Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Clutterbugs: Taming the Paper Tiger

I think one of the biggest clutter challenges is PAPER.  It's like a faucet that never shuts off.  Every day when the mailman comes - more paper.  Every day when your kids come home from school - more paper.  And don't get me started on the newspapers, and the magazines, and the coupons.  If you don't get a handle on it, pretty soon your house is going to be buried in it!

OK, I'n going to give you the secret to dealing with the excess paper issue - are you listening carefully?  OK, here it is - YOU DON'T NEED NINETY PERCENT OF IT.  There, now do you feel better?  

Image courtesy of ScottChan /
No really - you DON'T NEED IT.  Utility bills, you don't need them.  If you have a question (and how often does that happen - like never!), they will print you another one - shocking, I know.  Paystubs, you don't need them.  Usually they are available on-line.  If not, someone in Payroll definitely has another copy of them and they will be happy to provide it in those rare cases you might need them.  Bank statements - you do need to keep those, but you can keep them on-line, or just keep a bare minimum of them. Just try it for a few months and see how it goes.  

After my in-laws passed away, we cleaned out their house and found drawers and drawers full of all this paper - hundreds of utility bills, decades of paystubs, Christmas cards, just tons of useless junk.  It was really sad.  

Catalogs - definitely don't need them and it's better for your budget if you can get them to not even come into your house.  It's just letting unnecessary temptation in your door.  Every place that sends you a catalog has a website with everything in that catalog available in a searchable format. 

Here's something that might surprise you - I haven't taken a daily newspaper, watched any regular news shows, or listened to any news radio shows in probably 10 years.  I've been on a "Magazine Fast" for about a year now.  The only one I get any more is a Scouting magazine.    

And you know what, I probably haven't missed a single important news story in all that time.  I have news alerts that come to my Email for big news stories like nature disasters or stupid politician tricks.  Anything else, I catch info on the Internet, hear a blip on the radio, or someone says "hey have you heard...".  We get the Sunday-only paper just for the funny papers and coupons and we're good to go.  I figure that saves me about 6 inches of excess paper every week.  And a lot of negative BS that I don't really want in my life. 

The average person has 3.1 magazine subscriptions and they don't actually read them half the time.  What's up with that?  We get these shiny, pretty magazines and think we're going to make all these yummy recipes, create all these fabulous crafts, make over our home to look like a magazine layout and try all these fabulous diets, but honestly, we probably won't take the time to follow through with it, and those shiny magazines just pile up in stacks all around your house. 

So, what's a girl to do?  Well, for starters, take a look at your subscriptions and consider doing some pruning back.  Then take your accumulation of magazines and make an appointment with yourself to spend just 15 minutes a day getting through all of them.  Then tear out the articles or recipes you want to reference for later.  It's OK, you've paid for the magazine.  Then find somewhere to pass it on to.  I always think it is such a waste for just one person to read a magazine and then throw it away. 

And then if you want all those fabulous recipes, crafts, and home decor ideas, there are literally hundreds of blogs and Pinterest pins that provide just about anything you could ever imagine complete with full instructions and pictures for FREE.  Although if you're reading this on my blog, you probably already know that!  And if you want a recipe, you can type in any ingredients you have on hand into any search engine and it will bring up a boatload of free recipes with those ingredients.  I've tried a bunch of them and they've been great. 

Now, the question is how to deal with the 10% of paper that you actually do need to keep?  I think it will be a lot easier once you get rid of the other 90%.  Then it's just a matter of setting up a filing system that is easy for you to maintain for those few papers you do want to keep.  Here are some tips that work for me:

- For phone lists, sports schedules, coupons (we don't do a lot of them), and other things that I really want to keep track of, I tape them up INSIDE my cupboard doors.  It's neater looking than a bulletin board and I don't have to dig through a pile of papers or a drawer to find them.  

- I keep a bill basket on my desk.  As the bills come in, we just toss them in there, then on payday, I just go through and grab them and pay them with my bank's online bill pay.  Even if they aren't due yet, I can set them up for the following payday.  Then I toss all the papers in the shred bin at work.  I've done this for probably ten years, and I can't think of ONE time, I've ever needed to reference any of those bills.  Anything I need, I can pull up from a website in 5 minutes or I can pull up a year's worth of history in my bill pay service.  

- Coupons.  I will admit it, I'm not a big coupon person, but I do a TON of online shopping and I have a great technique for managing the flood of discount codes and offers that come in after you have bought something online.  I have Gmail and I set a filter to force everything to go directly into a Shopping folder.  Then if I want to shop at a particular store, I go right to the offers for that store and check out the current specials - super easy! 

- Scanners - one thing I haven't tried yet, are these cool new scanners that scan receipts and all sorts of stuff and store them on your computer in a searchable format.  That sounds like something really handy. Software like OneNote and Evernote are both terrific tools for this.  If you really have a need to keep pay stubs, utility bills, or recipes, you can easily scan them into OneNote or bookmarks the websites where you found them and then search them in your notebooks.  Much faster and easier than stacks of magazines.  

I hope this helps you with your paper challenges!


ridgely johnson

i had to tell you we are on the same page (couldn't help it) ;-) Unlike you- I still get the daily paper... weeks go by, and I don't get it read, but I cannot bring myself to stop it. You've got to zip over and read this post- know we're sisters in paper (i KNOW i have more than you do!)
Great post, Adrian.

Good post. Paper drives me crazy! I've been trying to scan more of it. Then I have less paper and things are pretty easy to find. But the scanning process is time consuming! I scan, re-name and move. It's almost easier just to save the paper!

Michelle Nahom

Oh, definitely good tips!! I need them! I threw out a ton of paper today, trying to clean up.

NJ @ A Cookie Before Dinner

These are AWESOME tips! We have tons of paper coming into the house, especially now that my son is in preschool. I feel like everyday his backpack has either a new note or an art project in it! Happy Sharefest!

Sheila Skillingstead

You saved me just in time. I was about to do a three for $12 magazine subscription when I realized I barely have time to read my Time magazine. BTW I quit Time for a year and they asked me back for $15. Couldn't resist. Been reading it since 1968. I also get Consumer Reports and share the magazines with my daughters. No daily newspaper. It is less than 20 pages and not worth the money. Once a week I get online and read the most popular articles, upcoming local events and at my age the Obituary. Thanks for the blog. Enjoy Sharefest.


Haha that's awesome - paper clutter is a real condition lol I have a ton of old bills that I've kept thinking "ill handle it later." The Neat Organizer is something I'm considering investing in the future for all the documents and such that I feel would be good to keep just in case, thankfully in such an electronic age the need for paper documentation isn't as necessary as before. :) Have a great one! -Iva

another jennifer

These are really great tips. I've been getting a lot better about cutting down on paper. We get most of our bills electronically now and I've called to stop delivery of most of our catalogs. It's always a process!

Melinda Means

{Melinda} Paper is definitely my worst enemy when it comes to keeping clutter at bay. One of my New Year's goals is to do a room-by-room declutter throughout my house. Thanks for the tips!

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