If you’re looking for a way to control paper clutter in your home, you’re in good company. In fact, I’d say that most people find dealing with all the bits of paper that come into our lives everyday a pretty big challenge. Newspapers, bills, school newsletters, to-do lists, these are all pretty simple items, but they can pile up and soon become simply a disaster before you know it. And I know that you know it! 🙂
Honestly, dealing with paper clutter can be really simple and straightforward, you just need to have a system, any system that works for you in place and it will get the job done as long as you stick to it. I thought I’d throw a few different ideas out there for some helpful ways of controlling paper clutter today for those of you that have a room, or a whole house full of paper and just don’t know where to begin. Even if you just pick one or two of these tips that appeal to you, you should be able to make some amazing progress.
Before we begin though I just have to say, don’t feel bad about your paper clutter! Everyone has an area of their home that gets a little (or a lot) out of control every now and then so you are not a failure at keeping your home tidy just because of a few pieces of paper. Or a few thousand. 🙂 It’s just paper! I know it seems like a big deal now, but once you begin dealing with it, you’re going to totally know what I’m talking about when I say that you can do this and it’s really not such a big deal.
The “OHIO” method stands for Only Handle It Once. Which means that if a piece of paper comes into your home, when you pick it up, deal with it in such a way that you won’t need to handle it again. Or at least where it can be considered “put away” for the time being. Trash it, shred it, recycle it, file it, do whatever needs to be done with it the first time you touch it and you’ll save yourself a lot of time and needless effort by not forcing yourself to pick up that same piece of paper a hundred times in the future and wonder if today’s the day that you actually feel like taking care of it.
A Paper Recycling Toss Pile
This is such a simple concept but one that I find to be super handy. We have ours in a basket on the bottom shelf on the hutch in the kitchen. It’s a pretty basket and this is important because it makes me happy to use it for recycling and even happier when I empty the recycling out because then the basket looks so nice sitting in my kitchen! This recycling basket/pile gives us somewhere to throw all those newspapers, flyers, etc. and have them dealt with immediately and super easily. I find that one of the challenges with these types of papers is that we know they should be recycled and not thrown in the trash, but we just don’t want to go all the way to the recycling bin at the moment when we first have them come into our home, so they just end up sitting on the table or the counter until we feel like dealing with them properly, which doesn’t come very often! In this case, it probably would be smarter to just throw the papers out and get them out of our lives, but our guilt over not recycling can stop us from taking that step too! So a pretty basket that’s right there, ready to be used is the perfect solution.
A shredder is a great tool to have in the house because it can help us make difficult decisions about confidential or sensitive documents and make them in a permanent way. Often times we have things that we know we don’t really need to hang on to anymore, but that we don’t really feel we should put in the garbage. Things with banking information, health information, passwords, things like that will often fall into this category. A lot of people will just kind of subconsciously put off making decisions about these types of papers and kind of move them aside or put them in a “to deal with later” pile that never really gets dealt with. A shredder makes it easy to feel confident about getting rid of these types of paper right now!
A Filing System
So what about those papers with sensitive or important information on them that we do need to keep for later? First of all, I need to let you know/remind you that there are a lot fewer of these papers than you might think. Your decluttering muscle will get stronger and stronger as time goes on and you’ll start to find it easier to differentiate between things that need to be kept for real vs. things you’re just nervous about throwing away for no good reason. For now though, do the best you can to be really clear, thoughtful, and intentional with each piece of paper that you decide to keep in your life. For those pieces of paper, a good ol’ filing cabinet is a great way to go. They make it easy to find papers quickly when you need to and it’s super easy to just plunk a piece of paper in there as soon as it comes into your home and be done with it. Filing cabinets can be a little pricey, but there are also great filing boxes, desks with built-in filing drawers, and even little folding accordion-style filing cases. Definitely check second hand stores and places like your local ReStore for old office filing cabinets that you can paint and make your own for cheap! The files themselves can be purchased very cheaply and once you’ve established what you need files for, you’ll be set for years of paper organizational bliss! Our files live in the drawers of this desk in our living room. The desk looks like it has 4 drawers, but really it just has 2 really deep filing drawers!
Go Paperless Wherever You Can
Thankfully, a lot of companies now offer things like bills and financial statements over email or on an app, so going paperless is getting more and more common. Actually, with all of this easy technology right at our fingertips, I find it kind of baffling that we don’t take more advantage of it in our everyday lives. It seems like there’s a whole lot more that could be simplified by using an app or a website instead of some of the older, more papery methods. Oh well, we’re getting there! Whenever you’re offered the opportunity to go paperless, take it! These little decisions will soon add up to a lot less paper in your home.
Woops! This post is getting really long! It turns out that I have a little more to say about paper clutter management than I realized! And I came up with about three more blog topic ideas just while I was writing this first half of the post! 🙂 I’m going to split this post into two parts to make it a little more digestible and to keep things straightforward and un-overwhelming, so I’ll have the second half for you to read tomorrow!
*UPDATE!* You can read part 2 of this post here! 🙂
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.