How to Eliminate Paper Clutter in Just 5 Minutes a Day
Kiss that overflowing paper pile good-bye.
When you think about the biggest organizing challenges in your home, there's likely a few things that come to mind: the messy kitchen counter, the overstuffed bedroom closet, and that towering pile of papers. Considering the influx of mail, bills, catalogs, and paperwork that flows into our houses every day, it's no wonder we can't keep up. The task seems so daunting, that many of us put it off for as long as possible.
In fact, when I moved apartments several months ago and was forced to face all of the clutter that had accumulated, I finally had to deal with three and a half years worth of mail and paperwork. But in my new apartment, I'm testing out a new method. Instead of procrastinating until this task becomes overwhelming, I'm devoting just five minutes a day. Want to test it out yourself? Start by setting up a mail sorting station, detailed below, and in just a few minutes a day, you can kiss the paper clutter good-bye—forever.
The trick to dealing with paper clutter before it piles up is to catch it the second it comes in the door. In the entryway or mudroom (even the wall next to your front door will work!), set up a paper sorter labeled with just two or three categories: for long-term storage, to deal with ASAP, and potentially one for your kids' important papers.
As you walk in the door, take one minute to open each item of mail and decide whether it's something to store long-term, take action (such as a bill that needs to be paid), or toss it immediately.
Set out a paper recycling bin right below the sorting station. This way, you'll be able to toss out flyers and catalogs right away. You may be surprised by how much mail you throw directly into the bin.
For one week, take note of what you end up recycling right away. If there are certain mailings you always toss out immediately, go ahead and unsubscribe—it will save paper and your time. For bills and bank statements, see if you can switch to digital notifications. When the bills land in your inbox, you may actually find it easier to remember to pay them.
Stop the junk mail. For a processing fee of $2, DMAchoice.org will let you opt out of entire categories of mail, such as catalogs, for the next 10 years.
Once you've started using the sorting system above for about a week, start taking note of the type of papers that land in the "long-term storage" bin. This will look different for each person and household. You may realize there's very little you actually need to hang onto (hello, tax forms), or you may have a huge stack of papers you need to sort. Based on what you decide you need to keep, create an organization system according to your needs. Limit the categories to just the essentials so you aren't tempted to save those coupons or catalogs you'll likely never use.
If you don't have many categories of paperwork to stash and have mostly switched over to digital bills and bank statements, a few file folders may be all you need. With tax forms in one and important documents in another, you'll resist hanging onto paperwork that doesn't fit into those categories.
If you have more categories or multiple kids you need to store paperwork for, consider investing in a set of stylish magazine holders, such as these vibrant Poppin organizers. Get a different color organizer for each category—yellow for taxes, green for medical paperwork—or dedicate one for each family member.
For those with decades worth of important documents, it's time to invest in a filing cabinet. Similar to the folders and magazine holders above, this organization system is only as good as the categories you create for it. Once you've gone through all of your papers and gotten rid of expired coupons and shredded old forms, choose categories according to what's left.