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In this episode, I’m talking about how to get rid of paper clutter once and for all! 

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In this episode, Shannon discusses: 

  • The one secret you need to know before you start to tackle any clutter, including paper clutter
  • Tips for purging the paper
  • How to keep paper clutter under control from now on

Mentioned in this episode:


Hello, and welcome back to the Lovely Home Podcast. Today, we’re going to talk about all that paper clutter that just seems to pile up everywhere. Welcome to the Lovely Home Podcast, the show for homemaking mamas, just like you. I’m your host, Shannon Acheson. If you’re looking for ways to confidently create a clutter-free, cozy and beautiful home, you are in the right place. To learn more about what we’re talking about here today, visit homemadelovely.com for all our blog posts and podcast episodes. Plus, you can get your hands on some awesome freebies there too.

Okay. So paper clutter. Whether it’s from your children’s schoolwork, or all their art projects, bills that you need to look after, receipts, magazines, junk mail, all that stuff. Do you ever just feel like the piles of paper seem to keep multiplying like rabbits and taking up space on your kitchen table, your desk, the entryway, or just the kitchen counter in general?

So clutter created from paper is one of the worst types of clutter because it just seems to keep coming back. And it’s also super overwhelming if you don’t deal with it right away. So there is a little caveat that I need to say here. And I’m going to show you… I’m going to talk to you a little bit about how to clear out that paper clutter. But something you need to know is that you cannot organize clutter. So you really are going to have to do some purging of all this paper clutter that’s accumulated before you can get organized and get some systems in place to take care of it going forward.

Okay? Are you with me on that? You can’t organize clutter. So let’s get some stuff purged out. Paper clutter on the bright side can be looked after fairly quickly and easily once you tackle it. There are some great systems you can use to keep on top of it. I still find that we have to go through things once-twice a year just because if we forget, or we get a little lazy,. or something else with our systems, it does still pile up, but it is easier to get under control, again, once you do these things.

So one of the first things that you can do is obviously purge the paper. I know it sounds scary, but here’s what you need to do. You need to gather all the paper in your house from all those piles everywhere. So from the front entry table or bench, from the kitchen counter, from your desk, all of that paper and put it in one place. My recommendation for that would be either a big dining room table that’s cleared off or a kitchen island, even that’s cleared off that you’re not going to need for a few hours because it’s going to take you a little while.

Don’t forget to look in places like purses and coat pockets and your vehicle for receipts and things like that. They are sneakily hiding there but should be dealt with as well. So grab all those too. Then do a quick sort-through of these papers. This isn’t where you go separate out all the hydro bills and all the gas receipts. This is where you go, save, scan or recycle.

And so if you know it’s something that you need to save, say for tax purposes, or for your own filing purposes, put that in a safe pile. If you know that you can scan it and then get rid of it so you don’t have to keep it in that paper pile, start a second pile. And then start a recycling pile. So everything that you can just throw in the recycle bin. Things like, I wouldn’t put anything on here with personal details like banking information or anything like that. I’m even hesitant to throw things in the recycle bin that have our name and address on them. But in recycling, it can be like old menus, coupons that have expired or you know you’re never going to use. Receipts that don’t have banking information on them. Things like that can go in a recycle pile. And then I’m actually going to say, I’m going to go back on this. I said three piles, but I’m going to say four now. Add another pile for shredding. So that’s the things that you know you don’t have to keep, but that have personal information on it.

Another thing is, is that once you do the scanning of the things that you need to scan, those things then get put probably on the shredding pile because you’ll need to shred those with a shredder. So make sure that you hold on to important documents like medical files, tax returns, insurance papers, leases, car loans, that sort of thing. You can either choose to keep those as paper if you have enough space to have a filing cabinet. If not, a great way to save those is to scan them and keep them safely on your computer and backed up to an external hard drive or a cloud or somewhere that is secure. Make sure you save any photos or cards that you want to keep, that you absolutely cannot get rid of.

If you have a million cards from aunt Jane and all she ever does is sign her name in them, that’s okay. But once you have one of them, you don’t need all of them. In my opinion, you can do things like place the photos in an album or scan them into an online album, frame them to hang them or put them on a corkboard or something similar. In my office, I have this… It’s a wire mesh grid thing that I have a bunch of inspirational art on, but I also print out in black and white just on my home computer or home printer, pictures of our family from things that we’ve done in events that we’ve gone to like a wedding or a family reunion or things like that just so that I can see them all the time, but we have so many more than I could possibly ever display. So we still do have some old school albums, but then we also keep a whole bunch online as well.

If there are things like schedules, or if your kids are at school and there’s lunch menus they need, or anything like that, if you can take a picture of it with your phone to refer back to when you need it, and you’re not wherever that paper piece is anyways, all the better. And then you can toss or recycle those things as well. You can take all the pile that you have separated out now into a keeping pile. So the things that you need to save. Now, you can sort that pile into folders, piles that you need to sort it into.

So for us, for example, some of our bills still come by mail as paper bills. And I keep those in one utilities folder. So our gas bill, our water and sewer bill, our hydro bills those things. Because I run a business from home, I need to refer back to those at the end of the year when I’m doing taxes. We use to separate them out into separate file folders, but because we’ve learned over the years what we actually use them for, I just keep them grouped inside one file folder because it saves space and it’s easier to grab when I actually need to know what we’ve spent on utilities because they all get grouped together for taxes. So then you can just scan all the things that you need to scan, file the things you need to file. So that helps to purge, obviously, recycle and toss what you don’t need to keep. That helps you on the purging process.

Now, the next thing that you can do is to create some sort of filing system, one that’s logically organized and has enough space to store documents over time. I know this is something on… To be very, very honest, filing is something that we still struggle with. I am not very good at repetitive, as my husband likes to call them production tasks. So like assembly line kind of things. My creative brain just can’t hack it and I just can’t do it. And filing once when we get to this place where there’s this massive pile of filing, I just can’t do it. And so it’s passed back and forth between Dean and I over there two years of our marriage. And so we don’t have… We haven’t had a cohesive system in place, which we’re working on fixing right now, honestly. And that looks like for us. On the main floor, there is a little desk in our kitchen, which is actually where I used to run the business from, tiny little desk space with one drawer beside it.

Since I have my office in the basement now, that space is actually empty and everybody shares it for different things that they need to do, exam writing online, or one of our daughters uses it to work on her business sometimes when she needs a change of scenery from her room. But that one little drawer beside the desk, I’ve actually put a portable file hanger in it. And I’ve organized and put in files for the things that we get normally in the mail. So tax receipts. Like I mentioned, all those utility bills, those seem to be the most thing that we get by mail anymore as a paper, paper record of things.

What I do then is when those pieces come in the mail, I open them right away, make note of them. If it’s a bill that fluctuates in amount, I enter the amount in our budget spreadsheet right away. And then I put that bill into the folder. It’s easy. It takes me about less than a minute to open it, recycle the envelope, record the number and then put it in the file. And that has helped our filing so much because in the past, I probably still would’ve put it in a budget, but I would have then just left it in a pile to be filed later, and that’s when we get overwhelmed with all those things.

So you want to make sure that you have enough file folders on hand. So in that portable file folder, I have an extra pile or stack of files, empty file folders in the back of it so that if something new comes in, which surely it will, it’s close to the beginning of the year when I’m recording this and I don’t have all the categories in there yet because we haven’t received them all. For example, our tax bill, it doesn’t come until next month I think. So make sure you have extra ones. And then have a pen nearby so that you can label those new ones. And that system for us has worked really, really, really well.

Another thing that you can do is go paperless with your bills in your bank statements. We don’t get bank statements anymore. Save for maybe a line of credit. I think that still has one… We haven’t used it for years, but we still keep getting a statement of the zero balance on it. And so the other thing to do is yeah, have them come digitally. Some of our bills come to my inbox. So instead of getting a paper copy at tax time, instead of pulling up that paper file, I can go to my inbox. And because during the year, when I get those bills in there, I filed them in a virtual folder in Gmail so then I can just search or open up that folder and I can easily tally the totals for that. So things like our phone bill and our internet bill and our cell phones and things like that, those I get digitally.

You can also technically set up your bills to pay them, to have them come out automatically, the amounts out of your bank account. So then you’re never even really looking at them until tax time. If you need to, et cetera, personally, we don’t do that because those things fluctuate. And I don’t want a surprise in my bank account if ma Bell decides that they’re going to charge us a gazillion extra dollars for something as a mistake. I don’t want that shot coming out of my bank account. But paperless bills and bank statements helps with filing and paper clutter a lot.

Another thing that can really help is to put a recycling bagger bin or a pretty basket that is marked as recycling near the front door, or the door that you go in and out of the most. For example, the garage. If you come in through your garage, put a recycle bin just inside there or just outside, that door to the house. That way, you can just recycle the flyers and things as soon as they come, or you can take the bills out of their envelopes and recycle the envelopes right away.

You can also put a note on your mailbox that says no flyers. I know we personally, we didn’t do this for a long time. And it was most frustrating because we kept getting all these flyers and catalogs and things that I definitely didn’t sign up for. And they were just going straight to the recycle bin every week. And so it was such a waste. And so I honestly, the reason I didn’t do it for so long, we did it at our last house.

And the reason we didn’t do it here is, we actually have community mailboxes. So that’s those…. in Canada, they’re brown, sometimes they’re gray where there’s a bunch of small mailboxes and they’re in one or two places in a community and you go to your box and you have a key and you open your box. And so I didn’t realize that you can actually put a post-it note inside your part of your web personal community mailbox that says no flyers. And they have to listen to that. Canada Post and probably USPS has to listen to that and not give you the flyer. So that has cut down on our paper clutter and just the general recycling so much.

What else can you do? You can create an action station for papers that need to be dealt with. So for example, say you… Well, we recently started a new RSP, which is a retirement savings plan, a registered retirement savings plan in Canada. And there are some papers that we need to sign. And so if you have a little tray, or a little basket or a spot for things to go, that you need to deal with, and then you visit that say once a week maybe, and then just make sure that it’s not a dumping zone, it’s only for things that actually have to be dealt with, not the bills and things like that that I mentioned that go into your… Well for us, our budget spreadsheet.

Our budget spreadsheet is what tells me when things are due, not the paper that’s sitting on my desk. Stuff that needs to be signed. Kids’ report cards, maybe that need to be signed by you, that you’ve seen them, permission forms for any field trips. I know that might not be happening right now at the time of recording this. There’s probably not a lot, a lot of that going down in early 2021. But those things will come back at some point and you’ll need a place to deal with them. So if you put a pretty tray on your desk, your kitchen counter, even on an entryway table, and then you make a note to yourself to check those things here and there, that will really help you.

Another thing you could do is, at our old house, we had a family command center. So there’s this small wall by our back door. And on that, there was a bulletin board, a calendar, and then the kids’ chore charts were actually inside frames that had plastic or glass on the front of them and they used a dry erase marker to check off when they’d done their things. And that was another good place. We had the meal plan there and the grocery list was there. And so that was another good way to corral everything in one place.

So hopefully those tips have been helpful. Remember, you cannot organize clutter. You have to purge first and then organize and get systems in place. But something else to remember is to anchor those regularly scheduled or needed to do things to something else. So if you have that tray on your desk of things that need looking after they need signatures or whatever, make sure that you anchor that to something your meal planning, or your grocery list making or something like that so that you get it done at a regularly scheduled time every week.

Thank you so much for joining me today on the Lovely Home Podcast. If you’d like to learn more about me and how I can help you, check out homemadelovely.com. There are a ton of freebies there as well. I’m cheering you on beautiful. Again, this has been Shannon from the Lovely Home Podcast.

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