A Clutter Queen Tackles Paper Clutter
No, I’m not a clutter queen — although I’ve been called things involving both words. This is a guest post from Marianne Yates of A Life Set Free.
My fiancé affectionately (or maybe not so affectionately) calls me the Clutter Queen. In reality, I really do hate clutter as it makes me feel very uncomfortable. Yet somehow, just days after the house has been cleaned, piles of paper and stuff just magically appear everywhere.
Paper is my biggest enemy. It seems to consume my life the most. I am also the biggest procrastinator and that is what kills me. My home office is one level down from my front door. I used to open my mail as soon as I walked in the door but since all I wanted to do at that point was relax, I would separate the mail into different piles: piles of paper to deal with later, piles that are important and should be dealt with sooner, piles of receipts, piles of stuff to be filed, and piles to be thrown into the shredder. And then weeks later the piles would still be there, starting to tip over and melt into one big huge pile needing to be re-separated.
Does this sound familiar?
So how does a Clutter Queen battle the never ending pile of paper??
I admit, the problem hasn’t been completely tackled yet, however I’ll tell you a little about the methods I have started using that are starting to make a difference in my life.
The key isn’t about going out to buy organizers to organize your paperwork. The key is about getting rid of the paper altogether.
Mail seems to be one of the largest battles for most people, myself included. The following tactics have been extremely helpful in my war on paper clutter:
- Stop the junk mail monster. Check out this extremely useful site! It’ll tell you how to decline credit card offers, catalogs, magazine offers and other mail offerings right from their website.
- If you have open credit card accounts, call and ask your card companies to stop sending you those cash advance checks in the mail.
- Ask anyone who asks for your mailing address how they will be using it before you give it to them. By the way, most credit card companies share your information with many partners. You should be able to write them a letter and ask them to stop sharing your information.
- Do you have piles of magazines that you are going to read someday? Re-evaluate your subscriptions. Maybe you don’t need to get that magazine every month. Or donate it to the waiting room at your doctor or hairdresser next time you go in for a visit.
- If you’re like me, you like to keep articles and clippings from magazines for future reference. Start scanning these articles and organizing them into your computer or use an awesome tool called Evernote. Evernote is awesome because you can organize any image, website screenshot, or text note using tags so they are easily searchable. You can access Evernote from any online computer or Smartphone.
- If you haven’t done so already, create online accounts for all your monthly bills (credit cards, utilities, etc.) and then opt-in to receive only electronic bills. If you wish to keep your statements for records, make sure to download them because they usually only keep the last 6 – 12 months of statements available for download.
- Consolidate bank accounts, investments, credit cards, etc. to reduce the number of statements you have to deal with each month.
- What do you do with things like medical, parking, and miscellaneous bills that you receive in the mail? According to Jo at SimplyBeingMum’s Blog
and a tip from Gip on her site, scan things and then toss the originals. File them into folders on your computer or in the cloud. I use Dropbox and can’t recommend them enough because you get 2GB free and it’s really simple to use. Use this Dropbox referral link and we’ll both get an additional 0.25GB free.
Another thing I have piles of are receipts. Did you know that you don’t have to keep all of your receipts? I used to think I had to keep every single receipt around for 7 years in case… you know, in case… well I guess for the IRS!
If you think about it, the IRS doesn’t care about most of your receipts. The only receipts you should have to keep around are for tax-deductible purchases, warranty purchases, and items you may need to return at some point. Check out this article at Stepcase Lifehack for a list of receipts that you can safely get rid of once you’ve logged them and then checked them against your bank statements. (Make sure to actually check them because I have had unscrupulous bartenders and servers pad the receipts on their end knowing most people never check this).
This year, I finally decided to get my finances in order once and for all and that means I enter every receipt into Quicken. Almost 8 weeks into the new year and I’m still going strong! The cool thing about Quicken is that you can scan your receipts and attach them to the transaction lines right in the program. How cool is that? Now you can get rid of all those loads of receipts! Remember the miscellaneous bills from above? You can attach those to Quicken transactions too if you wish so they are all in one place.
Tip: Now the problem with scanning your receipts and bills is that you actually have to take the time to do this. Plan to have one day every other week to scan them all in. It’ll be a lot of work, especially at the beginning, but just think how good it will feel when our desks and offices are clear of all this paper!
Remember when we actually had to wait for photos to be printed? Time to break out those old boxes, scan your photos and get rid of the print ones once and for all (or put some into frames). Now you can add those old photos to Facebook! Won’t your old high school friends be pleased?
Rather than take up all the disk space on my laptop, I’ll be trying out the cloud. We all have different needs so I won’t go into recommending one over the other, but take a look at the following sites: Flickr, Shutterfly, Photobucket, or Picasa.
Now what are you going to do with all that paper you’re ready to throw away?
You’re going to recycle it of course!! A good minimalist is also conscious of the damage we are doing to the environment and takes precautions to properly dispose of things instead of tossing everything into the landfills.
To keep on top of your paper clutter in the future, be more aware of where your paper comes from:
- Be wary of adding your address to sweepstakes and mailing lists.
- Always opt-in for paperless statements right away.
- Don’t be so quick to grab free magazines, brochures, flyers, and business cards unless you really need them.
- Rather than ripping out an ad or a spotlight in a magazine or newspaper, take a picture of it with your cell phone and then organize these clippings using Evernote.
What other ways can you tackle the paper monster? Please share your thoughts below.
Marianne Yates is a web designer, cat lover, and aspiring minimalist. She writes at A Life Set Free about creating a life around your own personal set of values and setting yourself free from debt, stuff, location and the status quo.