How to Eliminate Paper Clutter At Home Once & For all

One of the biggest obstacles to an organized and simple home is paper clutter. If you're like most, you struggle with piles of bills, flyers, mail, notices, receipts, catalogs and magazines everywhere.

Paper is my weak spot as far as clutter at home: my rooms look very tidy, but lurking underneath are paper piles topped with a healthy dose of procrastination, guilt and anxiety!  I have good intentions: I stack papers on a counter to get to them later, then company comes over so I stuff them in a drawer or in a bag in a closet, the pile on counter grows all over again, and 'later' never arrives. Soon my drawers and closets are overflowing and I'm left drowning in my frustration (and sometimes a tub of Ben & Jerry's since I'm being truthful here). 

 The trick to getting rid of these piles of paper clutter for good?

Prevent it in the first place. 

That's right. The answer isn't to buy more file cabinets and spend your nights sorting papers instead of drinking wine. It's to declutter what you've got and prevent the piles from happening in your home ever again.

8 Steps to Prevent Piles of Paper Clutter

1. Shred, recycle and file what you already have. 

2. Stop junk mail. 

3. Switch to online bills.

4. Stop magazine and catalog subscriptions.

5. Put a recycling basket at the door.

6. Put a receipt basket at the door. 

7. Set up a household command/action centre. 

8. Schedule in a once/month paper session. 

 8 steps to eliminate paper clutter for good

 

1. Shred, recycle and file what you already have. 

First off, you need to get rid of the paper clutter already bogging down you and your home. This means actually getting rid of most of it, and saving only what you really need to save. 

  • Shred all outdated personal papers and envelopes with your address on them plus any financial documents. You only need to save 7 years of taxes. You don't need to save outdated insurance and home papers.

  • Recycle all flyers, junk mail, old magazines and catalogs and old course materials you haven't touched in 10 years.

  • File away anything you must keep in a file cabinet or accordion folder. You could even simply keep open file boxes inside a file drawer and labeled 'home', 'business', 'taxes', etc. It's easier than filing. Even better: scan or take photos of anything you can to get the papers you must keep online.

2. Stop junk mail. 

  • Print "NO FLYERS PLEASE" on a piece of paper and tape it to your mailbox or slot (it often works!). If you do like to get flyers for the coupons, make sure to cut them out and put them in your wallet immediately, then recycle the flyer. You can often get coupons from the major retailers online now - subscribe there and say no to paper flyers and coupons!

  • Unsubscribe from junk mail from Canada Post and register with the Direct Mail Association to have them take you off the direct mail list. These won't necessarily reach all junk/direct mail senders but it will reduce them!

  • Phone or write to charities that you receive appeals from and ask them to take you off their list. Use the return envelope card they send you. Even if you support some of them, ask them to stop communicating with you by mail (ask for email only or no communication).

  • Mark junk mail envelopes with 'return to sender- unsolicited mail' and drop it back into the mailbox. It might take a while but eventually you should stop receiving it from that company.

3. Switch to online billing. 

Opt into online billing and notifications for your banking, insurance and utilities. You can easily set it up on your account online and even set up automatic monthly payments so you never miss one. If you must continue with paper billing, designate a basket for your bills at the entryway, so they don't get piled on counters in the house. Then, as you pay them each month, shred them immediately. If you ever need a copy you can pull it up online. 

4. Stop magazine and catalog subscriptions. 

I know, magazines are a guilty pleasure, but everything in them can now be found online. Take photos of any recipes or dream home inspiration photos you want to keep, then recycle your magazines. Or rip out a recipe you want to keep and tape it to a page in your favourite recipe book. Call to put a stop to the subscriptions and to stop the arrival of catalogs (especially those that send out new ones every month!). 

5. Put a recycling basket at the door. 

Keep a pretty basket at your entryway and drop any flyers or junk mail that does still make it to your mailbox there. Don't let it come into the house. Period. 

6. Put a receipt basket at the door.

Keep a pretty basket or bin or box with a closed lid at the door as well so you can put any receipts there. You may even want to have two - one for you and one for your spouse (or one for your home and one for your business). Get into the habit of emptying your wallet and pockets and shopping bags of your receipts right here and don't let them come into the house. At the end of each month, you can process them and empty the doorway basket (see step 8). 

7. Set up a household command/action centre. 

If you have a lot of activities and notices to keep track of, you'll want to set up one central spot in your home where everyone can pin up to-do papers and appointment notices. It could simply be a calendar where you write in every appointment date and soccer match. Or it could also include a cork board or a hanging file slot. Whatever you choose, take any notices, appointment papers and kid's activity schedules directly to the command centre and pin them up or write them onto the calendar and then recycle them. Check out more ideas for command centres

8. Schedule in a once/month paper session. 

Don't get bogged down by thinking you'll take care of your papers daily or even weekly. If you tame the papers coming into your home in the first place, you should only need 30 minutes or so once a month to take care of the rest. 

 How to eliminate paper clutter for good
  • Designate a desk or other area where you can sit down at your computer each month and deal with any papers. You should have blank note cards there as well envelopes, stamps and a pen.

  • Schedule 30 minutes in your calendar near the end of each month. Make it the same time so it becomes routine and never ignored.

  • Use this time to do any online banking and bill paying.

  • Process the receipts from your entryway receipt basket. Scan or take photos of them to get them online (the Wave app is great) then shred them. Or put them all into a baggie, mark the month on the outside and file them in your file system until tax time.

  • Respond to any charitable appeals, notes to friends or anything else you need to attend to in writing.

  • Think of this time as a productive feel-good way to end your month so you'll enjoy it instead of dread it!