert too when it comes to how to organise but when it comes to doing it myself that's where I fail. I hate doing jobs that do not give me a high!

Feisty56 wrote on January 2, 2015, 10:16 PM

Yes, the poor trees. Maybe they could begin making paper out of bamboo, since it is a sustainable crop.

Feisty56 wrote on January 2, 2015, 10:17 PM

Yes, those routine chores, even as brief as they are, seem so tedious. Unfortunately, though, when I skip them, I pay the price later.

bestwriter wrote on January 2, 2015, 10:23 PM

I know what you mean. When my niece was over I got her to help me get rid of the clutter emoticon :tongue:

Sheilamarie78 wrote on January 3, 2015, 12:28 AM

I discard excess flyers and such in the post office before they ever make it home. We have a wood stove and so many pieces of paper find themselves in there eventually.

Feisty56 wrote on January 3, 2015, 12:56 AM

I did much the same thing when I picked up mail at the post office. There was no sense carting home more stuff for my own trash. A wood stove is a nice solution. : )

BarbRad wrote on January 3, 2015, 2:43 AM

I like your system. I just don't follow through and actually do it. I have so much that I've been saving to shred I need to have a bonfire, which, unfortunately, is illegal. Every time I think about how much extra work criminals and the government create for us in the way of paperwork and storing paper and shredding paper, my blood boils.

LadyDuck wrote on January 3, 2015, 4:39 AM

I have a room in our home that is our personal office. I have special filing cabinets where I archive all my papers. I do this three times a week.

ConstantDementia wrote on January 3, 2015, 6:05 AM

I am more of the wait till it piles up before sorting through kinda person. This system is the worst and sometimes I lose important information in the process. Your system seems to be an effective and seamless way to avoid the dreaded paper clutter

nbaquero wrote on January 3, 2015, 7:28 AM

feisty56 I do recognize this is an area I do need to improve on. Your post has prompted me to add it as a secondary goal for this year (coincidentally I am writing my goals in paper). I have to say that I have reduced the amount of paper I receive by switching to online bills, notifications, etc, but still receipts and other documents create some clutter.

zabelle51 wrote on January 3, 2015, 9:36 AM

Hi Deb I am Bellestarr from that other site lol. I am afraid that the paper clutter is the bane of my existence. I have files, pretty boxes and still get overwhelmed every so often. :)

catsholiday wrote on January 3, 2015, 11:48 AM

I deal with things straight away. Junk mail gets sent to a research site I am a member of. Bills are all direct debit and many are paperless anyway

WordChazer wrote on January 3, 2015, 4:35 PM

Patience and one thing at a time. Declutter the sellable eBayables first then I'll have the space to spread out the bags of bits to sort and file.

Debbie wrote on January 3, 2015, 6:04 PM

That's a good system you have there. I have files for different things go all the bills go in household finance, etc. Yours means you keep all the necessary work to do, and do it at one time, probably saving on time as well as space. Good idea.

OldRoadsOnceTraveled wrote on January 3, 2015, 10:44 PM

This is Guiness the Cat. Debbi's system is usually to dump her papers on my coffee table. I follow up by periodically filing them in the floor for her.

FernandoSHA wrote on January 4, 2015, 2:11 AM

I have a flooder for each utility company, bank statements, billings and I file them alphabetically in the side drawer of my working table. Every now and then, I discard files that have exceeded some number of years just like when I was working in the bank. We used to burn selected bank records 10 years or older as per directive from the regulatory body.

momathome wrote on January 5, 2015, 12:11 AM

I've done that for a long time, but what I've started doing now is actually scanning in those that must be kept (attendance records for kids school, warranties, etc) so that I don't have to keep the physical copy but will still be able to get to it if and when it is needed.

Feisty56 wrote on January 5, 2015, 12:14 AM

It is terrible the lengths we must go to protect our privacy -- and then who knows what else is being monitored?

Feisty56 wrote on January 5, 2015, 12:15 AM

That sounds often enough that it isn't a terribly time-consuming chore each time. That's the part I want to avoid -- trying to do stacks at one time.

Feisty56 wrote on January 5, 2015, 12:17 AM

It is a good system to use to prevent all that paper build-up. I'm like you when I do put my system to work. I lose important things. I've decided it's worth that few minutes of time each day to just handle it.

Feisty56 wrote on January 5, 2015, 12:21 AM

I receive most of my bills online as well, but the mountains of paper don't seem greatly diminished by this. I found it difficult at first to make myself deal with the paperwork regularly, but once it becomes a habit, I just do it automatically. I wish you success in reaching your goals.

Feisty56 wrote on January 5, 2015, 12:23 AM

Hi Bellestarr! It's good to see you here.

Papers, papers,'s ridiculous the amount of paper that flows into a home. I had to get a handle on it. The clutter it causes increases my anxiety.

Feisty56 wrote on January 5, 2015, 12:24 AM

I think that's a great way to do it. What sort of research site wants your junk mail?

Feisty56 wrote on January 5, 2015, 12:26 AM

Perhaps I explained myself poorly. I'm not advocating waiting to deal with a stack of papers all at once. It becomes madness trying to deal with all of that, at least for me. I take time each day to sort it, then try to file what is needed at least once a week.

Feisty56 wrote on January 5, 2015, 12:28 AM

Guiness, I guess you and Debbi will forever be arguing over the rights to that coffee table. Might there be a horizontal surface in the house that the human could call her own?

Feisty56 wrote on January 5, 2015, 12:32 AM

You sound very organized. My files are by broad subject matter and alphabetical, the newest information to the front.

Feisty56 wrote on January 5, 2015, 12:33 AM

I've considered the scanning, but I am just awful at creating and retrieving folders on the PC, so I do keep the paper copy.

FernandoSHA wrote on January 5, 2015, 12:42 AM

You might be wondering what's a flooder LOL! It's a typo error for folders. Sorry :)

momathome wrote on January 5, 2015, 12:46 AM

I actually have most of them on Amazon cloud or labeled flash drives. I keep very little on the computer since it actually belongs to the school.

LadyDuck wrote on January 5, 2015, 4:34 AM

As my husband is self employed and he works at home (his office is on the upper floor), it takes a lot of time to sort and classify the different papers.

Feisty56 wrote on January 5, 2015, 12:00 PM

Now that's a pretty simple solution. So simple, I never considered it. Thank you!

Feisty56 wrote on January 5, 2015, 12:01 PM

I did wonder for a and then I realized what you intended. : )

paigea wrote on January 5, 2015, 2:12 PM

oh, paper clutter is the worst. I need to come back and read this including all the comments. Right now I have to rush away and do something else I've procrastinated. lol

Feisty56 wrote on January 5, 2015, 2:42 PM

It is, isn't it? It is time-consuming to deal with, but I find more peace of mind by doing so more often than less.

OldRoadsOnceTraveled wrote on January 5, 2015, 3:07 PM

This is Guiness the Cat. Oh, she has lots of them, but somehow they all seem to grow clutter. She needs to bring the bush hog in the house and clear them off.

momathome wrote on January 8, 2015, 12:02 AM

Feisty56 Every once in awhile I come up with something good, lol. This one was born of necessity. The computers the school provides are a blessing but they also are not the best in the world, many have issues with power supply, just being so old that they are on their last legs, etc. So we have lost a lot of the kids assignments, documents, etc from crashing. Add to that losing almost all of my kids baby pictures when my old computer was destroyed in a fire, and I was fed up and no longer trusting that anything was completely safe on a hard drive.

Hollyhocks100 wrote on January 12, 2015, 10:46 AM

I┬┤mhopless with it and usually end up stuffing everything into a plastic bag. I never know what to save and what to throw.