Home Organization Tips for Cleaning out Paper Clutter

I have three kids, two home businesses, and a constant stream of paper clutter entering my home.  I do a great job staying on top of it—until someone gets sick or we spend a week out of town or I decide to (gasp) become a slacker and let it build up for a few days.  As part of my new year, new word resolution—I am taking action on the many things that need done in my home and my life.  Yesterday, I began the paper clutter cleanout process—and I wanted to share my tips for cleaning out your own paper clutter and regaining some sense of peace and order to your living spaces.

Step 1

Pick a Pile.  Start Small.  Every area of my home seems to have some sort of paper clutter pile building at any given time.  My file pile needs sorted and filed.  My shredder needs emptied so that my shred pile can be shredded.  My girls need to toss old magazines.  AAAAAGGHHHHHH!  If you are in the same boat—pick a pile.   

Yesterday, I chose the initial “drop zone” for all of the school papers, mail, and general reminders, etc. that enter the house.  Yeah.  It was out of control--and bothered me every time I looked at it.

Step 2

Sort the paper clutter—and anything else that’s found its way into your paper junk piles.   
In all honesty, all of your paper clutter can be sorted into a few categories:

The Shred Pile.  Anything with personal information should be tossed into this pile for shredding.  Investing in a cheap personal paper shredder allows you to immediately shred and dispose of these papers as soon as they enter the home.  

The Recycle Pile.  If your community does not have a residential pick up of recyclable papers, check with your city or in the local business directory for recyclers in your area.  You may also check with your child’s school as many districts set up bins to receive $$$ from recyclables.

The Coupon & Deals File.  Even if you do not clip grocery store coupons, you likely receive specials and coupons from local stores, restaurants or service providers that can save you a lot of money (if you can find them when you need them).  I use a simple 3 ring binder with plastic sleeves to hold restaurant coupons, grocery coupons, home and auto service coupons, department store promo code mailers and coupons.  Also—if you aren’t going to use the coupons or discounts—get rid of them.  My girls “earn” all sorts of junk food rewards from school from pizza places that we do not visit or for free sugar-filled slushies or sodas that we do not drink or fast food.  I feel guilty for throwing away their “hard earned rewards”—so I tend to keep them in a dust gathering pile until they expire.   

Why keep these? 

I know that we aren’t going to use them.  The girls even know that we aren’t going to use them.   It's a waste of space and a clutter contributor.  Just don’t save things that you aren’t going to USE (realistically) within the next few weeks.

The To-Do Pile.  Appointment reminders from the dentist, scheduling reminders from the vet, membership renewals, bills—all of these things should be put into one pile and addressed either immediately after sorting or on a designated day.  Skip writing them down on a to-do list—just set aside a block of time and plow through the stack.  I opted to spend the hour following my sorting session to make eye doctor appointments, renew a couple of memberships, fill out some insurance paperwork, and set up annual pediatrician check ups.  The paper clutter is gone—and it didn’t go straight to my overloaded to-do list!

The Throwaway or Put Away Pile.  Most paper clutter can be recycled—but, you may have a few oddities that found their way into your paper clutter piles that aren’t paper clutter and aren’t worth keeping. 

(Yes--that's a red feather....and no, I don't know why or how it found it's way into the pile.)

The File Pile.  If you do not have a filing system—create one before you begin the sorting process.   A simple two drawer filing cabinet filing cabinet, hanging folders, manila file folders are all you need.  Now is the time to rethink what you save for filing or memory scrapbooks.  Do you really need to save all of your child’s nightly, graded homework—or could you just save special projects and report cards.   Visit for the latest record storage suggestions.  With most of your financial records stored online—there may be few actual papers needed.

Step 3

Handle each of your paper clutter piles--completely.  Sorting does not eliminate the paper clutter—it makes it manageable.  Once it is sorted, you need to deal with each of the piles—and that means dealing with all of the papers in each of the categories!  It does you no good if you have a handful of papers that you return to the cleared clutter collection spot as seed to begin the process again.  If you have a completely clean area, you are less likely to re-clutter it.  Really.  You worked hard to clear that space and you won’t want to let the paper clutter overtake it again.  

Step 4

Practice Daily Maintenance.  Every day—the moment the backpacks are unloaded or the mail arrives—sort and deal with the latest paper invasion.  If you cannot deal with the papers daily, set aside a time at least once a week to manage the latest week’s inflow.  

Step 5

Practice Paper Clutter Prevention.  Eliminate paper when possible.  If you do not read the free community newspapers—request to be taken off the delivery list.  Cancel print magazine subscriptions—most are available online.  Add your name to the no-junk mail lists.  Sign up for e-coupons and/or e-statements from your favorite stores or accounts.  Accept e-newsleters from your child’s school—many even also have Facebook or Twitter groups set up for school communication.  Take advantage of technology to go as paperless as possible.

Step 6

Enjoy the clutter free space. 

Every member of my family asked me when I bought the pretty bowl.'s been there, hiding in chaos, for a couple of years.  I really liked that bowl.  I'm really glad I "found" it again.  I think that's motivation to keep that space clutter free!

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