This post forms part of my Decluttering 101 series.
Even when we get on top of our clutter, there can be something that reappears frequently to test our resolve. No matter how much clutter we remove from our homes or how vigilant we are at ensuring that we don’t bring any more in, this one thing pops up over and over again. It enters our home through our letterbox, inside the children’s school bags and comes home from work with us. Today we are going to look at how to declutter paper.
Paula says: I have the pleasure and the challenge of raising 3 grandsons. I have never been an organised person but now I have an accumulation of my husband and my belongings as well as theirs. Just the weekly papers coming home from school is overwhelming.
I can completely relate to this. I find that it’s not really the actual papers themselves that are the problem, it’s the need to read, process and act on the messages contained within the papers that can be the most overwhelming.
There is no simple fix for this problem but there are a number of things that can be done to make it much simpler to manage.
I recommend that Paula begin a file for each of the grandchildren. Any notes pertaining only to one child go into their personal folder. Notes relating to all three can live in the oldest child’s file for convenience.
It is really important to read school notes as soon as possible after they come home. This is due to a couple of factors.
1. The note might have been written days ago and only just made it to you. Children are masters of forgetting to pass on paperwork. There’s nothing worse than turning up to school in the morning to discover that it’s dress up day, you didn’t know anything about it and your child is the only one not in costume. Worse is that the class is going on an excursion, you haven’t paid and your child cannot attend.
2. If you put it aside to read at another time when you are less busy, you might never come back to it. You might misplace it or you might forget to read it altogether.
3. The longer we put off managing an item, the more chance we have of ending up with more to deal with. A small number of papers today can become a stack next week and make reading and processing them seem even more overwhelming.
Even if you simply have time to skim the note the day it comes in, it’s a worthwhile habit to develop in order to prevent further issues down the track.
When you are reading paperwork, it is important to have a system in place to process the information so that the important things are remembered or actioned. Make a note of the key dates, excursions, dress ups, money due, etc. Record this information on the calendar immediately. This means that if you do accidentally misplace the note, you have the most important information and can at least ask for a new one if it is required.
Declutter paper with the effective use of your Calendar
The calendar is probably your most important tool when it comes to organising your papers. Use it to record all of the key upcoming dates and essential information from the paperwork. In many cases this will allow you to get rid of the actual papers themselves.
This is particularly useful when a bill arrives in the mail. I do not like to pay bills on the day the notice arrives. I hold onto the paperwork until just before the due date. Far better for the money to be in my account than the utility provider’s.
This means that when bill payment time comes, I need to:
1) Remember to pay the bill
2) Be able to find the payment details
Step one is resolved by making a notation on my calendar or in my diary a couple of days before the payment is due. Whatever you choose, make sure it is a system you refer to regularly so you will be sure to see your note. I like to put an alert into the calendar on my phone and then it beeps at me on the day payment is due.
Step two is resolved by having a central location for all bills. That might be a folder in the top drawer, a file in the pantry or a cork board in the spare room. Again, it doesn’t really matter so long as it is consistent and you make a point of using it each time a bill arrives and check it regularly.
The same system is used for all of the school reminders, birthday party invitations and family functions. Each one is recorded on my calendar and an alert set in my phone to remind me to take the necessary action.
The most important thing is to create a system that works for you. Try out one of these ideas. Give it a go for a little while and see if it works for you. If it doesn’t, try something else. Persevere and you will find a system that allows you to manage the paper and not have it overwhelm you.
Check out the FREE decluttering resources in the SOS decluttering system below.
S.O.S Decluttering Technique Workbook
Want to get a quick start on your decluttering project?
Download your quick start workbook today!