Ugh… paper piles. They're one of those things that seem to creep up quickly and can be really overwhelming.
Between mail and school papers, paper clutter doesn't seem to be going away any time soon, but even if you're overwhelmed by the current paper piles in your home, there are ways to significantly reduce the amount of paper entering your home so you don't continue to add to the piles.
And of course I have some easy tips for dealing with existing paper clutter around your house. I even created a free paper clutter reduction worksheet for you so you can take action on these tips and get ahead of paper clutter right away!
Between reducing the amount of paper that enters your home and learning how to go through paper piles quickly and efficiently you're sure to get ahead of the problem and create a new habit. - This habit has helped us keep our home office and drop zone clutter free.
Today, I'm going to share with you some easy ways to…
- reduce the amount of junk mail you get
- set up a system for incoming papers
- deal with existing paper clutter
How To Reduce The Amount Of Incoming Mail You Get
This is a biggie. Taking the time to do get off mailing lists has saved me tons of time sorting through mail and reduced the amount of paper clutter in my house, not to mention the number of trees it's saved!
You may be tempted to start by dealing the the current papers in your home first, but the sooner you can reduce the incoming paper flow, the easier it will be to get ahead of the problem.
Remove yourself from catalog mailings
It seems like as soon as you order something from a company, you start receiving their catalogs. But chances are, if you're wanting to order something again, you'd go to the company's website and order it. Their website works the same way a catalog does and you shouldn't have to deal with the paper piles these catalogs create.
What you need to do:
To make this process easy, I created a free paper clutter reduction worksheet for you. This will make it so you can gather the information you need to stop receiving the catalog AND be able to get rid of the catalog right away.
- Gather all the catalogs laying around. Look on the back of the catalog and note the company name, phone number, priority code, and customer #. - The priority code is usually in a blue box and the customer number is typically highlighted in a yellow box.
- Once you have your info, call each number and when you speak to an operator, ask to be removed from their mailing list.
- The operator will ask you for your customer number and sometimes will need the priority code as well. - Sometimes you'll get one more catalog depending on their mailing cycle, but after that you will see a drastic change in the amount of catalogs you get.
- Each time you get a catalog you don't want or need, simply note the info on the back (so you can go ahead and get rid of it) and when you have a few on the list, make the calls.
Bonus Tip: The next time you order from a company (online or through a catalog), be sure to find and check the box that indicates that you do NOT want future mailings.
Remove yourself from junk mailing lists
If you've ever bought a home or car, or have a credit card, your mailing info got on a list and has probably been sold over and over again. If you don't get off these lists, the paper clutter in your house is only going to get worse.
There is a way to get off these lists and significantly reduce the amount of mail you get.
What you need to do:
- Register to stop junk mail at https://dmachoice.thedma.org/. There is a $2 processing fee but it's good for 10 years!
Since registering I've noticed a huge decrease in the amount of unsolicited mail I get and I love that I can register variations of my name. So definitely take note of the different spellings or prefixes on the unwanted mail you're getting so you can add them to the list. - I put a spot on the worksheet for you to jot down variations of your name so you can go ahead and get rid of the paper and add the variation to your profile next time you're at your computer.
How To Set Up A System For Incoming Paper
If you want to avoid paper piles, you need to have a good system for incoming paper like mail, bills, and school papers so piles don't pop up.
Dealing with incoming mail
Ugh…incoming mail is the worst cause it never ends. Even when you get off of mailing lists, mail will still come and you need a simple system that you can stick with, which is why one of the first areas of focus in my online course, The Declutter Method, is the drop zone (you know that spot where everything seems to pile up?)
My first tip is to NOT get the mail everyday.
Getting the mail two to three times a week is usually fine. (If your mailbox doesn't lock, you may want to get it daily.) But only get the mail when you have 5-10 minutes to sort it and follow what I like to call the "touch it once rule."
The goal of the "touch it once rule" is just like it sounds… to only touch it once. Meaning you deal with your papers right away so you don't ever sort through them more than once - a big waste of time and effort.
When you bring the mail in, take it into your office or in the kitchen near the trash can. Quickly go through the mail and sort it into three categories…
- Trash: goes directly into the trashcan.
- Shred: anything with personal info on it.
- Tear off the address section of any junk mail - be sure to note any variations of your name that you can add to your DMA Choice profile and/or catalog info on your worksheet.
- File/ Follow Up: Anything that needs to be saved (very rare) or followed up on.
- Have a file folder on your desk or file tray for these items and set aside time once a week to get through them so this doesn't become its own paper pile - yes, I'm speaking from experience, we're all a work in progress.
Once you've sorted the three categories…
- take your shred pile straight to the shredder and put it through
- file anything that needs to be filed
- and place the follow up papers in a dedicated spot. - Of course as soon as they're dealt with shred or file those as well.
Tip: We keep this shredder plugged in right next to the trash can in our office to make this process really easy. I love that it can shred through credit cards and takes about 7 papers at a time.
Dealing with school papers
Depending on how old your kids are, you may be doing more of the decision making, but definitely include them in the process early so they learn.
When my kids walk in the house after school, they have a little routine that they follow.
First they empty their backpack. Their lunch box and any school papers come out of their backpack and their papers go in one spot for me to take a look at. Their lunch box gets emptied and put in another spot so it's ready for me in the morning. Then they hang their backpack in a designated spot.
Sometime that day I go through their papers, put anything that needs to go back to school in their backpacks, and toss the rest.
Very occasionally, maybe every 2 weeks, I'll keep a sample of their work. Usually a writing or math sample or art project that shows their progress. - I know it's easy to think everything is so cute and special, but I've trained myself to keep the best of the best. And yes they get a say in what we keep too. When they're especially proud of something they did at school, we keep it.
Each kid has a plastic file bin in their closet with file folders for each year through 12th grade already labeled.
They file their school work there and the rule is that it can never get too full. Every few years they go their past files and I challenge them to figure out their most special work and let go of the rest.
I like that this is training them to think about what they own and what they're keeping and gives them a say in what's important to them. - Plus it's really fun for them to look back at their work.
This simple system for organizing school work takes less than 15 minutes to start and will keep everything organized and under control for years!
How To Purge Your Paper Piles
Now that you have less papers coming into your home and you have a system for the papers that do show up, it's time to start organizing (and purging) your existing paper piles and file drawers.
The truth is, we avoid things that are overwhelming. It's really all about having a system for going through papers quickly and efficiently without causing a bigger mess than you started with.
I'm all about taking on what seem to be big decluttering tasks in short chunks of time that give you big results, which is what I teach inside my complete decluttering program, The Declutter Method, and this new system for sorting paper piles quickly will get you noticeable results fast.
Here's what you need to do:
- grab a box, and gather all the piles that have stacked up around your house into one place (the box.)
- set your timer for 20 minutes and quickly go through the box, sorting the papers into three categories: trash, shred, file.
- when your timer goes off, immediately take the trash out.
- spend 10 more minutes shredding what needs to be shredded.
Repeat this process in these short chunks of time until you've gone through everything in your box.
Then, spend 20 minutes at a time filing the papers you need to keep or going through your existing files in the same manner. - I bet you have papers in your file cabinet that you don't need anymore.
Finally, it's important to understand that we're all a work in progress. If you notice a paper pile start to form, make a promise to yourself that you'll set aside 20 minutes in the next 2 days to deal with it.
Bonus tip: Sorting papers doesn’t have to be so boring! Put on your favorite music, podcast, or audio book and pour yourself a cup of hot tea or a glass of wine. It’s my favorite trick to get through it 🙂
My Step-By-Step Plan To Declutter Your Home
In my online course, The Declutter Method, you'll learn the simple mindset and efficiency hacks, plus get a step-by-step decluttering plan that will have you decluttering entire spaces without making a bigger mess and burning out. Join the hundreds of students who have made huge progress and seen big results!