Ask Rose: Gift and Paper Clutter Woes, Solved!

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One thing I love about my job is the wonderful insight I get from clients and those who follow my social media. One of my blog readers recently suggested I write a series that answers reader questions about organizing. How did this reader know that being an advice columnist would be one of my dream jobs? Or that–every single time I pick up a magazine–I scan to see if there is an advice column? She must have telepathy, because I just had to pursue this idea! I solicited questions this past week, and I’m happy to present the first installment of my “Ask Rose” blog feature today. Enjoy!

Dear Rose,

When my daughter was born, my grandmother bought her a stuffed Christmas bear with the year embroidered on it. She continued to buy my daughter a similar bear every year for the next few years. We’ve kept these bears in a bag in the basement, and our daughter doesn’t know they exist. She’s 10 now, and I’d like to discard the bears, but I’m torn about getting rid of them without giving her a say. She does have another bear from the same grandmother that lives on her bed faithfully. I am inclined to feel that this is all she needs and that she won’t miss the others. Please help!

Signed, Overstuffed

Dear Stuffed,

Gifts are the trickiest items to declutter, so you are right to feel a pause with this bag ‘o bears! My #1 rule with gifts is: Say “thank you.”  At that point, your obligation to the gift–and the giver–is over. It is now yours to decide upon. Assuming that you thanked your grandmother when she gave you the bears, your obligations are fulfilled. Also, since these bears were given to your daughter before she was old enough make decisions about keeping them, you don’t need to ask her opinion. Gifts given to babies are essentially gifts given to parents. And since your daughter has a treasured bear from this grandmother, I’d say that both grandma and your daughter are happy with the bear situation. You are the only one feeling guilty, so free yourself of those negative feelings and allow those bears to go to someone who needs them. Police departments regularly solicit donations of stuffed animals to give to kids they encounter in trauma situations. What a great way to put those bears to positive use!

Dear Rose,

How do you control the papers you get on a daily basis: Kids’ school papers, artwork, mail, my husband’s emptied pockets? I have some places to put them, but then I get behind. I make piles, but that is no help.

From, Drowning in Paper

Dear Drowning,

Paper is a beast! First, try to avoid bringing paper home: politely refuse point-of-sale coupons, leave church bulletins in the pew, toss theater programs in the lobby recycling on your way out, etc. This will greatly reduce the amount of paper you have to deal with. For the paper that must come home, corral it as soon as it gets in the door: have two inboxes (one for you and another for your husband) near to door to catch all that paper before it proliferates on your counters. Then, regularly, process your inbox to zero using the RAFT method:

Read: (magazines, catalogues, etc.) Put all of these items in a “To Read” bin or basket near your couch or bedside. Keep this current. When you get the next magazine issue, let last month’s go.

Action (bills to pay, permission slips, etc.) Put all paper that requires you to do something into an “Action Basket” somewhere conspicuous, like a kitchen counter. Work from this basket to get ‘yo stuff done.

File (very special kids’ artwork, tax info, insurance statements, etc.) Put all that paper you want to save or reference into a filing system. The trick here: keep your files nearby! Filing fails when it is tucked away in an office on the second floor. If a filing cabinet in your kitchen isn’t your style, purchase a mobile filing cart that can be tucked away when not in use.

Trash (or recycle or shred) I think you’ve got this one covered.

Follow the inbox + RAFT system, and watch all that excess paper disappear!

Do you have a question you’d like answered on an upcoming “Ask Rose” post? Email me at [email protected] or message me through my Facebook page

Rose Lounsbury is one of Dayton, Ohio’s top professional organizers and a sought-after public speaker. After blogging about her own journey toward a minimalist lifestyle, Rose was inspired to start Less LLC, a minimalist-minded professional organizing company. Rose is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers and has been featured on Good Day Columbus. If you’d like Rose’s help with an organizing project at your home or office, you can contact her at [email protected] or visit her online at OrganizeWithLess.com.

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