In this three-part blog series I’ve covered many of the tools I use to help me control the paper clutter. Setting up a system with the right tools will make the difference between being organized or having paper piles all over the place.
In Part 1, I talked about how I use folders and a mail organizer.
Then in Part 2, I talked about how I use file drawers and file boxes to contain the folders full of papers. In other words, I containerized them.
Now in Part 3, I’m going to show you the tools I use to actually reduce the amount of papers I save for those file folders.
You don’t have to have a printer/scanner to save digital copies but I find it much easier than taking a photo of a paper. A flatbed scanner works best because it allows you to scan different size papers. You can scan a business card, copy of a check, or multiple receipts.
When I pay a bill or charity donation using a check, I place the check and bill on the flatbed to scan them together. I save it in a folder on my computer. The check and bill gets mailed off. I sometimes keep my portion of the bill until I know the check has cleared but it’s not necessary. If there is any dispute about the payment or I need the info for tax purposes, not only do I have the copy of the bill digitally, I also have the check that was mailed.
The most important thing about saving papers digitally is to make sure you have a back-up for your computer. It can be an external hard drive, flash drive, or cloud service. After the paper is scanned and backed up, the physical paper can be recycled or shredded.
You don’t have to have a shredder but it really helps control the paper piles. Many office supply stores offer shredding services for a reasonable fee. If you have a lot of papers to shred, the price can add up quickly.
I now use a cross cut shredder. This is recommended for security reasons.
When I first started decluttering papers, I had a lot to go through. I also had my mother’s papers when we moved her out of her home to a nursing home. She had boxes of old checks and bank statements dating back to the 1980’s. That added up to a lot of shredding.
Fortunately, my city has a recycling day twice a year, once around Earth Day in April, and again in early November. They offer free shredding for up to 5 boxes (file box size) or paper grocery bags. All I had to do was drop it off on that day. Since we sold my mother’s house in August, the November date became my deadline to go through all her boxes of papers. I separated the envelopes and other papers that could be put in my curbside recycling bin. No sense in wasting space in my 5 box limit.
Almost every night for a couple of months I would go through the boxes. It was time consuming but I didn’t want to miss any important papers I needed to keep. It was such a good feeling when I dropped off the 5 boxes and bags. Since there were so many papers to go through I got rid of the ones I could quickly make a decision on. The papers that required more thoughtful decisions were put in a separate box to go through later.
If you only have a few papers, using a scissors to cut the personal information on the paper will work. But over time that can become a hassle. There are many shredders available now at reasonable prices.
I got my shredder a few years ago from Office Max. It’s their brand. Most shredders for the home are light to medium duty. You can get heavy duty ones but they can be expensive. The biggest thing you want to look for is the high security micro cut. Another advantage to those tiny pieces of paper is you don’t have to empty the container as often. I do like to keep things easy.
Trash Can and Recycling Can
These seem obvious, especially the trash can. Most people have one near their desk or area where they handle paperwork. But do you also have a recycling can nearby? Any basic paper can be recycled as long as it doesn’t have personal information on it. (See above). When I use to go through the mail or declutter a file folder I would put the papers for recycling on the floor next to me. The ones for shredding went on the floor on the other side of the desk. The shredder is nearby so it was easy to pick up those papers to shred them. The recycling papers had to be picked up and taken into the recycling bin in the kitchen. Not a big deal but an extra daily step.
When I got my new desk I decided to get a new small trash can. While looking online I came across this narrow one that came in a two pack. I figured it would fit under my desk while still being out of the way. This small little purchase has made it so much easier to put the recycle papers in one can and the trash in the other. No more papers for recycling on the floor. When it gets full I empty it into the curbside recycling bin in the garage. Or it gets empty on trash/recycling day.
It may not seem like a big deal but I love that it eliminates that extra daily step of picking up the recycling papers from the floor. The easier I can make decluttering papers for myself, the less likely I’ll let them pile up on the desk or floor. I don’t like to think of myself as lazy but I would rather do other things with my time.
There are lots of tools and supplies available to help with controlling the paper clutter. Each person’s home and office setup along with each person’s personality/habits will be unique. It’s best to do a little research before buying a lot of organizing products in the hope they will solve all your paper clutter issues. Only you can decide which tool will work best for you. Sometimes it does take some trial and error. Think carefully about it and start with only a few at a time.
Only the ones you actually use will help.
Since this concludes the blog series on “Tools to Control Paper Clutter” I’m putting the links for the first two parts below. I’m also putting the links for other articles that may help you with paper clutter. If you are on Facebook and haven’t joined the Paper Clutter Facebook group, I suggest you do it now. It’s a great place to discuss how to decluttering the paper clutter.
Facebook group: Cut Paper Clutter With Scissors
To a lighter load along the way.