Do you have a spot on your kitchen counter where the accumulation of miscellaneous papers continues to build up? A mound of paper that grows and grows each day as you come in from the mailbox. Eventually the stack grows until it either has fallen and made a mess everywhere or someone (most likely you) has gotten so sick of it that you finally clean it up. Your intentions are always good, in fact, you tell yourself “I will just set it here for now and deal with it later today when I have a few minutes.” Before you know it the day is over, you have run out of time, and the pile is still there and has grown even more.
When it comes to paper clutter, I am just as guilty as all of you. Both my husband and I have a terrible habit of piling up the paperwork on our kitchen counter. In fact, it was so bad recently that when one of our kids accidentally spilled a glass of water, and it went flying down the counter, instead of racing to grab a rag, I was racing to pick up the pile of papers so that they would not be ruined. How ridiculous is that?
I am generally exceptionally organized, scratch that, maybe the proper term for me is actually obsessively organized. I hate messes, and I hate clutter even more. How I let a pile grow on my counter uncontrollably is beyond me (though I must say that it is a neat pile). That being said I must find a way to cut the clutter.
For most of us, if we are going to commit to breaking a habit (such as cutting out the clutter) we must have a plan. Since this is my current habit that I want to break, I thought I would share my plan with you and possibly help others with their battle against paper clutter.
1) Pay bills online and request online statements. Actually this is something our family already does for the most part. However, I have noticed that even though we pay almost every bill online, somehow we have missed the boat with receiving paper statements. Many vendors have an option for either paper or online statements, you just have to select your choice. Over this next month, as I notice random bills coming in, I will make a conscious effort to log in to those accounts on-line and change my delivery preference to email verses receiving a paper statement. Not only will this cut down on my paper clutter, but it is good for the environment as well. As a side note–in today’s world where identity theft is at an all-time high, the number one item stolen to gain access to your personal information is paper statements.
2) Open mail over the recycle bin. Be honest, how much of your mail that you pick up from your mailbox is actually worth anything to you? I would have to say that over half of my mail is junk. I am pretty dutiful about tossing the junk when I come in the house, however I am going to make a better effort to not allow the junk mail to make it into my kitchen. Because I normally go through my garage when I am going to get the mail, I will be stopping at the recycle bin on my way in so that I can drop off the unneeded junk mail.
3) Create a temporary filing system. If you are like me you have a file cabinet which you keep all of your critical documents in, and you probably do not want to file everything into it immediately. Whatever the reason for not filing right away–perhaps you have to pay a bill which can’t be paid online or there is something that needs your signature–there should be a place to put that paperwork. Currently we have a little bill paying container for our unpaid paper bills which sits in our kitchen closet. Not only have we been horrible about using it but what do you do with the items that are not bills? I am thinking about going to Office Depot and purchasing an expandable file which has tabs and a few sections inside. By incorporating an expandable file into my routine, I can systematically file my paperwork temporarily until it can be filed in the official file cabinet. Not only will this keep me more organized but it will help with making my regular filing much faster.
4) Get off junk mailing lists. Again I am sure you probably receive more junk mail than any person wants. How do you solve this problem? It is not like email where you can unsubscribe to junk mail, or is it? Actually there are numerous websites that provide services to remove your name from junk mail lists. Visit websites like The Privacy Council and 41pounds.org to remove your name from junk mail distributors. Personally, I plan on searching for as many sites as I can in order to un-list my name. With any luck, I will reduce the amount of junk mail in my mailbox and not gain any in my email inbox.
5) Teach your family to do the same. It is certainly no good if your children walk in the door and pile their miscellaneous paperwork on the counter and add to the clutter you are trying to remove. As you beginning forming your new habits, teach your children to do the same. Just a suggestion, you could add a tab or two to your temporary file where the kids can place paperwork that they need you to see and sign off on and another tab for school work that has been graded and sent home for your review.
My hope is this small effort is going to eliminate my paper clutter as well as inspire you to cut your paper clutter. If you have any great ideas on other suggestions on how to beat paper clutter, I would love to hear about them.
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