Always Follow These 3 Rules to Cut Paper Clutter (Once & For All)

Always Follow These 3 Rules to Cut Paper Clutter (Once & For All)

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Shifrah Combiths
Jan 12, 2015
(Image credit: Sarah Coffey)

I do my best to keep every kind of clutter out of all my spaces, physical or otherwise. Paper clutter—piles of which seem to grow and multiply of their own accord—is the worst. Here are some ways I try to crack down on this insidious clutter culprit.

Have one place for papers you have to deal with.

I've found that having one inbox for all the papers I have to deal with greatly reduces paper clutter hotspots. I have one shallow box on my desk and in it goes every paper that requires further action, whether that's a phone call, digitizing the info, or letting time to gain sentimental distance and let go of some of the kids' artwork.

Deal with it when it's in your hand.

Making decisions about papers while you're touching them — and touching them only once — is another surefire, hardcore way to reduce clutter before it even has a chance to pile up. Of course, you can't do this with everything (like papers that need action), but if it's a matter of a snap decision, just make one. Should you save that obscure store coupon just in case? No, toss it in recycling right then and there. Do you actually re-use wrapping paper and gift bags? If yes, put it away while it's in your hand. Is it a receipt you need to keep? Don't put it down; file it right away. The principle of "dealing with it while it's in your hand" also encompasses sorting through mail when you get it out of the mailbox.

Digitize rather than file when you can.

Any paper that's worth keeping is one that you need to be able to find —and digitizing them often makes them easier to search for. Important papers like birth certificates, title loans, etc. aside, there are many types of papers you can store digitally rather than physically, and save yourself some sanity while you're at it. When I get informational papers from school, kids' sports, the doctor, you name it, I snap a photo with the document scanner in Evernote and tag it accordingly. I even do this with coupons (that I've decide I really might need) and include a reminder near the expiration date along with a "delete" tag so I can go through and purge notes that are no longer relevant.

What are your best paper clutter busting strategies?

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