Paper Part 1: The Pile Offensive

Paper Part 1: The Pile Offensive

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Ah, the ubiquitous piles of paper! Paper is one of the toughest clutter foes to conquer, since rustling reinforcements are delivered to your house daily: permission slips from your child’s school, junk mail, magazines, bills, receipts – ahh! I can hear the crunchy march of paper clutter as I type!

But fear not, dear blog readers. You can conquer paper clutter in your home. I’m devoting three separate posts to paper, since it is a rather large and… crinkly subject.

But first, I must give credit where it is due. Many of the tips and tricks I’m about to impart were gleaned from the incredible Lori Firsdon, owner of Forte Organizers. I’ve heard her speak twice, and she is fantastic! If you live in the Dayton area and need wisdom from a true organizing guru, give her a call. Girl knows what she’s doing.

Alright, let’s start. If you have piles of paper in your home, I’m going to tell you to do something scary: gather them all together. That’s right, assemble the enemy. Leave no corner unexplored! Summon every stray receipt, old catalog, and bill. The result will be a massive, towering, Mt. Fuji-like stack of paper. Don’t quiver at the size of your foe. (Clutter can smell fear.) Now that you know what you are up against, it is time to attack! (Put down the torch, though. As tempting as it may be to simply set fire to the whole thing, it’s much more productive to sort through it.) Here are some categories to help you:

SHRED – This should contain anything with an account or identifying number on it. Also, some people shred anything containing their name and address. I’m not that picky, but it’s up to you.

RECYCLE – The #1 thing that should always be recycled? Envelopes! You can reduce half your paper clutter by simply ditching the envelopes in which your paper is contained.

READ – Magazines, catalogs, etc.

FILE – This is tricky. Before filing, I ask myself, “Can this information be found elsewhere?” If the answer is no, I file. If the answer is yes, I will probably shred it. For example, my credit card statements can be found online; therefore, once I’ve scanned my paper bill to make sure it is legit, I shred it. (Note: I do keep at least one paper file with my credit card account number, so that I can access it if needed.) Again, use your own comfort level here. My mom is afraid of a computer apocalypse, so she keeps more paper than I do. (And if the computer apocalypse comes, Mom, I will bow down to your excellent foresight!)

ACTION – Anything that needs your attention: permission slips, checks to take to the bank, an error to reconcile with your insurance company, etc.

Begin, one piece of paper at a time. If your pile is very large, labeling boxes with the above categories will help. (Also, I’ve found, drinking a glass of wine or two and blasting some of your favorite tunes from your college days makes sorting paper more enjoyable. In fact, studies have shown that drinking alcohol while blasting tunes makes everything more enjoyable, even that slide show from your neighbor’s month-long vacation to Idaho.)

Take a break if you need a break. (Just make sure you come back.) Stretch it out over a few days if you need to. (Just make sure you come back.) The point is – get ‘er done!

Once your pile is sorted, give yourself a huge pat on the back! Then, put those shred and recycle piles where they belong. For the shred pile, check if your community offers a free shred day; that will save your little shredder from overheating. You will be left with three piles: READ, FILE, and ACTION.

READ: Okay, be honest here. How much of this will you actually read? If you subscribe to several magazines, but find that they stack up before you can read them all, you have too many magazines. I currently receive three magazines, but I’ve decided not to renew one for that exact reason. Here’s a pic of my magazine pile at home:

If you look closely you will see three magazines on this pile. When I receive a new issue of a magazine, I recycle the old one even if I haven’t read it. Why, you ask? Why not hold on to that old one until you have time to read it? Well, simply put: if I didn’t have time to read it when it arrived, what makes me think I will magically have time later? What’s more likely to happen is that my pile of unread magazines will grow… and grow… and grow… and you know where that leads.

FILE and ACTION: Your file-ables should be promptly filed and your action-ables should receive action as soon as possible. However, I realize you may not have time to do that at the exact moment you receive the paper. Here’s a good solution:

This is my mail sorter. It’s pretty basic. You can find these at any office supply store or superstores like Target. This one has two sections. The front is for ACTION, the back is for FILE, which I do every few weeks or whenever it gets full. What about those papers underneath? Those are my SHRED papers. (When I bought this sorter a few years ago, I didn’t think about having a shred section, so in retrospect, I wish this sorter had three sections. However, putting my shreddables underneath doesn’t really bother me, so I’m keeping it this way!) This is the only paper “pile” in my house.

Now, the real trick to the pile offensive is not letting the enemy regroup. Imagine you are the Allied Forces after WWII and your paper is Japan or Germany. Don’t let them reassemble forces and they can’t try to take over the world again. How do you do this, exactly? Ingrain “Shred, Recycle, Read, File, and Action” in your head and sort that paper immediately as it comes through your door.  I once heard someone say that disorganization is the lack of making a decision, and that is certainly true. If you decide where that paper goes as soon as it enters your home, you will never have paper piles in your house again. Freedom!

Now, go get yourself that glass of wine, blast the N’Sync (or Creedence Clearwater Revival, depending on when you went to college), and attack that paper!

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  • Colleen Quinlan Saxen
    Posted at 14:19h, 09 April

    Hi Rose- I think you need a smart phone for Paper Karma because you take photos with your phone through their app- so far they tell me they have stopped 40 companies from sending me junk mail… but it will take some months to see whether these really stopped. But yes, I have definitely heard of other sites that can help reduce junk mail with no need for a smart phone. I used one a long time ago but I can't recall the name. and you can even write to each company yourself, but even for a motivated person, that could take a whole lot of time! Have a good week!

  • Rosie
    Posted at 01:38h, 09 April

    Awesome! I've never heard of this. I don't have a smart phone, unfortunately… can anyone use it or is the phone a necessity? I know there are other sites you can go to that help you reduce junk mail, too. I want to try them out!

  • Colleen Quinlan Saxen
    Posted at 23:06h, 05 April

    I am currently using an app called Paper Karma to reduce unwanted mail. I will report back on whether it works. But anyone with a smart phone can photograph unwanted mail and submit it through this PK app. It is a positively enjoyable experience.

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