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How to Eliminate 99% of the Paper Piles in Your Home

Sick of the clutter? This is a MUST-read article on how to eliminate almost all of the paper piles in your home! And it's SO simple!!

Recently, one of my friends who comes over to our house frequently commented about how she can’t figure out how we don’t have pile of paper anywhere. She wanted to know how on earth I accomplish that and what systems I have in place to maintain that.

At first, I told her I wasn’t sure; I just didn’t like piles so we didn’t have them. But being the analytical person I am, I spent some time thinking about it over the next few days.

Are there systems I have that I just don’t realize I have? Are there things I do on a regular basis to tame the pile monster?

I thought about it for quite awhile and slowly realized that I DO have systems. However, they have been in place for so long that I do them without thinking about them. I guess those are the best kind of systems, aren’t they? The ones that just happen without you thinking about them.

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So, here are my systems and how you, too, can eliminate 99% of your paper clutter:

1) Find Out Where the Paper Is Coming From

Start paying attention to where the paper piles are coming from. Are they school papers your kids are bringing home from school? Is it bills? Is it mail? Is it newspapers?

Figure out the source of your problem and see if there’s anything you can do to cut down on some of the inflow. For instance, can you automate your bills with online bill pay? Could you throw junk mail out in the outside dumpster before you even walk in the house? Could you cancel a subscription to the newspaper if it’s just piling up and not really being read?

2) Stop Hanging Onto Anything You Don’t Absolutely Need

Very few papers really need to be saved. Ask yourself: “If all my paper piles were all burned up in a fire tomorrow, what would I desperately wish I had saved?”

Only save those really meaningful papers and get rid of the rest. There’s no sense in letting things that don’t matter to you take up residence in your home and personal space!

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3) Implement the “Touch It Once” Policy

If you’ll stop to really pay attention, I bet you spend time each week moving paper piles. And you probably let them bog you down, too.

Here’s the truth: I rarely touch a paper that comes into our house more than once. For real.

I’ve determined that I just don’t want to spend hours of my life moving a pile from one place to another place, so instead, I institute the “Touch It Once” policy for all papers that come into our house. In almost 99% of the cases, this completely eliminates paper piles.

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Here’s how it works for me: When a piece of paper comes into our house, be it bills, kid’s papers from their activities, a magazine, an invitation, there are one of four things that will happen to it when I have it in my hand:

I either Trash It, Scan It (and then trash it), Display It, or File It.

Pretty much every single paper can fall under one of these categories. And doing one of these four things guarantees that it doesn’t become the start of a pile.

Practical “Touch It Once” Examples:

Some examples of specific kinds of papers and how I deal with them:

Ads: These are trashed immediately — as soon as I go through the mail. You can pretty much always find all ads online. I may glance through them and might jot a note on my Google Calendar about a sale or a reminder of something in them and then I trash them immediately (or, stick it in the recycling bin if you recycle).

Kid’s Artwork: I either display artwork on the fridge (I rotate these display regularly. When I take one down to rotate in another, I take a picture if it’s something I want to remember and then toss it), mail it to grandparents or our Compassion children, or take pictures of it on my phone so I have a record of it and toss it. If it was something really special — such as a very touching note or beautiful picture, I’ll store it in our Keepsakes & Mementos tub.

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Bills: Pay immediately and then scan and shred. If possible, switch to online bill pay so that you don’t even have to worry about remembering to pay bills.

Invitations/Notices/FYIs: Immediately make a note on your calendar of all the details you need to remember — times, due dates, details, etc. If you want to save the invitation for some reason, pin it to a board that’s designated for this purpose or display it on the fridge. Be sure to regularly cull these things on display, though. More than a few on display and you’ve sort of created a “Display Pile”!

I make notes in Google calendar of all events and details and then will put a reminder a few days before if I need to buy a gift, write a card, make a dessert, etc.

How to Eliminate 99% of the Paper Piles in Your Home

Cards/Letters: Want to know the truth? I don’t keep very many cards and letters from people. This might sound incredibly unsentimental of me, but the reality is that I’d have boxes and boxes of cards with signatures if I kept all the cards I’ve received in my life. So my rule of thumb with cards and letters is to ask myself, “Will I wish I had this in 25 years from now?”

If the answer is, “Yes!” than I’ll put it in our Keepsakes & Mementos tub. If not, I just toss it. You could also scan cards and letters to have an electronic record of them.

I dare you to try the Touch It Once System for two weeks just to see if it makes a difference. If you hate it, you can always go back to piling. But you might find, as my husband did, that it saves so much time and effort and keeps your office, countertops, tabletops and more much, much cleaner!

What are YOUR best solutions for dealing with paper clutter? I’d love to hear!

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221 Comments

  • WilliamB says:

    My method boils down to “Keep at it constantly.” I recycle the junk immediately, have very few subscriptions, and so on. But there are a few things that just defeat any (of my) attempts to deal with them quickly. The easiest to describe are the health insurance paperwork. If I don’t watch the insurer like a hawk I lose money, but the process is time-consuming and aggravating and the piles build up.

    So, like Crystal and her laundry piles, I have come to realize that my house will always have small paper piles.

    • Sarah says:

      I also have small piles. I’ve gotten a lot better at recycling the junk before it even comes in the house. But, like you, I have an ongoing pile of medical bills so I can make sure it’s been billed correctly before I pay it. I also keep a small pile of coupons that I don’t want to forget about. If I put them right in my wallet, I don’t use them.

      • nicole says:

        I found for coupons, like store ones, ice cream, coffee shops, etc. I bought a cheep soft sided little photo album for a $1 and keep it in my purse.
        Also, with medical I keep it all in a 3 ring binder, my son is disabled so it’s always a paperwork nightmare, but it’s somewhat tidy if I keep it in a binder.

    • Linda Budzik says:

      My husband has been in the hospital 32 days so far this calendar year. I got overwjphelmed by the bills quickly. The first thing I did was three-hole punch the Explanations of benefits and file the oldest on the bottom. Since he is on Medicare and has a secondary policy, I keep each filed be find an appropriate tab in the binder. When a bill comes in, I check the Nedicare EOB and the secondary insurance EOB to make sure they were processed. Those bills tell you the maximum amount you might be billed. As long as the amount I’m billed matches that amount or is under it, I pay it online or by phone and file it. We have four medical files each year…His Medical, Her Medical, Dental, and Vusion. There isn’t enough in the last two categories to need to split things. The system works for me. If the bill doesn’t match the estimate, I call the company that is billing me for clarification. It’s always been a mistake on their end…something they either neglected to submit to one of the insurance companies properly or something that wasn’t processed correctly.

    • Patti Sutton says:

      We also have medical bills/papers. After scrambing to get receipts in order for this years taxes i vowed to streamline the process. I’m scanning the EoB’s in separate files by date of service, including hospital bills and receipts so when I have to make calls I can bring all the pertinent doc’s up on my despot screen. Feels good to finally be using the computer for more than social media and games

  • Shelli Mader says:

    I want to know about the picture of the life lessons book – it looks like your daughter wrote it? So sweet!

  • Laura says:

    Thank you for this post! I admit I am a “pile person.” I will implement the “touch it once” idea. I heard that before from the president of a ministry I used to work for. It would be wise to emulate people to seem to get so much done with the same 24 hours that I have.

  • Celia says:

    Martha Stewart Magazine has excellent instructions on turning cards into ornaments. We did some with Christmas cards but you could do birthday etc, it’s a nice way to keep something and enjoy it, I used signatures as well as the pictures so that it was more personal.

  • Monica says:

    Love your article! You’ve been inspired to also start the “touch it once” before piling it on my kitchen counter or office desk. By the way, your kitchen is beautiful. Very simple, love it!

  • Jenn says:

    These are great ideas! What is your scanning system/method?

  • Stephanie says:

    The “touch it once” policy works well for us except in the area of bills. At least for now, we don’t have the cash flow to pay every bill the day it comes in the mail. That might not even be desireable, for example with a larger bill like property taxes that aren’t due for several months. Also, we have estimated quarterly income taxes every few months. So we have a “bill basket” for the bills and I go through it and pay the bills necessary on a weekly basis. It seems very manageable.

    • Yes, that’s definitely very manageable and sounds like a great system! And depending upon your bills, you are so right that it might be better to just pay them once a week or once a month. What’s most important is that you have a system for getting them paid on time! 🙂

  • Connie says:

    Thanks for all the organizing ideas over the years. I am not someone who keeps much of anything unless I find it useful, beautiful or something I could not replace so this post is very much the way I like to keep the clutter down. I did this last year breakdown and add a stackable paper organizer with a slot for each person in the family to keep magazines, letters, cards, etc. for things I can’t exactly toss until they’ve been fully appreciated. Thanks for all the encouragement and ideas – I love that reading your blog keeps me thinking and reevaluating how I do things and if they really are working for my family.

  • Dawn says:

    To avoid losing details or not being able to find the location of an event on the day of, I snap a photo of the invite from my phone. That way, I can trash te invite and have all the info I need at my fingertips. 🙂

    • Such a GREAT idea! I love this — thanks for sharing!

    • Elisse F says:

      I do that too but then I end up with so many pictures that it takes me forever to find it 😉 I’m hopeless!!

      • Mary C says:

        I was the same way Elisse until I realized my phone had the option to create albums. Now I make sure after I take pictures of invites to put them in the album labeled “Invites”. That way I can delete it after the event is over. 🙂

  • Adrienne says:

    What scanner do you use to scan your bills? That’s a wonderful idea–I’ve never thought to do that!

    • Pam says:

      I scan using the Scannable app, then put it into the appropriate folder in Evernote. From Scannable you can email, send as text, print, Rycca.

  • Alli Swords says:

    A wise, older Mom shared this tip with me. She has a file folder system (or hanging file folders). There is one hanging folder for each month. If there is a wedding invitation, medical forms to be handed in at the appointment, sports/school information she puts it in the file folder that coordinates with that month. She also buys all birthday cards for the year and puts them in the file folder that coordinates with that person’s birthday month. This system works for me as I put the file folders in one of my desk drawers…out of sight, but easily accessible. No piles at my house either!

  • Donna says:

    I would love to get rid of paper piles. Can’t wait to read this.

  • Denise says:

    I am a piler, but I *do* have a system. I manage not only our household bills but also my fil’s. I have his things on the left side of my desk (I have a rolltop with shelves on either side) and ours on the right. I file away the bills and statements into notebooks and pendaflex folders for my fil, and I file ours in a filing cabinet I have set up with hanging folders and labels. I try to clean out and trash things that are old once a year. I just don’t have up-to-date technology to be able to tackle keeping things electronically. Besides that, I don’t trust technology 100% – I just know when there’s something I need badly, I’ll not be able to retrieve it for whatever reason!

  • Mel H. says:

    Handling papers once is a big key, and yet oh so hard!

  • Emily says:

    Can’t wait to try the touch it once system! I have paper pile burn out.

  • Shannon says:

    i have a big problem with papers piling up. I’m going to try this!

  • Stephanie B says:

    I will be working on getting rid of my piles this weekend!

  • Ursula Stinnett says:

    When my children were little and came home with all those cute papers I started putting some of them on the inside of my kitchen & utility room cabinet doors. They were out of sight, but every time I opened a cabinet I had a special picture to look at!

    • Janice says:

      Good idea! Also, a mom I know places art work on the back wall of the garage. Then she sees it every time she pulls in and out.

  • Zoe says:

    would you consider doing one of your accountability steps/series with this?

    I always enjoy your “group effort” things. but I know that’s usually with something you are trying to improve on and it sounds like you have the paper thing down! 🙂

    paper stuff is my biggest struggle and it is paralyzing. truly. I’m not organized and I try so hard to be.

    I really enjoy your posts, especially the more real life ones lately.

    thank you!

  • Cristie says:

    Love these ideas, especially taking pics of the kiddos’ artwork. My kids are 4 and 18 months and I already have a large box of artwork. Right now, I have two piles in my house. My biggest problem is I don’t know what to do with receipts. I try to keep them should I need to return something but they have become a large pile and are taking over my desk. Any suggestions?

    • Sara C. says:

      I have a small file folder on my desk for all my receipts that is separated into different shopping categories (bank, dining, groceries, household, big box stores, costco, etc). Obviously I don’t need to save receipts for all these categories but I do. I file them away and then it’s easy for me to find them if I need to return anything as they are organized. Then once a year I go through them and toss most of them and save any that I might want for reference later or, if Costco with a large purchase or home improvement, I save those in an envelope in my larger filing cabinet. This gets the receipt pile out of my way but still accessible if I need any.

    • Janice says:

      I had an envelope for each month. Keep the current month out and the rest in a box. Tuck receipts in the current envelope, and rotate through the year, cleaning out last years as you go.

  • Kristina Fox says:

    This giveaway idea is awesome and so are the pins! I am having trouble figuring out how to do some of the entries! I think it has to do with logging in through my facebook account, but using a different email! Can’t wait to see what other info. everyone posts 😉

  • erica says:

    I do pretty good at recycling junk mail quickly, its the things that should get thrown away in a week’s time (like a party invite) that just keeps piling up! I once saw a ‘yearly’ filing system-everything just gets stacked into a box chronologically, then if you need to find something you sort through stuff by date. No more umpteenfiles of : mortgage, insurance, this credit card, that credit card, car payment, etc. just a box of everything.

    • Jean says:

      I’ve been thinking of just filing by date. I’m very good about paying bills, but not filing them away by category – so they just get stacked. But, because they are stacked in the order I paid them, I can easily find an old bill if needed. I was thinking just a chronological file would work for me. Thanks for the info!

      • KT says:

        I, too, ended up with stacks after paying bills because I had files for every single category. But I would get behind in filing. Then I read a solution someone else shared and it has worked for me ever since. Instead of a file for every category, make 12 files, one for each month. I keep the folder for the current month in my desk, while the other 11 are in the file cabinet. So instead of a stack of paid bills on my desk, there is a “stack” hidden away inside a folder in my desk. At the beginning of the following month, that folder goes to the file cabinet when I retrieve the folder for the new month. Right now I have April in my desk. That will stay in the file cabinet until next year. When April comes around again, I will shred the old papers and start anew.

        • KT says:

          I forgot to say that I also use these files to store invitations received for upcoming events – weddings, showers, parties, etc. I store these in the front of the appropriate folder, after the info has been added to my calendar.

  • Mary says:

    We started culling through and eliminating our stacks of paper and it was a life-altering and sanity-saving endeavor!
    I love the idea of scanning and then shredding bills after they’re paid. Another comment mentioned not having the funds to pay bills right when they’re due; we have ebb and flow funds so we write the check and put it in the envelope, then write the date it’s to be mailed on the back of the envelope so it won’t get mailed too soon. Another method is to do online billpay through your bank and set up the date for it to post, when you can predictably have funds.

  • Kathryne says:

    Love these ideas! Will implement them for sure!

  • Michele says:

    Love this article! My problem is all the receipts that pile up! I keep them in case I need to verify or dispute a charge (we responsibly use a credit card for most things in order to earn the cash-back rewards, and I have had instances before where we needed to provide receipts showing what we should have been charged). How do you handle receipts, Crystal?

    • ash says:

      We just snap pictures of reciepts. Then when I have time, I reference the digital image when I update my account on mint.com. Now I don’t have stacks of paper reciepts on my desk anymore. You can still return merchandise with just the digital image of the reciept too, if you ever need to.

    • Amber says:

      We have a binder we store bills in, when you open the binder there are two manilla folders one for my husbands receipts and one for mine. We cut the front flap of the folder across the middle, and stapled around the edges to form two pockets, one at the top and one at the bottom. Top pocket is for odd month receipts, bottom is even month receipts. After the month is over, I staple all receipts together and then store them in the appropriate pocket. Each pocket will store two months worth then after that we shred the receipts. This way we hold onto the receipts for four months in case we need them, and then we shred them.

    • Anne R says:

      We also use a credit card and pay it off each month. I save the receipts in a hanging file folder. I keep the current month’s charges clipped together. When I receive the bill email notification I download the bill to my computer. I match the receipts to the charges on the bill. Then I shred most of the receipts. I only keep receipts for items that are under warranty or that could conceivably be returned in the near future. Receipts for items under warranty are attached to any other paperwork pertaining to that purchase and are filed in a Warranties and Instructions folder. Each month I review the loose receipts in the folder (that I kept from previous months) to determine if I still need them. If not, I shred them. This system has worked for me for many years.

      • Michele says:

        You are so organized! Now if I can just get my husband to stop dropping his receipts on the kitchen counter… 🙂

  • Serena Yates says:

    I use Evernote to file everything. With Evernote, there are two options: One is to file things online, so that they can be accessed from any computer from anywhere (think appliance manuals), the other is to store the file on an external drive that can only be accessed locally (Receipts, medical EOB’s, Bills). I scan everything. I love being paperless.

  • Nicole says:

    I would love to read the e-book My buttered life and Trust without borders. I am excited about what I could learn.

  • Tracy says:

    I love the one touch idea. I move my paper piles around my kitchen for days before I finally sit down to deal with it over the weekend. Mostly statements that just need to be filed. I’d save so much time if I just took the extra minute to file them right away.

    By the way, I watched the free Dressing Your Truth course you recommended awhile ago. This post just screams Type 4 😉

  • shannon says:

    I am doing fairly well with our piles. One thing that I have done over the years with greeting cards (especially the ones that come with baby gifts), is to tear off the front, assuming the inside of the card was not written on the left side. Then I will secure the front of the card on the gift with ribbon and then write on the back side. No envelope needed and the card makes a great ‘gift tag’

  • Melanie says:

    I’ve heard of the “one touch ” method as OHIO “Only Handle It Once ” I love it because I live in Ohio and i can always remember that. I try to do it with junk mail And hubby pays bills online so that isn’t an issue.

  • Jen says:

    After my oldest moved out, I moved my tiny desk and file cabinet into her old room along with all my craft stuff and sewing machine. The paper pile goes in there instead of where it was in the living room, so I can’t see it all the time (or company either). I do go through it but not often enough. Got to make space on my phone for more pics, I like that method. Can’t lose papers if they are in my camera roll.

  • kariane says:

    This idea sounds fantastic! I’m going to give it a try.

    I’ve been working through various ways to declutter and simplify our lives (which I’m writing about every week in a Simplify Saturday series), and this sounds like a great next step.

  • I’m so excited that you have a mementos tub too! I have 2, one for our married/family life and one I’ve had through middle school and high school. It’s so awesome to be able to rifle through and see all the things that were important to me back then. I have journals, and photos, cherished books, letters and cards and even a few trinkets that have really awesome memories. It’s one of the things I’m most grateful for that I hung on to it for all of those years.

  • Rebecca says:

    What about receipts? Those seem to pile up too.

  • Carol says:

    Thank you for saying you don’t keep cards and letters!!!! My mother died a year and a half ago and she had a box of cards that went back years. She had Mother’s day and birthday cards that we kids have all sent her since we’ve moved out but she also had cards from friends and neighbors from when my father died — in 1971!!!!! Was it interesting looking through them? Yes. Would I have missed them if they weren’t there? No! It was enjoyable going through them but it also took about 2 hours of my life. A few of them had notes which were very nice to read but most were just signed. Please don’t save all this stuff! Someday your kids will have to go through all of it!

  • Jennifer says:

    ugh. Paper is my “thing.” I am getting better, but I need to to everything you listed here. Family of 9, homeschooling…the amount of paper we have is astounding – and it multiplies! Thank you for sharing. I need to get back on top of it, and then keep up on it. Sigh. Baby steps!

  • anna says:

    We have a rectangular basket about 6″ high. If we can’t deal with the paper right away, I toss it in the basket. That way the papers are at least off the counter. I do have a very hard time remembering to get things done if the paper isn’t in front of me to remind me, so much to my husband’s dismay, there are still papers on the country, but the main stack is hidden in the basket. ;). My friend calls the touch once idea OHIO – Only Handle It Once.

  • Lana says:

    Be careful about pitching junk mail that has your personal information in or on it. Our children are all grown and gone from home but we get credit card offers for them quite often. We are careful to shred those items and others that we would not want to fall into the wrong hands.

  • Amber says:

    One thing that has helped us, is we have two 2 inch binders, one for home bills and one for medical. When bills come in I put them in a basket then after we pay bills we hole punch the paper and put them away in the appropriate binder. For us the binder gets full after about three years and we do a shredding party, which my kids love to help with. With my kids art work, I have a binder for each of them filled with clear protective sheets and if it is something I want to keep I put it in the clear protective sheet in the appropriate binder. All these binders fit in a cupboard in our desk so it is out of sight. This system works for us since we don’t have smartphones to keep everything organized.

  • Claudia M says:

    I have been struggling with this few a while now. I have this terrible habit of saving and keeping everything, just junk and papers like old bills that I will never need again like grocery receipts from 5 years ago? Who needs that? We are expecting our first baby in Sept and we live in a small 1 bedroom condo so we could really use the extra space, recently I’ve been thinking how can I make space for this little guy. My first thought- get rid of all those papers. Over the next few weeks I will try to slowly chip away at them and try my hardest to apply what you’ve said here. Thank you!!

  • Marilyn says:

    I have a 24×36 frame with cork board and magnetic chalk board that is my communication center. All papers get Hung here until no longer needed and notes get written on the chalk board sections. ( I have 2 sections of chalkboard). Notes to my self and my family get written there.

  • Kellye says:

    I was taught the “touch it once” using the acronym – OHIO – only handle it once. Thanks again for reminders that help us focus our time wisely. Grace and peace!

  • Brittany says:

    One thing that really helps to cut down on paper clutter is a free app called PaperKarma that let’s you snap pics of your unwanted/junk mail, and they do the work of contacting each company and unsubscribing you from their mailing list. Only takes a minute (or less) each time you submit a new piece of mail, and then you don’t have to deal with the hassle of contacting each individual company or dealing with all that unwanted mail any longer!

  • Stephanie says:

    What method are you using for kids artwork? What does your Keepsakes & Mementos tub look like? Thanks for the tips!

  • MS Barb says:

    I keep the medical bills & EOB (explanation of Benefits) in a bright RED 3 ring notebook from Staples–and yes, you have to watch all medical bills like a hawk! I was hospitalized for 4½ days August 2014–rec’d a bill fr a doctor in Jan 2015-1st time I had seen a bill fr him-& it said it was past due! (can’t pay something if you don’t know it exists)
    Also, my local county school & sheltered workshop for DD (developmentally disabled) individuals, will accept all donated used cards for craft & educational purposes!

  • Anna Brown says:

    we got rid of paper bills and handle everything online. We have no issue with paper clutter here.

  • I love the touch it once system! My issue is, mail comes in the door and the office and shredder are upstairs and there’s just always so much to carry upstairs;0) Lame excuse, I know. I definitely need to work on this area.

  • Natalie says:

    This is a great article!! Thanks for sharing your tips. I am a piler and it is good to read this. Would you mind sharing where you got your pretty notebook?

  • Annie says:

    When I fail at the “one touch” system, my saving grace is often the “27 fling boogie” recommended by FlyLady (http://www.flylady.net/d/getting-started/flying-lessons/decluttering-15-minutes/). I just discovered she has invented the “Super fling boogie”–need to go back and read that, and learn some more. I have found that if I toss out 27 things in a week, it looks like I’ve been keeping up all along. Nice! (I can even get help from dh when I’m making it fun like this.)

  • Doris Wesley says:

    Enjoyed reading these posts. I can see I have lots to do to get on board with OHIO!
    Thank you.

  • Tina says:

    To cut down on paper clutter, I try not to let my husband touch the mail. He doesn’t bother opening much so he just shoves it somewhere. I recently opened up my storage ottoman and there was just MONTHS of junk mail just shoved in there. New rule: the mail is mine. Done and done! Lol

    • Sally says:

      Oh I so agree! The mail is mine! Once I took over the mail, things got better.

    • jan says:

      It must be a man thing! I have the same problem! Lol!

    • aim says:

      OK maybe this is in another post but tell me more about this Keepsakes and Momentos tub! That would be everything my kids bring home! Would love to know more about how you organize yours!

      • Judith says:

        One of my friends taught me a great trick for precious kid art. Each month, each child and I pick the best of the month. We do it every month. If you have more than one child, you do it with each child.:) than you save each month’s winner. At the end of the year each child picks which one they think is the best of the year. Then you will have one picture per year of school. So…12 pieces of paper per child. I like the idea of scanning, for me it’s important to have original for scrapbooks..

    • Donna says:

      My husband does the same thing. Just shoves things places.

      • Karen C says:

        I love this scanning idea! I bought one and never used it! Now im psyched!! Also I find I need a designated spot for all incoming mail and parcels so I can go thru it. Right by the door would be ideal. Whoever brings it in can leave it there for you…in a mail sorter or bowl or bin. (Whatever looks good to you)

    • Sara C says:

      I just got married and noticed my husband does the same thing! I’ve found mail on the kitchen counter, on top of the microwave, kitchen table, ironing board, the floorboard of the car, etc. Ahhhh! Clearly I need to make this “MY” task. 🙂

    • Linda says:

      How do you deal with husband who has many subscriptions to newspapers and magazines and feels he needs to read them ALL before tossing them. There are partially read examples now spreading to every area and flat surface of the house! (This is something his dad did…He believes it’s important to do. ). I’m overwhelmed! Thanks for any ideas/help.

      • Tina says:

        Linda, I would suggest one of a few things to him:
        1) Just hide the new issues until he reads the old ones of the same mag.
        2) Tell him he has until the new ones come in to read and toss the old ones.
        3) Request he give digital issues a try.
        4) Designate a spot in the house for his magazines. If you find a mag out of place, it gets tossed.

        Good luck!!! They say a leopard can’t change it’s spots, but maybe it just needs a new mirror 🙂

        • joe says:

          as a man, i can say hiding the magazines will only cause arguments. try this solution, buy him the digital copy of his favorite magazine. see if he likes it. (it will cost more). if he does, suggest he do the same thing to all of the others. i still have a few hard copy subscriptions but 75% of my magazines are now digital subscriptions that i can go back to whenever i want.

          hint: the reason we want to keep our old magazines is because we dont have the time we want to actually read them for whatever reason, but we hope the future will give us more time to do so.

        • Anita says:

          Linda, I think hiding or throwing away his things against his will might cause friction. Sure would with me, and how! Especially since you mention that they’re important to him. I assume you want to stay married…

          My suggestion is compromise. I would aim to agree on a place where the magazines will live (a shelf, a bin, a rack in the bathroom…whatever) and you keep gathering them up and putting them there for him. When he can see them all together in one growing pile, he’ll realize that he’s not getting them all read and perhaps make some cuts. You might also agree to limit the collection to only what will fit in the space.

  • This is an AWESOME article. I have little to no type-A in me, so I appreciate your tips. The scanning papers tip is going to completely change the look of that one spot on my kitchen counter.

    • michelle says:

      What kind of scanner do you use and scan it to what? ??????

      • Ginger Almy says:

        I have an All-in-One Epson that comes with scanning software. Just install your software or make sure it is installed if you have an All-In-One be it Epson, HP or otherwise. Use the scan feature once you learn which way is best to place your item to be scanned. Under your “D” drive, if that is your data storage drive, set up a folder called “Scanned Items”, then be sure to direct the scanning software to save there. If you desire to get more detailed you can set up different folders. However, if you scan everything to that one folder you won’t have to be looking for long to find what you need. Your naming convention could be personalized for each file.

  • Angela says:

    Very helpful! I also need help with “piles” of emails, computer files, bookmarks/favorites and notes. I’d like to buy the homemaking bundle but am afraid it will just add to the mass of files and things I’d like to read.

    • Yvette says:

      When you scan your documents, how long do you keep them and how do you file them?

    • Ginger Almy says:

      First off, I hope you don’t print out your emails. To deal with emails, I set up folders for different type of email such as Facebook, CNet Newsletters, About Graphics, AllRecipes, Office Watch and so on. Then, when that particular email comes in or is sitting there in your Inbox, Click on Tools, Rules and Alerts and set up a rule that will direct all email from “AllRecipes” to a folder of the same name. Then you can read them when you want to. To be honest, I find that this way of doing it is a crutch in ways but makes it really easy to find things without having to go through 28,000 emails in your Inbox.

      • Vickie says:

        Ginger, re: emails…I haven’t figured out how that works in Gmail. Any suggestions? Also, does one have to keep receipts from business expenses, ex: meals, hotels, etc after they have been scanned?

    • Sheri says:

      I was thinking the same thing as I read the article…what electronic piles: emails, bookmarks, articles, scans.

      I have various email addresses to help organize info and prioritize…like one for junk mail, retail/restaurant coupons and sales, personal, business (important secured) and craft.

      I would not mind a few suggestions. Thank you in advance:-)

  • I love the article, but I wish more people spoke in affirmative terms such as “when” you recycle, rather than “if.” While it’s cathartic to rid one’s life of the clutter and piles that bog down your home, it’s very irresponsible to simply throw it all away. All that paper could be turned into compost lining, pet cage lining, or magazines donated to local schools and libraries. Also, as 96% of post-consumer paper waste products can be purchased and turned into greener, eco-friendly packaging/products by manufacturers, which ultimately cuts down the overall cost for the next consumer. Personally, I think the true lesson in being able to implement the “one-touch” system in one’s home, is to truly recycle, rather than passing your piles of papers off into the landfill.

    • Susan says:

      Our city has curbside paper recycling in addition to glass, cans, plastic, etc. It’s a separate bin with a lid to protect it from rain. We keep the main bin outside and have a smaller recycling bin from Lowes in our office. All paper & cardboard goes in there immediately, and then gets emptied to the main bin when full. If you can’t recycle your paper curbside, it’s still easy to collect your paper in a recycling bin and take it yo a center when full. Like you, I cringe when someone says “trash” rather than “recycling”! 🙂

    • Trish says:

      Ditto! Recycle!

    • michelle says:

      It simply amazes me when people don’t recycle papers and etc. When I look in my very large curb side can I always think wow how many trash cans would we of used if we didn’t recyle. Before recycling was offered for curbside in our town we simply took it to the recycling drop off centers. ….. it’s crazy how much we use that can be recycled. We usually have 1 med trash can a week that goes out and a very Large recycling can with a lid. I usually put vegetable scraps in my flower. Beds or vegetable garden and cover up with dirt. Great compost.

      • S says:

        I dunno. Where we are, the trash is burned to generate electricity, but recycled paper is chemically treated (read: bleach) to make “new” paper. If it were going to a landfill, I’d recycle it, but since it will be burned (rather than coal or petroleum which have extra mining/transportation environmental costs), I feel it is the better environmental alternative in this case 🙂

    • Ginger Almy says:

      I often sit at my dining room table for long periods of time. It works as an “office” for me. When the mail comes, I go through it, and throw junk mail into our recycling can under the dining room table. In front of that container is our shredder. Anything with my name and/or address gets shredded no matter what before the rest goes in the recycle can. Lazy, but very effective.

  • Teresa says:

    I loved your article. I do have a question though. I am not real computer literate but love the idea of scanning bills after they have been paid and then dispose of the hard copy, but after you scan them what do you do with them. Are they stored in a folder on the computer? If you need them can you access them to copy them?

    • Kelsey says:

      When you scan something it just saves an image of it. You can store that image in a file on you computer labeled appropriately (mortgage, insurance, utilities, medical etc.) If you needed it again at a later date you could open the file, choose the image you need and print it out. It might look a little funny since it’s an image of a piece of paper but it will have all the information you need.

      • Leslie Welk says:

        i was just wondering how do you scan a bill? Can you do it with a smartphone? Would love to try it. Thank you!

        • Colleen says:

          Yes many smartphones have free apps you can download for scanning bills, etc. I have a Samsung Galaxy 6 and I use camscanner which I downloaded free from google play store. I then scan the item and save it to Dropbox. You can used a cloud storage like Dropbox, etc or save it to your computer. Many times I just email the scan to myself as well and make sure to put details of the scan in the email subject line. Hope that helps?

          • Colleen says:

            Also, I save it to Dropbox in a file named scans and in that file I have various folders; bills, correspondence, etc. That is how I organize it. I should note that I have 8gb of free dropbox space. If I need more I will have to pay. I love dropbox because I can access it from anywhere; my tablet, my smartphone, my computer, or any other computer with Internet access. Very convenient. I also shred or burn all paper after I scan it.

            • Personally, I would save my scans to folders on my own computer rather than to a site that is “out there on the web”. Especially if the things I am scanning are my bills and important papers. Dropbox is open to hackers just like any other web based storage space, and it has been hacked if you look at the statistics. But saving everything just to your computer desktop is just as simple and much safer. You can also buy an External Hard drive if you don’t want to use of space on your computer. They are not that expensive and would handle everything you could possibly need for space.

            • Helen says:

              That’s a great idea. I use Dropbox Reading this post I was thinking ‘this scan thing won’t work for me as the scanner is connected to DH’s computer, in the study etc I don’t have time. I’m going hunting on the App Store right now for good scanning apps and am going to set up some new folders in my Dropbox ready for bills!

          • Leaf says:

            I just photo the bill or whatever then email it to myself. But I need a lot of the originals for tax reasons so have a filing cabinet, brilliant.

        • Sophie says:

          If you have an iPad or other tablet you can take a picture of it as well!

          The scanning tip is so useful; I wonder how I never thought of that. Definitely will be doing that with documents I might end up needing (warranties etc)

    • Lauren says:

      Also, if you register your accounts online, you can always access previous bills and download them! I usually get a paper bill because if something isn’t physically within my reach, I will forget about it. But once it is paid, I shred it. If I need to access it for any reason, they are stored online through that company (as long as you register your account first!). You do not necessarily have to be an online bill-payer.

    • Mary says:

      As a side light, the financial computer program, Quicken, has a feature where you take a picture of a bill with your phone and then link it to an item in your register (bank account, credit card registry etd,). Quicken handles filing and retrieval.

    • bonnie Lee says:

      yes they are stored on the scanner and on the computer. You have to name them. I think i will scan them Before i pay them so i will have access to the account numbers and amount due on the bill. What an awesome idea!

  • JenS says:

    Piles of paper beware! Your days are numbered!! Thanks for sharing your one touch method. I am implementing that today!!

  • Hayley says:

    Just a note, DO NOT just toss out your junk mail. Be sure to open envelopes and make sure there is nothing a thief could use to get your personal info or sign up for something in your name.

    Sure, toss the envelope and any generic papers (NO personal info) in the recycling bin, but do not leave your personal info out there for the taking. Take those pieces with info in and shred them, or collect them to take to a shredder when you get enough.

    It is shocking (and disgusting) how much many of those innocuous little pieces of mail have in them.

    • Kelsey says:

      This is true…my mom is like a compulsive shredder. It doesn’t matter what it is, she wants to shred or burn it. Even if it just has her name and address. Thieves can find that so easily…easier than rummaging through your trash.

    • Allen says:

      I recycle 3/4 of each of my junk mails for this very reason. I have not been able to locate a shredder that can keep up with my family’s amount of mail(have the latest broken one I’m waiting till the next “free electronics recycle day” to get rid of actually)…anyways…I tear it in half then half again. I toss the part of the middle section that has a portion of my info/address in the trash and the rest in the recycle bin. This diversifies the locations of info as well as makes it impossible for anyone to reassemble and submit any kind of form for credit cards, etc. I know its not as good as shredding, but that’s my current stop-gap for those w/o access to a shredder.

  • Sarah F says:

    I loved these tips! However, do you have any suggestions on how to get past the feeling of “needing” a paper copy of something? Just in case of that possible computer failure or phone dying, etc. I guess I’m just stuck in that old ‘always have a paper trail’ mentality and wish I could figure out how to justify not keeping the physical paper copy in my mind.

    • Kathy says:

      Sarah – What about a flash/usb memory stick as a backup? They are small, store easily, and supposedly are more stable (and take up much less space) than disc storage 😉

      • ann says:

        Actually flash drive / memory cards are not secure from failure. They can actually become corrupt just by being in a laptop when the battery dies.

        A back-up Hard Drive is secure from most failure & the best device to purchase for backup of files.

        • Renee says:

          A back-up external hard drive is also not secure from failure. Trust me I know. We have had 2 crash. The last one was 1TB and it was not cheap. I’ve lost so many pictures of our girls. The last time I cried for a week!

          Our computer guy has told us that you need to back-up on several types of media…….2 external hard drives, 2 memory sticks, & CD, etc.

    • Lindsey Grice says:

      I have my printer set up to scan things right in to dropbox. That way they are accessible always, whether I am on a desktop, or a laptop, or even my phone or iPad. Also, if my computer crashes, my files are still safe because they are not restricted to that one computer.

    • sue says:

      I just recently bought an external hard drive with 1 terabyte for the sole purpose of scanning old documents and pictures. And I have to tell you, I feel like as I scan and shred the old docs, a weight is lifted off of my shoulders! The old pics, I obviously won’t shred, but I feel better knowing that if there is a fire or flood or something, that I won’t have lost them. Once I get the pics scanned, I will also load them to online storage so any family members who want them can just load them.

    • Debi Rodgers says:

      I set up a separate email address that is used for nothing but saving photos and files. I take a picture or scan the item and immediately email it to the special account with info in the subject line. I sort the emails into folders (mortgage, electric, gas, insurance, kid’s names with year, …) to make them easier to access. This account can then be accessed anywhere in the world. Even if my computer crashes or my house were to be destroyed by fire or disaster, my files are as close as the nearest computer.

  • It’s my daughter’s paperwork from school and random drawings that I struggle with. Literally 3-10 pieces of paper come home with her every day! I’ve gotten much better about recycling these things right away, but the artwork/drawings/notes are harder for me. Some, I have no problem letting go of right away, but if she finds them in the trash/recycling bin, there are always questions about it. I confess that I’ve generally fibbed and said something spilled on them, but I’d like to start teaching her that we simply can’t keep everything. Any wisdom on how to gently communicate this to a 5 year-old?

    • Tammy says:

      When my daughter was in kindergarten, I bought a small file box. It’s big enough to hold letter size paper, maybe 4 inches wide. I sorted through as she brought papers home and kept stories, pictures and things I thought we might want to go back on. It worked really well. One box has papers from 4 school years. You could also get one for each year if it’s harder for you to get rid of things.

      • Margaret says:

        We just found my 23 yr old daughter’s writing & art from 2-3rd grade. Amazing to read, to see how consistent her development has been along the lines she saw herself then. I like the idea of keeping a few things for you and your child to look back on. By the way, I’m one of those unsentimental ones. Found these papers in one of those ‘piles’ boxes.

    • I hear you…the flow of artwork is never ending. Here’s what I suggest to my clients: Start by taking a photo of your child holding up the current masterpiece(s). A smartphone makes this task super easy.

      Then institute a keep only the best from week rule. You can make it fun by creating a weekly ritual out of it. Have a little photo shoot session, and then let your child make the choice about which physical work to hang onto, but make it clear that space is limited so it can be just one.

      No doubt you’ll have a little resistance at first, but kids are resilient and with a little coaching they’ll get. If it’s tough for you (because no mama wants to be the meany), just remember that you are helping them create a life skill (clutter clearing!). And you can always remind them that since you’ve taken the photo the creation will live on for eternity.

      A secondary benefit of the photos is that you’ll be creating some lovely curated content of your sweet one’s creations along with their growth.

    • dar says:

      I have 5 kids snd i love art so the artwork was very hard but i have scanned my favorites and our school has s link to artsonia.com where you can post your childs artwork. It can be private or you can share it. That way family members that are farther away cab see it to. Some that are kore demensional or i really like stay in their memory tubs but as a person that has gone thru a house fire as a child i can tell you scanning them was safer than a cardboard box on a shelf. You could display your favorites for the week and then ask your daughter what was her favorite and choose to just keep or scan just that one.

    • applesforu says:

      When my children were younger (hs now) each one had a box under their bed where we would keep everything they felt attached to that came home from school. Before the first day of the next school year, when they are feeling older and looking forward to a new year, we sort through the box and they are to keep only the most special of the papers/artwork/assignments. We throw away everything else. The New smaller “keep” pile is moved to a permanent storage place in my file cabinet.

    • Nikki says:

      I have a spot that holds one masterpiece and let my child decide what to display… sometimes it’s something they made, sometimes it’s a perfect paper… I give them the choice what to hang and how often to change it, but that is the only item saved and only until they change it. (My absolute favorite things are not always the same as theirs so I have a folder that I save mine in but they don’t know that! Those folders go into our keepsake bin at the end of each year.)

    • Tiffany says:

      Take photos and then make a photobook of her creations.

    • katie says:

      Man, us too. I.got a wall file and pile it in there for awhile, and when it gets too full, I take the oldest out and throw it away. That way at least I have it for a bit again if she wants to see it again or if we happen to need it again for school but I figure we’re good if we haven’t used it for a week. Then if they see it in the trash, we just talk about how we can’t keep it all. I have a bin for the few really special ones.

    • Chris says:

      Each one of my 3 children were provided a “creative box” to store their art work. And when it became filled I would ask them to go through it and purge what they wanted to keep, send to family members, or dispose of. Recently my youngest questioned “why would I want to keep this?” It prevented many tears and allowed them to see their progress as they grew. (and the ideas that changed over the years)

    • Julia says:

      I know one mother that has her children mail some art to grandparents, and some to a “distant cousin”…she has her kids mail excess artwork to this “cousin” and the problem is solved. Of course she keeps special pieces, but the kids are happy to share with a long distance relative.

    • Mandy says:

      Save all the papers until the end of the week then on Friday or Saturday let her go through them and choose which ones she really wants to save.. Then at the end of the grading period or semester go through all of them again and let her choose which ones to continue keeping or letting go.. You’ll be amazed how a little time and the freedom to choose what to keep will free up a lot of paper!

  • Kat says:

    I too (like Teresa earlier) am not very computer literate. My printer doesn’t scan so what method are you using for scanning. Do you have an actual scanner or are you using your printer scanner? Thank you.

    • Katie says:

      I really like an app called Scan Bot. I have it on my iPad but I assume it works on smart phones as well. You hold the device over the paper you want to scan and your device’s camera automatically snaps a photo. Then it asks you where you would like to save it or if you would like to email it to someone. Works very well.

  • Carrie says:

    The only cards I usually save is anniversary cards & Christmas cards. Because Christmas cards add up so quickly, I scrapbook them. I use a 12 x 12 page, first laying out the photo cards. Next I had any personal messages from people. Finally I cut out the signatures of those cards that are just signed & use them to fill in the empty spaces on the page. One scrapbook with lots of years of memorys

  • Erica says:

    I have learned so much from this wonderful article and from all the comments! Thank you! I am drowning in papers…I too struggle with the sentiment of my sons schoolwork, artwork, everything of his;-/, cards, my medical bills/EOBS, my husbands, anything medical for my son, our two pets, warranties, receipts, product/appliance info., YOU NAME IT I STRUGGLE WITH TO KEEP OR NOT TOO KEEP?!?!?! It is paralyzing. I tend to document everything and even have daytimer that date back to 2006!!!! I am just so “afraid” I might need to reference back and it doesn’t help that in these daytimers/planners I have so many *notes/milestones documenting my sons life, idk I really am beyond overwhelmed and I am scared to throw away anything it seems. I tend “beat” myself up because WHAT IF I throw away or toss these “paper trails” and I “need” them one day?! It’s a vicious cycle. ;-(( What type of scanner and any other tips might you guys have? We are in the process of moving so now is the perfect time as I do not wish to take these “habits” with me as again it’s just down right vicious! What about the NeatConnect Wireless Scanner and Digital Filing System? And how do you then not use up all your memory and storage on computer!?!? I’m a tough case, any and all tips are welcome and oh so appreciated! ** I have started to try the *binder system but I get so caught in the minor details that I don’t get very far — Unfortunately I spend a lot of time researching and getting ready to get ready! I need to TAKE ACTION! :-))))

    • Deb says:

      I used a NeatDesk for years, and loved it. Recently switched to a Scansnap, and am astounded at what a good job (and how fast) it is.

    • Karla says:

      Erica, you are describing me to a T. I am typing this now on a computer that is sitting on piles of papers, and there are multiple storage containers sitting on the floor surrounding my kitchen table with more “papers.” I don’t know where to start, so I don’t. I just keep reading multiple articles like this!

    • Bette's Bangles says:

      Hi,
      You can always start small by using this method to NOT add to a pile. I understand completely the “I just can’t face it now” feeling. Once you master not adding to the already there piles and stuff, then take the next step by selecting one pile, or area, a very small one, and pretend it is just some of the “new stuff” you get every day and treat it as if it just arrived. I like the idea of using the computer, smart phone etc. for your filing system. Very important papers, like your will and automobile titles can be put in the safe, or safety deposit box. I am still a work in progress but I fully intend to use these 4 steps to treat my incoming paper. Good luck to both of us.

    • Tina says:

      Try genius scan app. I love it it’s free, there is a premium edition that allows you to save to files like Dropbox, iCloud, google drive etc. but I just scan and email to myself then upload to my desired storage. These are cloud based so it doesn’t use computer space.

  • Kathy says:

    I have one problem years ago I had a credit card that was stolen now they want paper proof that I no longer have. and can’t find proof to save my self now they are taking me to court because I refuse to pay for a bill I did not make and they want to take my house!

  • judy says:

    every year I buy a calendar with pockets for every month and can store bills due and reminders in the pockets until I get to that month.

  • Kristin says:

    I’d improve upon the idea of scanning by using the app Evernote. I love, love Evernote. In my professional life, I use it whenever I read something interesting in paper or online that I want to keep. I can file it by category and come back to it at any time. In my personal life, it’s how I compile ideas for Valentine’s Day cards and boxes, Halloween costumes, recipes for Christmas Dinner, Birthday party theme ideas and so much more. I simply clip it through Evernote (2 clicks) and it’s saved in my notes. Then, when I’m standing in the grocery store, I can open my phone and open Evernote to find all the great recipes I wanted to try for dinner that week. So much better than just scanning in an image to your hard drive. I take photos of receipts in Evernote with my phone and put it in a Taxes folder. I can also share my Evernote clippings with ideas to spread great ideas. If you haven’t checked out Evernote, it’s time to do so!

  • Monica says:

    In order to cut back on my paper recycling, I call catalog companies and request to be removed from their mailing list. After calling every month for about 6 months, my efforts are paying off. Most of these companies I have never ordered from.

  • Great advice! I’m curious, you said you do 1 of 4 things, one of which was filing it. What is your filing method? I recently started a binder with important documents and that’s working out for now but I’m always interested to hear other people’s filing systems. Pinning this great resource!

  • Amy says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Crystal! I really appreciate you sharing your brilliant strategies! 🙂

  • Stephanie says:

    Since we live a long way from grandparents, I scan my son’s artwork (when it fits–and it usually does) so they can see it, and they can print it and display it on their own fridge if they want to. I always say I’ll mail it, but it winds up as another paper pile!

  • Pamela Selway says:

    My problem is all the sentimental things from years ago. I recently made a shadow box for my son of his little suit from his baptism day and gave it to him. One more thing out of my home into his.

  • Billie Y. says:

    Completely unrelated to paper piles…where did you get the cover for the notebook in the picture with the phone and coffee? That would be ideal for making a plain notebook something special so I’d remember to look in it every day!

  • Becca says:

    I’m really good with paper – like you, I touch it once (or twice if it’s something to be filed, since I have a mental block when it comes to filing and only do it every couple of months). My husband, on the other hand . . . . His paper piles drive me crazy. And it’s not stuff I can get rid of for him, since it relates to his career – notes from professional development courses, notes on developing his business further, etc. I’ve tried to get him a basket to put it all in (he has two of them and they’re overflowing!) I can’t just put them in his office because his office is full of papers and then he’d never find the ones he needs. Argh! The only strategy that works for me there is selective blindness.

  • I have found that just scanning my paperwork does WONDERS for my house. We also have a home management binder where all of our personal info stays for easy reference, that’s been useful for organization.

  • Ann says:

    What does everyone do with receipts? Everytime I start just throwing them away, it’s inevitable, I will need one to do a return. Do you all save receipts? If so, where and how?

    • Jen S. says:

      Hence ,I stick with my paper copies. ?

    • Jen S. says:

      I keep only receipts with thing that might actually be returned in an envelope in my bills and budget binder. I cull it weekly on the day I pay my bills.

    • jac says:

      I have a small box where I keep all my receipts, on a shelf in my office. Newest receipts go on the top of the stack so they’re easy to find in case I need them. Every few months I clean it out and only hang on to those receipts from bigger ticket items.

    • Patti says:

      I have envelopes labeled Credit cards, Costco, Debits, work related, Purchases, Taxes in a drawer. I put receipts in these envelopes and cull them out couple times a year. In the Purchases envelope I put simple receipts for things I may return i.e. clothes, shoes, etc. I’ve used this for years and works well for me.

  • Cheryl says:

    I like the idea of scanning and have thought about it for some time….but I am worried that I will just end up with tons of scanned files overflowing on my computer, hard drive, cloud storage or wherever. I don’t want to go from one disaster to another. I think I need help in processing what really needs to be kept. Like the one person said she hangs on to things thinking what if she needs it. I guess it comes down to PPO, processing, purging and organization.

  • jo says:

    Put o “no more junkmail” sticker on your mailbox (to avoid commercials from local stores).
    We live in France where a “no commercials please” list exists, it is free, you just ask to be on it and you cut off 2/3 junk mail.
    You may be the cause of paper: Don’t print things if you don’t absolutely need to.

  • Tiffany says:

    I am what you may call a paper hoarder and it drives my husband crazy. Haha. I hate the paper piles but don’t have a good system in place to keep them under control. My question is… what could I do with all of my kids papers from school? Not only the art papers but the tests, quizes, class work, etc that comes home on a daily basis. It’s piling up and I convince myself that I may need them at some point. Thanks!

    • Janell says:

      when our youngest daughter was in grade school, she was marked “F” for not turning in a certain homework assignment….teacher claimed it would have been make up work from being absent from school. We always wrote on calendar the dates they were out of school/reason why and thankfully our rule was all school work goes into a paper box and saved until the end of the school year where it would then be sorted. Upon checking calendar and knowing she had been out we looked through that box “just to double check, we found it, marked with an “A”. We took it to the teacher who then corrected the grade and thus everyone was happy. All of a sudden Mom’s crazy idea was a hit! LOL

  • Lulu says:

    Oh how I hate clutter! Especially paper clutter!
    I have 4 children, 3 at the same school and so I often get x 3 school notes sent home. I take a pic of the note with my phone which is linked to dropbox.
    When my kids do a particular piece of artwork, or get an award etc… I have an email address set up e.g smithkids@outlook.com and I email the pic to their “email address”.

  • Angela Montgomery says:

    Looking at a pile as I’m reading this. I’ve got to do better. I will do better. Thanks for the advice.

  • You mentioned scanning some of your papers. Can you tell me if you use a program or you scan it and put it in a folder in your computer? What types of things do you scan? I would love to know more about your scanning process please. Thank you.

  • Dot S. says:

    I like the touch everything once method. I scan everything into Evernote. If it’s kids artwork that’s too wide to fit in my scanner, I take a picture with my phone. The software is loaded on my desktop, phone and iPad. Storage is cloud based and on your computer. Great tips. Thanks.

  • Jill says:

    This is kind of sad, but also a very meaningful practice: for greeting cards in particular, I keep them for one year. Birthday, Christmas, etc. are usually what greeting cards are sent for, and I keep all of them for one year. Once I get a new birthday card from an aunt, I can feel secure throwing the old one away (unless there is some special message written inside) because I know it’s not the last birthday card I’ll ever get. I’m so thankful I do this because I lost my grandmother last January, and I know that this Christmas, I won’t be getting another card from her and I have the last one she ever sent as a keepsake.

    Bonus tip: I’ve seen people on Pinterest re-use old Christmas cards as gift tags by cutting the image on the front out and writing To and From on the back. Great way to recycle and you could definitely do the same for birthdays and stuff!

    • Dana says:

      This is an excellent point. I am not sentimental at all, and tend to throw things away very quickly. Last Christmas, my husband had this idea to take Christmas cards from our grandparents, scan the “Love” in their handwriting, blow it up very large, print it back out, and then mold copper wire into that shape and give it as a gift. That way, the recipient had “Love” written in their parent’s handwriting to display. It turned out absolutely beautifully, but we ended up having to use birthday cards that had been given to him by my grandparents to find their handwriting because I hadn’t saved any. It made me sad, and very grateful to know that he had at least something. In our desire not to be overwhelmed by stuff, some of us go too far, and this is a nice reminder that we might want to look at one or two cards down the road. Don’t keep everything, but you should probably keep something.

  • Cindy says:

    Awesome blog! Some things need to be shredded, not just thrown away. If you do not have a shredded, you can collect that mail in a bag or box and take it to your local post office. They send it on to where it is destroyed.

  • aim says:

    OK please tell me more about this keepsake and momentos tub! How do you not throw everything your kid brings home from school in there? Would love to hear how you organize yours!

  • Diana Ellis says:

    I thank you for sharing your paper-solving skills with others. I, too, wondered about your memory box, and about scanning. Do you do the scanning on your computer or make a copy to file. For those of us trying to learn what you seem to do so easily, we need more detail and explanation – maybe pics of your memory box and other information. Thanks!

  • Diana Ellis says:

    After I commented, I thought more about what I think of your idea of taking pictures of items, then throwing them away. I am 70 years old, so I probably look at things differently than you do. Being organized and efficient are not my strengths, and they make for happy lives :), but having tangible things add an important dimension to life. I have little cards and letters I made/wrote when I was little, and I treasure them; to have a picture just would not be the same. There is something about being able to hold, and read, and feel the item. As I grew up, the relationship between myself and my parents fell apart, so for me to see these sweet things that I wrote – and felt – when I was little mean a lot to me. A picture couldn’t convey that. It’s fun to see my writing and my creative thoughts. Being organized and efficient are wonderful, and necessary, qualities to have for your home and family, but some memories need to be kept, held, and experienced over and over again. Diana

    • steph says:

      That is such a lovely point Diana, I am just about to clear all my childhood belongings out of my family home and I am so grateful that my mum kept so many seemingly pointless things of mine that evoke so many memories for me… I’m torn with how much of this to bring into my own home and how much to keep for my children too! Thank you for sharing your sentimental view on this!

    • Helen says:

      Hear hear. I’ll be the first to admit that I have a ton of paper I no longer need to keep, but I’m glad I still have some of my primary school work, diaries from my childhood, and lots of my children’s artwork. Right now the four at school are all keeping all their schoolwork and that is just too much. But before I pressure them about that I need to shred and compost lots and lots of old charity mailings etc. then I’ll see the wood for the trees in my study. But I’m not chucking any of my letters received at boarding school!

  • Lori in NY says:

    My biggest challenge is with small pieces of paper that have miscellaneous info on them – the address of a new bookstore I want to try when I’m out, website addresses I want to look up later, prices of things I wrote down at the grocery store and want to compare at another store later!!! I have SO many of these laying around with no place to put them. Plus, they are too small to store in a folder (and would get lost there anyway), or I will only need them when I’m in my car!!! I’ve read a bunch of decluttering books but can’t find the answer to this anywhere!!! Help!!

    • Terra says:

      I snap a picture of them with my cellphone and then delete the picture when I no longer need the information. It’s handy because my cellphone is with me whether I’m at home or out.

    • Barbara T. says:

      I have the Samsung Galaxy s4 that has the S Memo app pre-installed . I can take a picture and attach it to a note in S Memo. I can take a screen shot off my phone and send it to same. I have lists for each family members size, likes, etc. Pinterest.com allows secret boards you can choose whom to share with. Yelp has businesses you can add and you can create lists for yourself to check out later.

    • Linda F says:

      I keep a spiral bound 8x11notebook for small notes like that. I put the date at the top of a page for each note and basically all of my small notes are in one place in chronological order. I can usually find what I need by paging through the notes and having a general idea of when I wrote it. If you’re 100% sure you no longer need the note, just rip it out & toss.

    • Karen says:

      I’ve started keeping a small notebook in my purse where I make those kind of notes. At least that way, I only need to look at pages not bits of paper.

    • Julie h says:

      I transfer that info to a note on my iPad…has worked very well for me as I am a paper notemaker and listmaker.

    • Lori-I have the same issue that you have. I have a habit of not writing down complete information on my notes and then later wonder why I wrote the note. I try using a pocket calendar with a note section in it which helps sometimes.

    • Sandy says:

      I keep a notebook and skip a couple of lines between entries; Bits of paper with notes get taped in — no need to rewrite. I date the entry on the left margin. No need for searching through my study, car, or purse — just have to look in one place — the notebook! It has been a very handy method for me. My Mom had notes all over the place and could never find the info when she needed it. I went through the house and transfered every note I could find into one notebook. She loved it and continues to do this — saves a lot of time and frustration!

  • Lauren says:

    OMG I totally need to try this! We have paper piles everywhere!!

  • Deborah says:

    I am a librarian. I recycle cards into bookmarks for my students. They love them.

  • Bella says:

    How do you handle coupons and receipts?

  • Joanne says:

    I regularly have piles of paper everywhere! I will definitely take these tips into consideration!

  • Lisa Rodriguez says:

    I am loving these ideas. Thank you! I dislike clutter but seem to always be dealing with so much of it. Especially paper clutter. It drives me crazy and is overwhelming to know where to start and do anything about it so the piles end up in bags that I plan to go through and deal with at some point. It’s a terrible vicious cycle. Another huge problem I have tried to manage is how to deal with all my photos!! I have a small home with small storage space and all of my large photo boxes/bins are stored in my bedroom. Under bed, in closet, on top of hutch, on the side of my bed! I absolutely love photos and am very sentimental. Is it safe to store them in the garage or will the extreme temperatures damage them? I do have photo albums as well but it would be impossible to put all the photos I have into albums. I also have many photos stored on computer. Any ideas would be appreciated. Thanks:)

  • S says:

    I don’t get how making images of my bills will help. I’ll be less likely to find them if I need them (and it HAS happened twice that I’ve needed to go back several years and show that, yes, I did pay for that doctors visit – so I’m reluctant to NOT have easily accessible records. Better, perhaps, just to file them in my actual file drawer rather than take a picture/scan, email/save, rename and put in a dedicated folder on the computer?

    That said, I’m the queen of piles… so much junk. It was better before kids, but we’re homeschooling now, so there’s much less… random “art-like” projects coming home. That’s helping a LOT!

  • Saim says:

    I used them in papier mache after scanning if these are important. All my bills are online. So my house is lean.
    A very nice article for many to follow.

  • Marci says:

    I purchased a Scansnap ix5000 by Fujitsu and love, love, love, it. It scans to file, computer, email, etc and can scan front and back of 5 pages in less than 20 seconds. So easy to “keep” the bills and everything, even artwork. It may be pricey, but my sanity is worth it!

  • Gin says:

    I love this but my mom keeps the front of her cards to donate to st judes where the kids make things out of them to sell to help with some of the costs and to keep them occupied. She recycles the back part of the cards.

  • Lissette Gonzalez-Toledo says:

    We have a 31 slot wooden organizer for our bills. One slot for every day of the month. Then we also have a 4 drawer legal size filing cabinet. I’ve taken it upon myself to create a file for every thing that we regularly get in the mail plus medical papers and any large purchases. Anything that requires a paper has a file.
    Junk mail is immediately thrown out, bills are placed in the organizer until paid, then I file them.
    For the kids I have an extra large binder where they keep their important art creations and school work.

  • aurie says:

    What if your husband is a receipt collector? He saves EVERY receipt and stuffs them all sorts of places- nightstand drawer, bookshelves, boxes, the counter. If I move it, he gets upset, understandably, because he feels he knows where it is and it belongs to him, not me. Would there be a non-offensive and easy method to save receipts that would not include piles everywhere? I married a guy who saves every piece of paper and becomes emotionally attached to it. So not sure how to handle the disorganization this creates in our home.

  • L Johnson says:

    What about receipts? Many of our piles consist of receipts for things we keep in case we need to make a return. Of course then weeks pass and we have created a large pile to shred :(.

    • Vickie West says:

      For years, I’ve had a box that I bought at a thrift shop (about 6″ long X 4″ wide X 6″ tall). I made DIVIDER CARDS that I penciled the names of places I shop (on the tops)… in ALPHABETICAL ORDER. I used pencil so if I want to change the names, I can simply erase.) One of the categories is Miscellaneous (for places I rarely go to).

      Last year, I gave these boxes, & an alphabetized LIST of stores that I frequent for examples, AND BLANK DIVIDER CARDS, as a gift (w/ other things) to my 4 grown daughters. They claim the box has SAVED their sanity!!

      My rule, is that whenever I go shopping, I remove the receipts from the bags, OR my purse, & make any notes that might help me in the future (on the top Left of the receipt). Ex: Sandra’s shoes….

      Then I IMMEDIATELY file that receipt in the “box” in the appropriate category, with the top of the receipt facing front left, & the NEWEST in the BACK of the section. (So if I need the receipt, it’s much easier to find, w/out sorting the entire section).

      One IMPORTANT RULE, is with Walmart’s receipts, & their “Savings Catcher” program. When I get home, I IMMEDIATELY take their receipt out of my purse, & scan it –through THEIR app, which takes a pic of it.

      Then I make any notes, about the item at the top LEFT, (& I might a small note on the Left of the ITEM that doesn’t have an adequate description). Then I put a big checkmark on RIGHT of the receipt, indicating I’ve scanned it. (On each NEW MONTH I also put the MONTH & Year. (Ex. March 2017, right by the big check mark.) At the end of the month, I double check the order of the dates on the receipts, & try to put any “in order” that may have accidentally gotten “out of order”. THEN, I STAPLE that month’s receipts together!! It makes exchanges or returns VERY easy….especially if you can remember the “approximate date” you made the purchase.

      If you itemize your taxes, & you’ve already made note on the receipt AS SOON as you get home….you’ll have any items that you can use for DEDUCTIONS, already marked on your receipts!!

      Then at the beginning of a new year, I go thru the box, toss ANY that I likely will not use, & clip each section together in separate piles. I put them in a large zip bag, with the YEAR on a visible paper in front. If I ever have to be audited, the RECEIPTS are “in the bag”. ( I believe we have to keep receipts for 7 yrs. in case of an audit.)

      You could also, just scan the ones you used for taxes, & create “Tax Files” by YEAR, file on your computer. I just haven’t gotten around to doing that yet. They really don’t take up too much room in the zip bags, & are EASY to find!

      Here’s my alphabetized list (for examples for the DIVIDERS)

      MOM’s RECEIPT BOX DIVIDERS:

      Bath & Body
      Bed, Bath, Beyond
      Crafts
      Deseret Book
      Dollar Tree
      DONATIONS
      Emergency Essentials
      Kmart
      Dept. Stores (Kohl’s, Penney’s, Sears, etc.)
      Macey’s Groceries
      MISCELL!!!
      Office Max/Staples
      Shopko
      Smiths
      Target
      Thrift Stores
      Walgreens
      Walmart

      Hope this helps someone! I couldn’t stay organized without it!! ?

  • Sally says:

    Thanks for this practical information. My question is what billing statements do I need to keep? My bills are paid automatically, but I’m forced to still get monthly statements. It seems to me that all my medical, dental, insurance, retirement, utilities, etc. are available online if I need to look something up. Can I just shred them all? Why even scan these?

  • Margo says:

    This is something I’ve really been working on! We are building a house and a huge part of my planning is how to not have so much of this school clutter everywhere!
    Random question though–do you happen to know the color of those walls in the dining room picture? I really like that color 🙂

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