Ah paper. I love and hate it at the same time. I love writing in paper planners and notebooks, but when it comes to other kinds of paper — bills, insurance policies, advertising flyers? Not so much. One area of my home that has been tough to keep de-cluttered is my home office. Piles of paper would accumulate on my desk, and it always weighed heavy on me when I saw it. Most of the time it would sit there for days until I had the
resolve chance to deal with it. However, I think I’ve finally come up with some tips and tricks to keep the paper that flows into my home to a minimum, and I hope you find them useful as well.
7 Tips to Minimize Paper Clutter
- STOP the ‘unsolicited’ mail from invading your mailbox in the first place. Most of the mail that gets delivered to my mail box is junk — i.e. advertising flyers, solicitations for insurance premiums, etc. There are two websites that stop the nonsense. http://www.optoutprescreen.com stops solicitation mail from consumer reporting agencies (which is usually insurance information). To stop mail from direct marketers (the obnoxious stuff), go to http://www.dmachoice.org. There is a $2 processing fee for a 10-year period. If you are interested in doing the same, and want more information, you can find it at the Federal Trade Commission’s website.
- OPT OUT of paper copy bills. I have always liked having the paper copy, but recently I have made the switch to paperless. My budget and bills have become so streamlined with the help of my budgeting software, YNAB* that I find it unnecessary to have the physical paper. However, if I should need a paper copy, I could just print it out from my computer. If you have a computer and a handle on when your bills are do, opt out of the paper copies for your monthly bills. However, if you never read your emails and have no clue when bills are due, this option may not work for you.
- Invest in a shredder. Even if you opt out of paper bills, there will always be some sort of mail that arrives with sensitive information on it. Social security numbers, credit card numbers, addresses, birth dates, medical information — whatever information that could be potentially dangerous in the hands of the wrong person. Keep a mini shredder by your desk, or where you keep your paperwork and shred as you go. Identity theft has been a huge problem over the years, and this will help keep your information safe.
- Handle the paperwork as soon as you receive it. I’ve created two folders that help me organize paper as it comes in: (a) Bills to be paid/or invitations to be calendared (b) General info that I need to keep that needs to be filed. Yep, that’s it. Other paper can be shredded or recycled. I have (6) categories for filing: Health records, tax records, car maintenance records, insurance, travel and pay stubs (one year only). I keep merchandise receipts in an envelope and shred after several months. I have a scanner, however, and will eventually scan my paper files to my hard drive and get rid of all paper. 🙂
- Don’t hold on to paper for more than a year (See exceptions #6). Store for 1 year: regular statements, pay stubs. Then SHRED. Keep for 1 month: utility bills, deposit and withdrawal records. Then SHRED. Of course if you opted out of paper copies, you don’t have to worry about this. 😉
- Keep a fire safe for all of the documents you need to keep forever. The following documents fall into this category:
- Academic records: Diplomas, transcripts, and any portfolio work that may be used in the future when applying for a job.
- Adoption papers
- Baptismal certificates
- Birth certificates
- Death certificates: May be needed for tax purposes.
- Copies of Driver’s licenses
- Employment records: Any clauses, agreements, disciplinary files, and performance reviews.
- Marriage certificates
- Medical records
- Military records
- Retirement and pension records
- Social Security cards
- Keep a memory box for the sentimental papers. I have been blessed to receive lovely birthday cards, anniversary cards and letters over the years. I love each and every one, but I couldn’t possibly keep them all. I have recycled most of the cards, but have kept the cards or letters that had a handwritten sentiment or note that I knew I would want to re-read. I have been storing them in a simple memory box I purchased from Michael’s . It’s not full yet, but when the box does get full, I will decide which cards get recycled, take a quick picture of the sentiment and let the physical card go. One memory box truly is enough. 🙂
These tips have kept my paper clutter at bay. However, I will still need to tackle the multiple planners, notebooks and other paper I still have scattered in my office — but that will have to be for another post. 😉
How do you handle your paper clutter?
*YNAB is an affiliate link (and the only one in this post). I will never offer an affiliate link for a product or service I don’t use or 100% endorse.