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10 Easy Things You Can Do Right Now To Reduce Paper Clutter

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If you're like me, mail and paper are your biggest clutter culprits. From mail being dropped at random places to the "I'll get to that later pile", I often feel like it's a battle I won't win. Sometimes I wonder if paper multiplies at night.

Paper clutter is not only a nuisance to look at, but it can cause problems in your household ranging anywhere from late bills and other important missed deadlines, events or appointments to not being able to find important documents like your birth certificate or social security card.

Then there's the issue of the stress it causes simply having to look at it. On the other hand, paper clutter can even lead to avoidance tactics. That only makes things worse and by the time you're ready (or forced) to tackle paper clutter, it's very time consuming.


Let's face it. No one wants to sit in a room going through stacks (or even boxes) of unfiled paper, but for some reason the few minutes per day it would take to keep things organized always seems to be the five minutes of "me time" we need. If only we looked at the other way around. If I do this for 5 minutes per day (or 10 or 15, whatever your magic number is), I will have 35+ consecutive minutes on my day of rest to relax.

Here are 10 ways, I've learned to manage mail and paper so that it doesn't become clutter. Even if you have a pile, a box or a whole room full of paper clutter, you can start doing these things so you don't add to the pile.


Create a Mail Station

A centralized place for incoming and outgoing mail is a key factor to reduce paper clutter. Your mail station should be located near a trash can or a trash can should be located near your mail station. It can be as simple as an "in, out, shred" method or you can get detailed depending on your preferences.
mail station
I find that the more I separate things, the more overwhelming it feels, so I keep it simple. I only want to have to look at my mail once, but there are some mail stations that have a slot for each day number of the month.
mail station
Accessories like pencils, pens, stationary, stamps, a letter opener and more can be kept in/near your mail station, as well, depending how much use actually use the mail. No matter what your mail station should be near your filing system for documents you intend to keep.

Sign Up for Paperless Billing

This is sort of a given these days, but there are still some folks who just don't feel comfortable with paperless billing, not to mention automatic payments. I haven't advanced to automatic payments yet and don't see it happening any time soon, but I don't need anymore paper in the house. Once you sign up for paperless billing, you can still keep a paper and/or electronic calendar of when your bills are due so you know when to log in to read your statement.

Opt-Out of Prescreened Offers and Advertisements

As you receive mail, opt-out of mailings you don't need, especially "prescreened" credit offers and direct mail offers like cable, phone and internet. C'mon, you can read about it online. Just check the fine print of the mailing for the details, opt-out and shred it. You might want to keep a log because it can sometimes take 8-10 weeks to catch up with planned marketing cycles.

Get a Safety Deposit Box

Store important documents in a safety deposit box. You don't want to keep them at home in case of burglary, natural disaster or some other disaster. You also don't want to store them on the cloud for safety reasons. Some important documents you should keep in a safety deposit box include original birth certificates, original death certificates, social security cards, passports, life insurance documents, marriage and divorce documents, military discharge information, vehicle titles, an inventory of your home's contents (in case you need to make an insurance claim), and loan documents.(1)

Get Rid of Expired Coupons

Whether we're talking newspaper coupons, coupon booklets, mailed coupon flyers and envelopes, store them by the month they were published. Granted, most coupons don't last for a whole year, by the time you roll around to that month again, you can empty the file before you start adding new coupons. This way, if you don't use the coupons, they're not stacking up in an unmanageable "junk drawer". For rare coupons or discounts with expiration dates longer than a year, you can create a separate file.

Before you throw out those expired manufacturer's coupons, consider donating them to our troops overseas. The most wanted coupons are food, then baby supplies, followed by common household goods. The U.S. dollar doesn't get as much bang for the buck overseas as it does in our homeland. Things cost more, so coupons really help.

Download Electronic Copies of Manuals and Instruction Booklets

There was a time when I used to file manuals and instruction booklets in a filing cabinet. Then it moved to a drawer in the dining room. Either way, it's rare that I actually need them, but for small appliances, big ticket items and even board games or video games, I liked to keep them just in case. For products with a warranty, I also like to keep the receipt.


As these new products come into our lives, I immediately check the manufacturer's website (or store's website) for an electronic copy of the manual or instruction booklet that I can download to my computer, or better yet, save to a cloud drive like Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Drive. I still keep the original receipts in a file, but I also take a picture with my smartphone and store it electronically.

File, file, file!

Before you file, ask yourself do you really need to keep it? Consumer Reports tells you how long to keep your tax records and other documents. File things as soon as you get them or at least once per week.

A color-coded filing system can save some time. If you've got a mess to clean up, first sort, then file. For the papers that don't deserve to be filed, have a shred tray or basket if you dare. I like to put my shred files on top of the shredder (or at least near it), then shred once a week.

Magazines

I really like paper magazines, but even if it's a complimentary subscription, it's rare that I ever read them as often as I should. Unsubscribe! I hate to be the person that brings down the magazine industry, but there is so much free content on the web that we don't really need magazines anymore. Unless you actually read your magazine subscription every month it comes in, you don't need it.


On the other hand, if you love your magazines, but don't love the paper, switch to the digital version. While there are a ton of crafts you can make with paper magazines, not to mention places to donate them, If you haven't read it in 3-6 months, it's probably time to unsubscribe.

Just Say No To Receipts . . . Sometimes!

This is a tough one. You definitely need to keep receipts for major purchases, then promptly file them. On the other hand, many retailers and evening banking institutions offer e-receipts for purchases and banking transactions.

You don't really need a receipt for gas or convenience store purchases, do you? As far as groceries go, there are quite a few smartphone apps that allow you to scan your receipt for electronic savings. While most of my shopping is done online, there are times when I go to an actual store.

Walmart makes it really easy with their Savings Catcher program. All you have to do is scan the QR code. Walmart receipts work the same way with Ibotta. I scan the QR code, then I can shred my receipt. Even if there is a major purchase on my receipt, Walmart stores the receipt for you.

Make it Fun!

If you've tried all these things and they don't work, make it fun! What? How can clutter possibly be fun? Clutter isn't fun, but for most people music is fun. Turn on your favorite tunes and time will go by a lot faster.

Sources:
(1) Consumer Reports: 'How Long to Keep Tax Records and Other Documents'

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