Closet Blog: How To Get Rid Of Paper Clutter

paper clutter
A good file drawer will help to cut clutter
Closet Works File Drawer Accessory

Two person home office designed to beat paper clutter by Closet Works
Sample Closet Works Home Office Solution Beats Paper Clutter and Provides a Place for Everything

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Paper Pitfalls: Tips to Cure Paper Clutter

Paper is the number one culprit of clutter. Papers pile up very quickly, so having good systems in place to control incoming paper is vital. Listed below are four major paper clutter sources with solutions touted by Chaos To Order and Closet Works on how to keep things under control.

  1. Mail
    The mail is a never ending stream of incoming clutter. Having a good system for processing mail starts with a trash can/recycle bin nearby. Some mail might never make it into the home.

    Try this tip for keeping mail under control from Chaos To Order's Monica Friel:

    "The key to being and staying organized is having good systems that works for you, not against you. Chaos ensues like crazy in a busy household, but one of my favorite vices is my secret drawer. I have a 5″ deep drawer at my desk where I hide current papers, mail I haven't yet opened and other papers I haven't yet dealt with. As a business owner, wife, mother of three and community volunteer, paperwork abounds in the office, especially if I'm not there to deal with it daily.

    Here's how it works…When the mail comes and I'm on my way out, it goes in the drawer. When I have to run out of the office and have papers strewn about the desk, I quickly file what I can, but what's left goes into the drawer. When I come back, I know exactly where those papers I was working on are, they're not on top of the desk, they're in the drawer! This drawer is not a place where papers continue to pile up, it is only for the current stuff I'm working on. It's my clutter also known as postponed decisions. When I have a few extra minutes, I always go to the drawer and clear out what I can. The secret is that the drawer is not too deep so papers can't pile up. If used properly, having a dirty little secret drawer is a great way for your desk to be clear in the midst of the chaos of life!"

  2. Magazines, Newspapers & Catalogs
    Do you have perpetual reading wish list? How much do you actually get to? Set boundaries on what stays. Saving only the current month or quarter will help keep reading material manageable and current. Digital subscriptions are another solution. Try switching from the paper magazine delivered to your house to an e-subscription which delivers the same content to your email address but takes up a lot less room. Digital articles are usually archived by the publisher, so your filing needs will be taken care of for you.
  3. Kids School and Artwork
    Kids constantly come home with an abundance of paper and artwork. Creating a file for each child every school year will help keep papers organized. If artwork is a problem, consider going digital. If you must save the originals, a series of shallow drawers called "flat files" is a good solution to archiving these treasures. An art store will have archiving materials that will permanently protect and keep the projects from fading or yellowing. Commercial flat files will store art pieces horizontally, but can get pricey. Archiving boxes are a less expensive solution. And remember, Closet Works can always build flat files to your custom size specifications or create a shelving system if you decide to use the boxes to store artwork.
  4. Pending Papers
    Where do you put important papers that you must remember? Some people use their refrigerator door. Another solution is a well-organized bulletin board. The best long term option is to fearlessly file them! If you want assurance that you will remember, set a reminder on your phone before an event with the file location of the papers or tickets.

    Monica Friel offers great tips on filing:

    "Filing is a task that is often thought of as drudgery. Taking the time to put papers away can be a hassle—but there's no denying, it's time well spent. Have you ever put off filing only to have piles start stacking up around you? Here are some tips to keep your files what they should be—an ongoing flexible resource for papers you will need future access to.

    • Keep it simple. A basic filing system of manilla files and hanging folders work for great for most file drawers. It's always easy to find replacement parts and as your files grow and change, the system remains flexible.
    • Label to locate. Having your files labeled properly is the key to being able to retrieve documents quickly. Keep a labeler handy at your desk. It's great for making quick file labels, not to mention many other types of labels at your fingertips. They're inexpensive and worth the investment if you want to be organized.
    • File according to use. If a frequently used file name starts with a Z, don't alphabetize and put it at the back of the drawer. Place files used often in the most accessible place.
    • Know what you have. It's best to give your files a good once over one to two times per year. Pull out each file, look through the contents, toss what you can and move on. When your files are current, the drawer isn't over stuffed and filing is easier.
    • Keep files current. The file drawer at your desk should be for current file use only. Any long term files such as tax documents should be boxed, labeled and stored elsewhere. Check out our Records Retention Document for guidelines on how long to keep specific documents.
    Remember, the reason it's important to file is because it's easier to find papers in a file than in a pile. Sifting through piles is time consuming and inefficient. Although it initially seems like more work, it actually takes more time to find something that hasn't been filed."

Hopefully these tips courtesy of Chaos To Order and Closet Works will help keep your paper under control and get you organized for spring cleaning!