One of the best ways to organize your life if by starting with the paper clutter. If you find yourself constantly going through a growing pile of paperwork, this article will teach you how to cut down on incoming paperwork and process what is left before it gets out of hand.
You’ll learn how to reduce, process and organize your paper clutter so that you can find important things easily when you need them and complete important paperwork on time.
Paper Clutter Meaning
Clutter is like a backlog of decisions you haven’t made. Piles accumulate when you are actively avoiding processing incoming items or when you’re not processing items fast enough.
You need to make it as easy as possible to deal with things when they come in. When processing new items is fast and easy, you’ll be less likely to avoid it, so your piles won’t get to be so big that they’re overwhelming.
Paper Clutter Management
To create an easy-to-maintain system for dealing with clutter, the first thing you need to do is to eliminate the number of new items you receive.
If you’ve read my Organization eBook, Channeling the Flow, one of the concepts I introduce is treating every single item as a part of a stream. All the incoming streams create the river that is all your incoming paperwork.
If you’ve been trying to manage your inbox by managing the individual emails, then you’re always going to be overwhelmed…managing the streams that feed the river is a much more effective strategy, because one stream could represent hundreds or even thousands of emails over time.channeling the flow
We can use this same concept to deal with regular mail too. The easiest way to cut back on paperwork forever is to think of the different streams of incoming paperwork you receive and eliminate the ones you don’t want. Then, go to the source of that stream and stop the junk before it arrives.
How Do You Stop Junk Mail From Being Delivered?
Can you stop junk mail from being delivered in the first place? Yes absolutely, but it is an active process that takes time because each individual stream requires a different action. Still, seeing an empty mailbox day after day is worth the effort.
Here’s a thorough guide to stopping junk mail.
The process will take 1-2 months if you set aside about 15 minutes every week. Once you submit a request, it’ll take a few weeks for the junk mail to stop from that source.
When you’re looking through your mail and get an item that you no longer want to receive, put it in a separate pile to remind you of what you need to unsubscribe from that week. Keeping a sample of something you don’t want to receive will help because some mail items will tell you how to be removed from their list in the fine print.
Reduce Incoming Clutter
Another easy way to instantly reduce incoming clutter in your paper piles is to put a recycling bin next to your mail box.
If you’ve already submitted an unsubscribe request or you already have a sample of the item to remind you to unsubscribe or you don’t need a paper item anymore, then recycle it right away.
How to Declutter Paper Piles
Once you’ve removed incoming junk, then the next step is to create spaces for all the different kinds of important documents you receive. These places must be easily accessible in order to make the sorting process convenient.
In some cases, your office may be upstairs or your filing cabinet might be tucked away your basement or in your junk room surrounded by stuff. If this sounds like your paper storage situation, then set up a temporary stop in a convenient place where you can sort paperwork into broad categories right away instead of starting a clutter pile.
Create a place near your mailbox, in your entryway or by the door where you can sort things easily.
These are some essential categories that need to be easily accessible so you can distinguish things, right away:
- Needs Action – If the item requires an action, put it in its own pile. Papers that you need to fill out, bills you need to pay, reminders of people who you need to call, etc. can all go in this file.
- Read – Create a stack for items that you want to read and put it somewhere cozy where you can sit and read them later. Things like magazines, brochures and other documents that require more time to read thoroughly belong in this stack.
- File – Make a space for items that you need to file. Check stubs, sentimental items such as ticket stubs or childrens artwork, receipts, etc. These can be grouped together in a convenient place until you can make time to file these things in your filing cabinet.
Putting a mail sorter with a few pockets for different items in your entryway is a great organizing tool that can help you sort incoming paperwork quickly. Just don’t forget to make time in your routine to take care of the actionable items, digest the reading material and file away items.
Once you’ve cut down on junk mail and have a basic system for processing incoming paperwork, then the next step is to convert incoming streams of paperwork into their paperless form.
Send items like bills, credit card statements or important paperwork to your email. You can download important documents and save them in the cloud so they’ll be backed up.
Whenever possible, use a notetaking app such as Evernote or OneNote for things like ideas, articles or other random little snippets that find their way into your paper pile. Notetaking apps have powerful search tools so you can find things later easily, without the need to spend hours filing things into the appropriate place.
To eliminate paper clutter forever, you need to eliminate the sources of incoming junk, create a convenient sorting system and go paperless whenever possible.
Create a minimalist filing system by sorting items into broad categories right away. This will allow you to sort items fast as they come in to prevent paper clutter piles from forming. Then make time in your weekly routine so you can take care of the actionable items, digest the reading material and file away items.
How to Start is You’re Overwhelmed by Paper Clutter
If your life is a total mess and you don’t know where to begin, the best place is with your email inbox. In my free one week course Organize My Email Inbox, I show you how to create a system for managing your incoming messages into a prioritized todo list so you can accomplish bigger goals, such as organizing your whole life or going paperless.
Since it’s easier to control your inbox than it is to control every piece of paper that comes into your home, getting your email inbox in order is an easy way to get one area of your life in order and then use the productivity system and the time savings to conquer bigger messes.
You can sign up for my free one week course at Organize My Email Inbox.