Monday, December 10, 2012

10 Things: Conquering Paper Clutter

I'm not going to lie: paper is the bane of my existence.  I used to have a handle on it, but now that I've got three kids in school bringing home paper of some sort every day (despite the district's initiative to reduce paper waste), it's out of control.  So much paper comes in to our house every day.

Let me show you how I'm slowly digging out from under.

It starts with this in-box in our newly reorganized laundry room.

This is the entry through which we all enter and exit the house every day, so naturally, every horizontal space becomes a holding ground for whatever we bring in with us.  If anyone brings any paper into the house, including the mail, it goes in this in-box until someone (that would be me) has time to sort it.  I should add that if I am the one who brings the mail in, it is sorted right away, the junk going immediately into the recycling bin.  The idea is to keep junk papers from even entering the house.

Next, each member of the family has a mailbox in the laundry room.

This way, everyone can see immediately when they enter the house whether they have new mail.  In the 6th mailbox, I keep stamps, return address labels, checks to be cashed, and a pad of scratch paper.  The clip on the front holds outgoing mail.

Now that we've dealt with the mail, we needed to figure out what to do with all of the papers that made it through our first line of defence.  The bills and statements, school projects that we want to save, permission slips or other school announcements, goodness there's a lot still to organize.

Meet my kitchen counter file box.

I resisted this idea for a loooong time because I hated to add one more thing to my kitchen counters (I even store the toaster away in a cupboard and we use it every day), but I finally realized that by corralling all the piles of paper into one central spot I was actually reducing clutter.

The box has a file folder for each member of the family, and each holds something different.  MC's holds his homework, AKD's has his workbook for confirmation, mine currently holds...nothing!  I just cleaned it out the other day.  Basically, whatever paper that person wants to hold on to goes in the folder. 

I want to emphasize the importance of each person having his or her own folder. This has been such a time and angst saver for me, as the chief organizer, because when I come across a piece of paper that does not belong to me, and I don't know where to put it, I can just put it in the owner's folder and let him deal with it.

I also have folders for the categories of papers I was finding myself saving in piles all over the kitchen: bills to pay/calls to make, schedules, which contains school and sports schedules, Scout schedules, any schedule that we may want to consult, recipes to try, restaurant coupons, and weekly ads.  Our weekly menu plan is clipped to the front.  Your file box will most likely have different folders based on your family's needs.

So you're probably wondering what happens to all of our financial stuff: the receipts, the bank statements, bills that are paid automatically, and quarterly investment reports.  Those I place in a filing cabinet next to my desk as they come in.  Once a week (well, I try for once a week), I deal with all of those things, entering the information into our financial tracking program, shredding what doesn't need to be kept, and filing the rest in the big filing cabinet in the basement.

In the filing cabinet next to my desk I also have folders for vacation plans, groupons, coupons, rebates, health records, and a folder for each boy's school.  All of these folders could be kept in our kitchen file box, but I feel like they work better next to the computer.

The idea here is, if you don't have a place for a piece of paper, but you don't want to get rid of it, make a place for it.  And not a pile on the counter, either :)  You've heard the saying, "a place for everything, and everything in its place?"  That's really the key to conquering any sort of clutter

We're still looking for a solution to the newspaper (even though we only get one paper a week) and magazine issue (which I am planning to curb by not signing up for anymore free magazine subscriptions).

We've begun to make a positive change in the area of paper clutter, and we're steadily, through the process of getting rid of 10 things every day, working toward the goal of a place for everything and everything in its place.  I hope that perhaps I have inspired you to do the same.  Feel free to leave a comment to let me know how it's going.

Click here to see all of the 10 Things posts.

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