Paper is one of the biggest organization struggles. And when you’re working at home and your office is doing double or triple duty, papers can take over your office quickly and ruin your productivity. Eliminate paper clutter for good with just a few basic steps and take your home office and your productivity back!
When paper takes over your desk and starts to eek out into the rest of your office, it’s difficult to focus or get much of anything done. But with a few simple steps you can eliminate paper clutter for good.
Eliminate Paper Clutter for Good
Before we jump into the steps, here’s a caveat: these steps are going to seem too easy, too elementary, and maybe even seem like something you learned in kindergarten. BUT the basic rules/steps for getting organized are just that—basic. Pick one or two of the suggestions that appeal to you and try them out for a week or two, then see what happens to your paper clutter. 🙂
Let’s kick the paper clutter out, so we can take back our home offices, rediscover our productivity, and rediscover the joy of working at home!
Create an Entrance Barrier
Cut the amount of paper that enters your home, and you’ll take a huge step toward eliminating paper clutter altogether!
Here are few tips for creating an entrance barrier to the paper trying to enter your home:
Keep It Out of the House
Sort the mail in the garage near the trash and recycling cans. Recycle or throw away anything that isn’t important or that does’t deserve a second look. By keeping extraneous paper out of your home (and your home office) in the first place, you’ll cut the number of paper piles in your home and home office by half!
Cut Back on Receivables
Unsubscribe from magazines, newspapers, and newsletters that you never look at, or if you really want to receive the information, get an electronic version to cut down on paper entering your home and home office.
If you opt for the electronic zines and newsletters, make sure you have a good system in place for managing email, or you’ll just be changing types of clutter.
Remove your name from mailing lists at DMAChoice. Review your choices annually to make sure your choices are still accurate.
*Keep in mind that it can take up to 90 days for your name to be removed.
DMAChoice also has options to remove your information from credit card offer lists, email subscriptions, and unsolicited commercial telephone calls. Click on “Get Started” on the right side of their top navigation bar to learn more.
There’s also an app for that! PaperKarma is an app available for Apple iOS or Android that allows you to take a photo of and unsubscribe from junk mail, white and yellow pages, and credit card offers.
I haven’t tried PaperKarma out yet, but it’s installed on my phone, and I’m itching for the opportunity to play with it!
Now that we’ve cut down on the amount of paper that enters your home and office, it’s time to develop daily routines to deal with the remaining paper that makes it through your carefully screened door.
Cultivating anti-paper clutter routines is your first line of defense against paper clutter!
A daily paper handling routine is a MUST! Paper will always be in our lives—no matter how hard we work or how many steps we take to keep it out. So, create routines to keep it under control.
Open mail daily and throw away, recycle, or file each item. Don’t procrastinate decisions unless you have a valid reason. Avoiding the trip to the calendar to put that party on it isn’t a valid reason. #BeenThere #DoneThat
When you truly can’t make a decision about a piece of paper, a Tickler File can be helpful:
- You can create folders for each family member; schedule a regular check in time to review those files, and make those procrastinated decisions. Breakfast or dinner is often a good check-in time.
- You can file invitations and events a week or two ahead of time to give you a heads up that you need to say yes or no, RSVP, purchase a gift, etc.
You can learn more about how I created and use my Tickler File HERE.
Kids’ School Papers
Create an inbox in your home or home office and teach your children to place any papers that need to be seen by a parent in the inbox. It’s a great way to give your kids a jump start on paper management.
Then schedule a regular time every day to look over the papers in the inbox and clear it out for the next day. Why do I insist on a time daily? Because a lot of kids’ school papers have a timeline (permission slips, syllabus, etc).
The best way to organize papers is to create a filing system AND a regular filing routine. These two go hand-in-hand, and neither work without the other.
Are you sensing a theme here?
A few filing tips that I’ve found helpful:
Close Proximity for the Win
Place your filing cabinet/drawer near where you sort papers. Most often I handle papers at my desk. My filing drawer is within arm’s reach, so it’s easy for me to open mail or go through my inbox and file papers immediately after I finish reviewing them.
My Tickler File is on the floor behind my desk, so it’s also within arm’s reach if a paper needs to be filed in the Tickler instead of my regular files.
Invest in some colorful hanging folders. You’ll be much more likely to use a filing system that is pleasing to the eye.
If you really want to get crazy, color code your files based on what type of paper is filed in it. For example, my business files are dark pink. My household files are green and my planning files (stickers, printables, etc) are aqua. I actually enjoy getting into my filing drawer, because it’s well organized and colorful.
Say No to Staggering Labels
I recommend you skip staggering your labels. Line them up on the left side of the folder, on the right side, or in the middle.
But line them up. Don’t stagger them.
Not only does this look more pleasing, but it’s also much easier to move files around, add or delete files. It also perpetuates the organized look of things that you’re going for, and this will start to flow into other areas of your home office.
*FYI, the tabs you see on the right are identifying my empty folders. I took them out a couple of days after I took this photo, because I didn’t like them messing up my nice straight line of tabs! 😉
Scan and store your papers electronically to get them out of your physical space and to have them available pretty much anywhere you might need them!
Scanning your papers is a great system, but it requires a couple of things:
- You MUST create a regular system for scanning papers in your scanning inbox (where I’m currently struggling). Otherwise, your scanning inbox overflows, and you’ve created yet another paper pile problem for yourself.
- You must commit the time to get the system started.
We’ve been working on going paperless in our home, and soon I’ll share a post about our experiences.
We have a hybrid system of paper management in our house, and I think that’s probably how it works out for many people. I love having electronic files that can be accessed whenever needed, but there are still things I like to have in paper form: magazines, organizing printables, and my planner.
If you decide to go paperless and file electronically, you may need to define these guidelines as well.
Those are the basic steps to eliminate paper clutter for good. Take these steps one-by-one, create habits and routines around one before moving on to the next and before you know it, you’ll be wondering what happened to all of that paper clutter that used to drive you insane!
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Thanks for being here today!