Organising paper must be one of the biggest time wasters of my life.I cannot be the only one who seriously needs help decluttering their paper, with piles and drawers of it everywhere. This weekend I decided to start tackling it. I spent a good portion of time declutering the paper and there is STILL a massive job ahead of me if I am to ever get it under control. Please read on and see if you can help.
The Non Paper Way – Online
I am surprised at just how much paper I have as it has been greatly reduced by doing so much more online: Bills, banking and even keeping in touch with the school (trips, rewards, school dinners, grades, pay for trips/activities, detentions, letters and changing schools). This is great but with 4 children in 3 schools the different systems do not seem to like me just using one e-mail and one password for the duration of their education. Sorting out my e-mails is another big job I need to do: My husband has told me about folders (thank goodness I have that one nailed) – but I haven’t learnt how to use rules properly yet. Oh or sorted my online calendar and address book. Some bills are forcing me not to use paper – but then I just don’t remember to pay them as the reminders get lost in my e-mail pile. So sometimes I DO like paper.
DECLUTTERING PAPER HELP!
So I am a hoarder, there is no doubt about it. What I need is HELP. I shall tell you about my paper and why I need it and you could possibly talk me into some solutions that will reduce it.
Decluttering Unwanted Paper
First getting rid of unwanted paper is a quick and rewarding way of making the paper mountain smaller. Minimize the amount of unwanted paper coming into the house by telling people you do not want it. I am guilty of putting things straight from the letter box to the recycling bin (although I should contact the companies involved). Sometimes I run after the person who put it through my door telling them I do not want it. This includes takeaway leaflets, catalogues, sales flyers and so on. Yes I know I could put a sticker in my window but guess what – I do not want to. I do not like the look of them and I do not feel that legally people should be able to push what junk they like through my door without asking!!!!
Other things that end up unwanted are duplicate letters (such as the school newsletter that I receive a copy for each child), things that are no longer needed (out of date money off coupons, reminders, lists that will not come in useful again, spider diagrams for a published blog post, past appointments and so on).
Envelopes, Stamps & Shredding
The next thing I do is to decide whether I need to keep what has come through the door. I put envelopes in the recycling bin (unless I feel that there is a lot of paperwork that needs keeping together, or that they can be reused, such as the ones inside another envelope) and the windows to the bin. I used to work with a lady who recycled the stamps so they go in an envelope on my bookshelf until I find a good cause for them (I see my son’s school is currently recycling them). Really I ought to have them in the same area as the rest of the paper but that is upstairs and this is easier when sorting the post as it happens. I was mis-sold insurance to protect me when I was younger, until my dad pointed out how I was already covered, the upshot is though that I am still really nervous about identity theft (stupid when I have so much about me online!) that I shred everything with our address on! So there’s another pile and job to do. What is even funnier about this is that I then compost it!
The To Go Somewhere else Pile
Whether this is used stamps, magazines or some paperwork for nanny, it sits by the front door thinking that this will be serve as a great reminder that actually it needs to be in someone else’s house.
Decluttering Useful Paper
Question is how do you handle the sheer volume of useful paper? What do you do with it all? I have pin boards, a filing cabinet, small drawers, diaries, calendars, plastic wallets, white board and black board (to reduce it), magnets on the fridge, boxes, paper in the loft and well just piles of it!
The Important Paper Work
This comes under 3 categories really:
- Historical important paper work – this can go in a box in the loft.
- Important paperwork that needs (or could need) accessing within the next 12 months or so but not in a hurry. Usually ends up left in a great big box to file, but should be in the filing cabinet – which is too full as I haven’t moved it to historical (see 1)
- Paperwork needed to get to easily. This includes things I may be working on now, lists, magazines, catalogues, and the to-dos. These are all in different piles and locations. Possibly another filing cabinet would help. I do have a huge box for paperwork relating to my youngest son because of his special needs.
I have a box, actually it’s a small Pampers wipes box – which shows how old it is. When I get a voucher I pop it into the box. Most of the vouchers never see the light of day again but I know where they are if I need them. Vouchers I do tend to use are my Clubcard ones. But also everytime I go to a shop who kindly gives me some money off coupon then in it will go. Until I sort through the box and get rid of the out-of-date vouchers. I EVEN save the vouchers for things I do not like – just in case someone I know wants to buy it!!!! Crazy – ok I need to just keep vouchers I may need right.
Receipts. Warranties & Instructions
The receipts habit really comes from when I had more time on my hands. I would take every single receipt and take away what I had in the bank with what I had spent. In fairness money was very tight as a teen mother and I could not afford not to do this. It is amazing how many companies would charge you twice and I got a bit paranoid about having money taken off me when it wasn’t meant to. Of course they are also very handy if you need to take something back or to prove to insurance that you owned something. The secret is to go through them and decide which ones need keeping – and for how long. Of course I then have to split which were paid in cash or by card to shred the ones paid by card! Then whether they need to be kept close at hand or just put into the filing cabinet. This is where the warranties go and stay until I discover we haven’t even had that product for 3 years or that it is out of date. Instructions is a matter of whether they were needed in the first place, and if they would ever be needed again (such as whether it is complicated or likely to be passed/sold onto someone else).
Then there’s the business accounts for my tax return – those receipts go into a separate file so they stay together. I also have a diary where I write down everywhere I have been, what I have done, money coming in, expenses and what for, etc, etc. I put them in where the transaction happened, I put in when the work/training/event was done and I have a tally of incoming and outgoings per month at the back. I also keep in it anything that I need to print off and use – such as hotel and travel tickets. I put them in the diary at the date they need to be used, and after the event they are moved to the receipt folder.
The To-Do Pile
We all have one don’t we? There seems to always be so much paperwork to fill in and send off. As much as I would like to ignore this one it usually is pretty important (such as currently the pile contains The Sensory Seeker changing to an EHC (Education, Health & Care) Plan ready for when he moves to the juniors. To be honest we do not know what to put on it and so it is largely getting ignored. It also encompasses the children’s learning – we have The Sensory Seeker’s words to learn attached to a cupboard with blue tac for example.
I know I can probably set alarms etc on my phone but I am still quite old-fashioned that I worry that it won’t go off. Plus actually I like to know a few days in advanced that something will be happening then. I do have a calendar, an organiser and a diary as well as bits of paper pinned places. They are all for different reasons and I have a blackboard and a whiteboard to cut down the clutter (in fact we have 3 whiteboards my youngest 2 children pin all their well-done stickers to theirs (on a piece of paper)). On my blackboard are all the days and times of the children’s after school activities. They change clubs or times and it can be quite confusing when they are at similar times. The whiteboard in my kitchen has an important things to do list – and any paperwork to go with that list moves about from the kitchen to my bedroom.
The Fridge Freezer
The fridge freezer is one of my most important places for paperwork. It is where everyone in the house sees every day so if you want something remembered it is the best place for it. Our fridge is absolutely covered in magnets. These are a reminder of all our happy times together and we buy them whenever we can (daytrips, holidays etc). What this does mean is there is always a magnet to stick important bits of paperwork to it. This includes invites, appointments, letters, school term dates, contacts, school lunch menu, raffle tickets, competition details, reward schemes (you know like buy 10 chinese takeaways get £5 off your 11th order), and may for a short time display something we are proud of the children for – a piece of art, a certificate, etc.
When it comes off the fridge freezer it either is recycled, shredded or filed depending on what it is. I find the children’s work hard to sort through. It hardly ever gets looked at – but I am sure that will change next year as my oldest leaves for Uni right?
I have not been asked to write this post, I have included a link to My Zero Waste a it is a really useful resource and changed our lives by cutting back on our waste and saving us money.