Feb15

5 Tips to Cut the Paper Clutter

Ever feel like your house is haunted by a scary paper monster who is slowly consuming every room, taking the form of piles of magazines, junk mail, and bills that seem to cover every surface from the kitchen to the kid’s room? We definitely have!

Banishing that paper-clutter monster seems daunting. But with these five steps you’ll be able to cut the clutter, organize the chaos, and keep the paper pile-up at bay.

1. Pick a room. In a perfect world you’d be able to nix the pile-up in every room all at once. The truth is that trying to tackle the whole house in one fell swoop is only going to lead to endless frustration and a few premature wrinkles. Pick a room, deal with it, and then as Jay-Z says, “On to the next one.”

2. Survey the scene. It’s smart to know what sort of paper clutter you have to deal with before you actually start dealing with it. Bills are going to be dealt with in a much different way than an overflow of magazines, or even that ever-growing pile of junk mail. Survey the scene so you can make an appropriate plan of attack.

3. Be willing to let go. Some papers are easy to let go of (grocery store circulars), others are not (your child’s artwork), and some you’re just not so sure about (bills, taxes, those valuable Bed, Bath & Beyond 20% off coupons that come in the mail…). However, placing importance on every piece is only going to make friends and family think you’re vying for a spot on “Hoarders.” Keep these rules in mind to make the toss out a little less painless:

  • Magazines, coupons and circulars are only useful if they’re current. There will never be a moment when you need to know what the Kardashians were doing five months ago — so ditch those out-of-date issues of Us Weekly.
  • Holiday cards and newsletters hold sentimental value during the holidays, but there’s no need to keep them beyond New Year’s — they just take up space.
  • According to The New York Times you only need to keep taxes for six or seven years, and monthly statements (electric, cell phone, cable) for long enough to prove they’ve been paid for (unless you’re self-employed and need them for tax purposes).
  • Your kids are going to write a lot of papers and draw a lot of pictures. You don’t need to keep all of them. Hold on to that A+ book report they worked really hard for or their kindergarten self-portrait and ditch spelling tests, coloring book pictures and worksheets. Or scan some and store them in a digital file that will add zero mess to your home.

4. Organize the papers you save. And F.Y.I.: putting them into piles doesn’t count as an organization technique. Store photos in albums or photo boxes. Keep magazines in an actual magazine rack. Organize taxes and monthly statements in hanging file folders. And place kids’ keepsakes in accordion folders or storage boxes.

5. Be mindful of a new mess. You’ve nixed the clutter, now keep a new paper monster from rearing its ugly head. Do a weekly or even a monthly sweep. Switch to paperless billing and get off junk mail lists. Deal with the mail before you set it down on the table to be forgotten about (throw away junk, file bills, etc.) File away items you plan on keeping right after you receive them. By sticking to a diligent regime, you won’t be faced with a big purge ever again.

Megan Mostyn-Brown

Have a tip for keeping paper clutter at bay? Let us know about it in the space below.

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Megan Mostyn-Brown

is a writer for Bed Bath & Beyond. She's obsessed with mid-century modern furniture, wallpaper, and any item that will get her organized. Someday she'd like to own a claw foot tub and more than one pan.

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