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!
Eliminate Paper Clutter for Good
When paper overtakes your desk and eeks out into the rest of your office, it’s difficult to focus. But with a few simple steps you can eliminate paper clutter for good!
Before we jump into the steps, here’s a caveat: these steps might seem too easy, too elementary, and maybe even 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, jump start our productivity, and rediscover the joy of building our businesses at home!
Here’s how to eliminate paper clutter for good.
Create an Entrance Barrier
Cut the amount of paper that enters your home and your office, 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 and office:
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 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 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 trading clutter types. I like Unroll.Me for keeping my e-newsletters organized and centralized in a folder.
Remove your name from mailing lists at DMAChoice. Review your choices annually to make sure they’re 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 can’t wait to give this app a try!
Now that we’ve cut down on the amount of paper that enters our home and office, it’s time to develop daily routines to deal with the remaining paper that makes it through the carefully screened door.
Cultivating anti-paper clutter routines is your first line of defense against paper that makes it through your door!
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, throw away and recycle appropriate items, then file remaining items into action files (learn more about Action Files HERE) or an appropriate hanging file in your file drawer.
Don’t procrastinate decisions unless you have a valid reason. Avoiding the trip to the calendar to record that party 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. Before breakfast or after 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.
To learn more about Action Files, visit this post: How to Use Action Files to Manage To-Do’s.
To learn more about implementing a tickler file, visit these posts:
Kids’ School Papers
Create an inbox in your home or home office and teach your children to place any papers for you 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).
Don’t have a home office inbox?
Learn more about this valuable office organization tool in this post: 3 Essential Routines for Home Office Organization.
And check out these 5 Easy Ways to Set Up a Home Office Inbox to get started using this handy, effective tool right away!
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 (that made it through the barriers) 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 go 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.
Need a little help corralling your home office paper piles and creating a filing system that works?
Check out our Organize Your Files Week blog series! Start with The First Step to Conquer Home Office Paper Clutter, then move through each challenge with the links at the bottom of each post.
Scan and store your papers electronically to get them out of your physical space and to have them available 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 (this is 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. Watch for a post about our experiences coming soon.
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.
* In the interest of full disclosure, think long and hard before you commit to going paperless. I love the accessibility and the lack of papers in my office, but this was a much bigger project than I expected, and I’m still trying to wade through it.
Eliminate Paper Clutter for Good
Paper doesn’t have to be one of your biggest organization struggles. With these basic steps you can 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 your paper clutter. 😉
You’ll also reclaim your desk, your home office, and your productivity!
If you’re serious about conquering home office paper clutter, check out our Organize Your Files series (it’s about much more than just files!):
Start with The First Step to Conquer Home Office Paper Clutter, then follow the series’ links at the bottom of each post. Take the posts one at a time until you can kiss paper clutter buh-bye!
And join the 7-Day Office Organization Challenge!
Each day for 7 days, we’ll tackle one office trouble spot (paper is one of those “trouble spots”), get it decluttered and organized, and create processes (habits & routines) to KEEP it that way!
Join the challenge HERE.
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Let’s kick that paper clutter to the curb!
Thanks for being here today!
Join the Office Organization Challenge!
Each day for 7 days, we'll tackle one office trouble spot, get it decluttered and organized, and create processes to KEEP it that way!
Take back your work space, beat overwhelm, and make the most of your business building time!