Welcome to Day 7 of my Clutter-Free Challenge.
Today I’ll be addressing paper! You know, that thing that multiplies like rabbits … or single socks in the dryer!
One would think given the digital age we live in, managing paper wouldn’t be a problem. But it is! Organizing stacks and piles, papers and files is an ongoing challenge for women. Especially those of us who grew up pre-computers.
Years ago I saved anything I thought might be handy in the future. I saved every bill, receipt and magazine. For years! My approach was filled with “just in case” and “what if” thoughts. Because maybe, just maybe, I might someday need to know how many times we changed the oil in our vehicle. Ahem. (probably not)
It took years before I realized the paper I was trying to manage, was really managing me. I was over-cautious, overly sentimental, and much too optimistic. Plus, sometimes I just didn’t know what to do with all that paper, so I postponed making a decision. And the piles grew.
Maybe your reasons for amassing paper are different. But whatever the reasons, too much paper affects our productivity, creativity and causes underlying anxiety from the visual clutter. So today we’ll start addressing the paper-based items in our homes. Remember, we aren’t going to focus too much on organizing, just de-cluttering. Although I’ll throw in a few of my favorite tips here and there … I can’t help myself.
I’m dividing this topic into three days due to the different types of paper we all have. Today I’ll talk about what to do with informational content like books, magazines, brochures, and the like. Tomorrow I’ll address the types of paper we tend to file, like bills, receipts and reports. Finally we’ll talk about miscellaneous things like children’s schoolwork, artwork and phone numbers on little pieces of paper.
Before we get started, I want to remind you of something. As I go through the next steps, please know I don’t expect you to do all this in one day. This could take weeks. My hope is that by breaking down the tasks, you can work on de-cluttering your paper as you have time.
Okay – enough introduction. Whenever I start trying to de-clutter paper items, it helps to have some supplies handy. With paper, a recycling bin is critical. So get something big enough or you’ll be frustrated fast. You might also want to get some plastic tubs or boxes to carry things out of the house.
Once I’ve got my supplies handy, the second step is to sort items into similar groups. Pick one area of your space to tackle. This might be a kitchen counter, your desk or the table by your bed. I don’t recommend trying to address your entire house at once. But if you are up for the challenge, pick a room.
Then, sort all the paper into like stacks. For instance, books in one stack, bills in another and bank statements in another. You could have five, 10 or 20 stacks depending on the variety of papers you have. As you do this, put paper you know you don’t need (old newspapers, envelopes, etc) in the recycling bin. Do not recycle anything with your name, address or account number. Tear off that section of paper, and shred it. Then recycle the rest.
If you are overwhelmed with paper, this approach may not work for you. You may want to just pick one item to sort at a time. This will keep this process simple and focused. Maybe you are only going to gather bills right now and that’s okay. Do what works for YOU!
Once you have like items together, you can start de-cluttering. That might start with putting things where they belong or throwing damaged items away. I think you’ll have great ideas now that you’ve broken down the problem. But in case you need some help, here are some tips for what to do with a few common items:
Books – Books were made to be read. If you have more than you have space for, please share them with someone else.
- Donate to local library
- Sell used books on Amazon to make some money
- Sell at a used-book store
- Host a used-book sale at church to raise money for a mission project
- Donate children’s books to a homeless shelter or school
Magazines – Do I really need years of Victoria Magazine? Really?
- Donate to local elementary school for art projects
- Clip things you want to save like recipes, decorating tips or craft projects and put in an “idea” notebook. I use a three-ring binder with plastic page protectors. Some people scan them and store them in digital files. Then donate the rest to a school.
- My library accepts donated magazines and sells them. Check with yours.
- Take them to your next family or friends get-together and give them away.
I created a “Family Fun Book” to keep track of papers I wanted to keep, but didn’t want to file. Using a three-ring binder with page protectors and tabbed inserts, I keep things like takeout menus, brochures, ideas for family activities, movies to see and more all in one handy place.
I know this is just a small portion of what causes paper clutter, but I hope the idea of sorting first makes this more manageable. When I take the time to sort, it’s so much easier to make decisions. Plus, I see how much I really have. Tomorrow I’ll address more types of paper, including what you really need to keep and how long.
In His Love,
Heavenly Father, some days it feels like I’m drowning in paper. I have so much anxiety of how to manage it and what I need to keep. Help me to take this one step at a time. I want to be a good steward of my time, energy and space and I know that means addressing the paper in my life. Help me release my grip on things that others could use. In Jesus name, Amen.
If you want more encouragement and tips on how to bring order to your mind, schedule and home, I hope you’ll consider purchasing my book, “I Used to Be So Organized.” It’s available through Proverbs 31 Ministries, Amazon, or wherever books are sold. Thank you.