Managing Paper Clutter

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I use the Urbio magnetic organizing system for my coupons and letters.

Paper clutter, next to kitchenware, seems to be the biggest clutter we all face. The rewards are great for those who can get to a paper-lite office. Just imagine how few office supplies are needed with no paper. No longer will your pens and pencils get buried in all of your paper and office supplies. No longer will you need an electric shredder or a printer easy to access. Now you can only have one or two pens – they will never be lost again.

My personality is to write everything down, organize things into lists. I also am an independent contractor, so if I can become paper-lite, I know that you can too.

Here are the ways I’ve dealt with each category.

You will need:
a portable scanner – $88
Kindle app – free
Google Drive – free

Only two rules:
Save sentimental items for last.
Do not overcategorize.

old checkbooks – write down info for IRS, shred bank number, throw out
credit cards – call every card (phone number on the back) you no longer use, toss (now I only use Citibank’s 2% card) – one credit card is ideal
recipe cards – scan in all that I don’t want to cook (either too laborious or unhealthy) into individual folders on Google Drive, tossed 80% of recipe cards – majority of recipes by memory = ideal (this is only possible if you keep to only a few)

college notebooks/tests – scanned in relevant information, gave to someone who asked for them (or would have tossed) – ask for anything that pops up in online groups or from a collegue
college/work textbooks – condensed, then sold
seminar information – highlighted, scanned, tossed – process immediately

books – process immediately, throw out any that I don’t want to read, only buy on Kindle – limited myself to three physical books
cookbooks – I will look for a recipe online when I think of it – don’t like cookbooks because they complicate life in many ways – only one physical cookbook at a time, the rest are on Kindle

tax receipts – IRS allows you to produce only digital copies of receipts – all should be scanned in, organized by year, only W-2s should remain
general receipts – I only regularly shop at places that do not require a receipt for a return: Target, Kroger, Whole Foods, but if I shop at a different store or mail something out, I will keep a receipt for up to 30 days by my paper organizer by the door
coupons – also kept by the paper organizer by the door – I rarely use coupons
letters to mail – also kept by the paper organizer by the door
checks to deposit – also kept in paper organizer by door

journals – I do not journal – if I did journal, I’d toss each one with the new year and live in the present
photos – scan them in or send them out to be scanned – one physical photo book, if possible – I have no physical copies of photos, having grown up in the digital age
cards – scan them in
planners – I have none, but I would toss them with each new year
post-its – only keep one size! (I have two: one for to-do list, one for grocery list)
magazines – only keep three at a time – process one if it bumps up to four by scanning in what I’d like to keep

manuals – skim quickly, toss all, even the CD drivers – all can be found online
warranties – keep only those for things worth more than $100 and don’t categorize
documents in car – in a colorful envelope in the glove box easy to access if ever pulled over

important documents – in a single physical folder. These include: warranties, W-2s, car title, SS card, birth certificate, diploma, and certifications.
cat documents – in a second physical folder. Hand them to vet if ever I go. Note: If you have kids or an SO, keep their things in a separate folder from yours. Do not combine.
magazine clippings – in a third physical folder, easy to thumb through (see video) – limit 20 clippings at a time

notebooks – got out of the bad habit of writing down everything that pops in my head. If you want to keep something long-term, digitize it first! Don’t make extra work for yourself. Most lists I write directly into Google Drive. If they are temporary lists, I can write them down and throw them out when the book is full.

Recommend keeping a physical copy of a travel list (of all things you need to pack), your resume, and places you like to eat in your physical notebook.
Other things I keep in my notebook: one page of tax info, one page of videos to film soon (hobby), one page of what I’m working on (career), one page of a wishlist, and one page of any project I may be working on (decluttering or otherwise).
On to-do Post-it list: errands, chores, or appointments.

As for DVDs/CDs, I own no physical copies. All of your drivers you can find online. All of my DVDs are on my computer. I put them on my computer immediately, then back them up. This way, I can stream them from my phone or laptop anywhere in my house with an Amazon Chromecast. I can even watch movies while I’m traveling and I don’t have to carry DVDs with me from place to place. All of my music is digital.

2 thoughts on “Managing Paper Clutter

  1. I just have one question – I’m still unsure of how to reduce the clutter of paperclips, staplers, and rubber bands, etc. Those office-y type things. How do you get rid of those and still function without them?

    Amazing post!

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