By Patrice Frantz
Even in this paperless society, some of us still become overwhelmed with paper, including mail, magazines, and bills. Don’t feel discouraged or inadequate if you can’t quite get a handle on it. Paper clutter can be reined in with a few tips and new habits.
A good first step is to sign up for online billing and statements. Most entities that would bill you or you would receive a statement from have easy-to-follow instructions to set up online payments. Doing this can eliminate nearly all the paper you would normally receive from them.
This may be the most difficult habit to develop and stick to, but it’ll be the greatest key to eliminating the piles of paper dominating your living space. If at all possible, make the initial contact you have with a paper item be your only contact by taking immediate action when you lay eyes on it. For instance, if you receive an invitation to an event such as a wedding or baby shower, place the date, time, and any other pertinent information on your calendar (hopefully on your computer — no paper!) and make any required RSVP. Then toss the invite.
If it’s a bill or invoice, get out the check book and pay it now if possible. Or fire up your computer and sign up for their online billing, an online bill-pay offered by your bank or a website where you can make a one-time payment electronically. Then shred it.
Apply this to all the paper that crosses your path during a day. Make sure you have a place for everything (that’s not your desktop or kitchen counter) and that the information on the paper makes it there immediately.
Magazines seem to have a way of piling up in a stealthy way. For many of us, magazines are tools for our relaxation, so it’s hard to be deliberate about reading them. But once you develop a method, it will actually increase your enjoyment and the usefulness of your periodicals. Designate a receptacle for your magazines and place it there immediately upon receipt. Later, sit down with your magazine with a pair of scissors, a folder, a pad of paper or notebook and a pen. Sounds like homework, right? But it will make life easier.
As you read through, you will come across ideas, products, or recipes you like or want to remember. Of course, our first thought is to KEEP the magazine for later. This is how the pile begins. And think about the anxiety that develops later as you try to remember what info was in which issue. Instead, grab your pen and paper and write down that new product that sounds perfect or that website with helpful tax tips.
And what about that mouthwatering salad recipe that would be perfect for your 4th of July picnic? Clip the recipe and stick it in the folder. One folder full of recipe clippings will take up a lot less space than issue after issue of your favorite home and garden magazine. Now that you’ve read your magazine cover to cover, out it goes. But that doesn’t mean the end of its useful life. After cutting out your personal info, you can donate to local nursing homes or other places that can make good use of them.
Coupons, Junk Mail, Kids’ Papers, Oh My!
Coupon organization is another whole subject. But for this effort to eliminate clutter, focus on the potential for use. The adage is if it’s not something you would usually use, it isn’t a savings. Toss what you will not use or what you only think you might use.
If you feel you have no control over the great amount of junk mail you receive, take heart. There are ways to cull the amount and you can find information on the internet that can guide you. This includes opt-out opportunities.
You’re not a bad parent if you don’t keep every paper project your child ever created. But if something just pulls at your heartstrings, find a way to preserve it or scan it to a folder on your computer. That is, of course, after you display it prominently for a bit for all to see.
Study up on the recommended time frame for retaining different documents. And be sure to shred when appropriate and recycle when possible.
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