When it comes to clutter, paper can throw even the most organized person into a tailspin. All it takes is a few unopened bills and three days worth of kids art projects found stuffed in the bottom of a backpack and you’re in paper hell.
Now don’t get me wrong. I actually love paper. I love writing lists, I still have an actual paper diary and my notebook is my happy place. I’m totally against digitising everything. But some paper, I really don’t enjoy. Hello, bills.
Since we’ve downsized to a much smaller home (860 sq ft down from 1300 sq ft), I have to be diligent about keeping the clutter at bay in order to stay sane.
I’m good with the big things; clothes, knick-knacks, books, electronics etc. They are easy to reduce. But the paper seems to squeeze it’s little tiny paper self all throughout the house. It’s on top of the microwave, next to the toaster, there’s a notepad under the bed and the coffee table resembles the desktop of a crazy genius.
The fact is, some parts of our life still require paper. No matter how many emails I send to my city council requesting that they PLEASE!!!!!!!!!! switch to email they still send our quarterly rates (property taxes) bill in the post.
When it comes to paper clutter, what to keep and what to toss is the most common question we all have. Often, it’s a question that leads to us being overwhelmed and starting another pile of ‘papers we’ll deal with later’. Since eliminating the excess paper altogether seems like a utopian dream, I’ve had to settle for reducing it as much as possible.
Below are some of the things that are working for me in my never-ending quest to reduce paper clutter in my home.
12 Tips for Reducing Paper Clutter in Your Home
1. Put up a ‘No Junk Mail’ sign on your letterbox
I stuck a ‘No Junk Mail‘ sign to our letterbox after I realised that the circulars just sat on my coffee table for days. Eventually, I’d glance at them but they were definitely not adding value to my life. I don’t miss them at all and it reduced around 50% of the paper clutter in my house
2. Unsubscribe from mailers
Mailers – what? Direct mail is still a pretty big deal in the marketing world so get yourself off of those lists pronto.
3. Open your mail at the recycling bin
I like to open my mail whilst standing near the recycling bin. That way I can bin the envelope and any other unnecessary junk that seems to be added into every single bill I get these days.
4. Don’t let receipts enter your wallet or bag
Almost all of the receipts I find around the house are unnecessary. But I’m a big believer in tracking every purchase to keep my spending down, so I always take my receipts in the store. To ensure I track every purchase correctly, I now take a moment to enter the purchase into the spending tracker app on my phone, before I leave the store. I then bin the receipt at the store. I still need to keep some receipts for larger purchases, but eliminating grocery receipts has played a huge part in reducing paper clutter in our home.
5. Create a simple home filing system
One of the major reasons we have paper clutter in our home is because we had nowhere to store the important receipts, so they were left lying around. When I found Ginny’s post on making a Kitchen Command Centre I was all in. We’ve created 3 pockets, using Heavy-Duty Plastic Sleeves (I like the heavy-duty type pictured below for extra strength), which sit inside one of the kitchen cupboards. One for important home receipts, one for rental properties and one for pay slips. It’s simple, effective and completely out of sight.
6. Retain kids artwork with photos or reuse to wrap gifts for grandparents
My heart melts every time I get a new piece of artwork from preschool. Knowing that my darling boy was able to focus on one task for the amount of time it takes to paint a masterpiece for Mummy means every piece is precious. But we just don’t have the space to keep them all. The teachers at preschool said I’d have “wrapping paper for life”, suggesting I wrap gifts in the artwork. What a great idea! Now we wrap all of our gifts for our family in the kid’s artwork. It passes on the art to our loved ones, eliminates the need to purchase gift wrap and reduces paper clutter in my house – win, win, win! I’ve also lined the inside of my paper storage wallets (pictured above) and taken photographs of artwork to use in a montage or photo book. Check out this post on ways to display kids artwork.
7. Stop printing
Almost nothing needs to be printed these days. We don’t even print flight confirmations anymore, preferring to save a PDF on the iPad in case it’s necessary.
8. Use a note-taking app
It’s likely your phone or tablet has a note-taking device. I love Evernote, but if you want something free, Google Keep or Microsoft Onenote will sync across devices and help keep your random thoughts and lists in some sort of order. Well, maybe not order, but they’ll be in the one place and it won’t be on paper 🙂
9. Stick to one paper notebookYeah, I know I just said to get a note-taking app but if you’re anything like me you still need a notebook. I have a stack of old notebooks lying around. Most of them are practically new, with only a few pages used. To remedy that I’ve started to buy only high-quality, hardback notebooks. The hardcover ensures the notebook won’t get damaged so I’m more likely to carry it everywhere and use it more. I love Moleskine products, but I’ve had Paperblanks in the past and was impressed by their quality.
10. Eliminate takeaway menus
Resist the urge to grab a new menu next time you pick up your takeaway meal. Almost all menus are online now, and for those that aren’t, I simply take a picture of the menu with my smartphone.
11. Go digital where you can
So many organizations and businesses allow you to sign up for digital communications these days. I’ve signed up for online bank statements, electricity bills, council rates, credit card statements, loyalty rewards statements. If it has an online option, I’ve opted for it. And yet, I still get loads of paper in the mail. BUT, it’s less than half of what I used to get.
12. Use a wall chart or whiteboard for important reminders
I like the combined whiteboard/corkboard options – I use the corkboard for pinning important business cards, and the whiteboard is where the weekly meal plan or important reminders sit.
I know I’m no decluttering saint, but by using the above techniques and working hard to stop paper coming into my home in the first place, I’ve been able to reduce my paper clutter by at least half. I’m not sure I’ll ever be completely paper-free (nor would I want to) but it sure has helped me feel calmer in our small home, and with my crazy kids, more calm is always a good thing!
Tip: Decluttering or downsizing your home at the moment? Thinking about it for the future? Great. Check out my Facebook page, Little House Lovely Home, for loads of inspiration and tips on organizing, decluttering and living well in small spaces.
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