How to Clear Paper Clutter

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Photo By: Zach DeSart

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Photo By: Martin Poole

Photo By: Holly Mathis

Photo By: ©Martin Poole

Say Goodbye to Clutter

Are your kitchen counters, island and table swimming in a sea of paper? Do the stacks of bills and mail seem to just keep piling up? If you answered yes to both of these questions, then listen up: We have an organization system that’s guaranteed to clear the paper clutter for good.

“I’ll Do It Later” No More

The key to clearing paper clutter and maintaining an organized home is to deal with the paper you receive right away no matter what it is, from school schedules and bills to bank statements and party invites. It’s easy to walk in the house, throw the mail on the kitchen counter and vow to put it away later, but oftentimes, the stack of mail continues to grow. Without a proper filing system, important notices can easily get lost in the shuffle. Tip: An excellent way to decrease the amount of paper in your home is to sign up for online bill pay and email statements.

Organized Family

An easy way to disband paper stacks and keep your filing system clutter-free as well is to use an extra-large calendar to record family-wide schedules. Tack the calendar in a central location that every member of the family is guaranteed to pass, such as the refrigerator. Include school schedules, homework due dates, party invitations, sports games, doctor appointments and business trips. To prevent confusion, designate each member of the family with a particular marker color and use that to fill in his or her events. This is a great way to maintain accountability and keep everyone on top of their due dates, appointments, games and meetings. Learn how to make this giant chalkboard calendar from HGTV Magazine.


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Get Organized

Here’s where the process gets a bit timely, but it’s well worth the time spent in the end. Depending on the amount of paper clutter, you could use a small and simple 12-tabbed file folder or an entire office-style filing cabinet. Start by clearing off the kitchen table and creating stacks of the same type of paper or mail: car insurance, health insurance, utilities, taxes, credit cards, bank statements, receipts, etc. It may be easier to combine certain areas and create broader subjects like bills, insurance and personal. The important thing is to have a go-to file for each subject for reference. Anything that requires a response in the near future should be placed in an “action stack” that will eventually be filed away once that particular bill is paid or form is filled out. For any papers you don’t find file-worthy, create a “shred and recycle” stack.

Personal Filing

The way you choose to file your paperwork is entirely up to you. If you have the available closet space, an excellent and convenient way to file important papers is to use magazine holders, label them accordingly and line them up on the shelf for quick reference. An often forgotten set of paperwork that can be needed are instructions and appliance pamphlets. Separate folders or holders should be created for them, too. So, if the microwave breaks or DVD player starts skipping, you’ll know exactly where to go. Tip: For a budget-friendly filing solution, cut and paint cereal boxes to serve as repurposed magazine holders.

Banish the Stacks

Not only do newspapers and certain magazines become quickly outdated, but they also take up a large amount of space. If you love a recipe from a magazine, cut it out and file it with your other “recipes to try.” If you love the editor’s beauty product selection, write down the name and brand of the facial cleanser in your notebook. Read the magazine once; take what you want and then say sayonara. Tip: A fun and easy way to eliminate the ever-growing stack of magazines in your home is to trade them with people at work after you’ve finished reading them.

Careful Keepsakes

For those magazines or newspaper pages you want to keep, use a magazine holder to keep them filed away with the rest of your documents, or display them in a chic, stylish way.


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You’ll appreciate the time you spent cutting coupons from the Sunday newspaper once the savings start showing up on your grocery receipt. To ensure you don’t hit the store without your coupons, keep them in a wallet-sized coupon organizer and stash in your car or handbag. Now, you can still reap the savings on last-minute supermarket runs. Tip: For any products you don’t typically buy or use, share the coupons with friends or coworkers. By sharing your unused coupons, your friends will, in turn, save your favorites, too.

Keep or Shred?

Certain items like monthly bank and credit card statements, monthly mortgage statements and paycheck stubs can be tossed after one year. Tax documents, W-2 and 1099 forms and year-end statements from your bank or credit card company can be tossed after approximately seven years. But there are several important documents that should be kept forever and appropriately filed away. These items include all annual tax returns, receipts for major purchases that you still own, year-end summaries from financial services, home improvement records and beneficiary designations. And depending on whether you claim a home office deduction on your tax return, items such as utility statements, sales receipts, credit card receipts and bank deposits and ATM receipts can be shredded and tossed each month.

Stay On Top of It

Maintaining a clutter-free home requires daily attention that will eventually become a simple, everyday routine. Keep your kitchen counters and home office clean and pristine with these tips:

1. Go through the mail daily as soon as you receive it. You can immediately toss (and recycle) what you don’t need.

2. Whether it’s a cubby in the mudroom or a basket in the home office, create a place to store your “action stack” (bills, forms, RSVPs, etc.).

3. Set aside a designated time once a week to file your keeps. If you’re using a mobile filing system, multitask by watching your favorite TV shows while filing. This way, it will seem like a less daunting task.

Keep the Kids Clean

Kids can acquire plenty of paper clutter on their own, too. Keep their bedroom and playroom organized by integrating stylish storage boxes onto bookshelves and cabinets. Extra-wide boxes can keep precious artwork and drawings stowed away for safekeeping, and magazine holders can double as coloring book organizers. With a proper place for everything, cleaning up and staying organized can be a breeze for little ones.