Paper clutter seems to be a big hotspot for a lot of people, especially the sentimental papers like kids artwork and school work. If you really sit and think about it, you'll realize that you really can't keep it all forever. Imagine what your house would look like if you kept all the paper for just 1 year. That's a lot of paper. And let's face it...we are living in a paperless society that is only progressing more so forward.
Let's talk about a few different types of paper clutter like mail, school work, and art work. Then we'll discuss filing systems. Developing habits to control the paper clutter is key.
Don't let the mail pile up! It's that easy. Open it daily and deal with it. It takes 5 minutes. Let's consider the stuff we get in the mail.
Coupons/ads/catalogs...unless you are a true couponer, then do yourself a favor and drop these right in the recycle bin. If you are not into couponing, then you won't use them and they will just build up until they expire. If you aren't a couponer today, you won't be tomorrow either! Catalogs just go straight in the bin too. You know all your shopping is done online anyway so you don't need a paper catalog. Takeout menus...do you order takeout often? Then you could consider keeping these, unless you look at the menus online. If you can use the menu online, then drop these right in the recycle bin also.
So far, we have found 2 types of mail items that don't even need to come in the house. Drop them in the bin before you even come in!
Magazines...I enjoy reading magazines as I'm sure you do also, if your receiving them. But drop it in the bin when you finish reading it. Don't keep more than 2-3 issues just sitting around. Do yourself a favor though, and READ IT!! Don't just sit it down and forget about it. I assume if you paid for the subscription, you wanted to read it. Unless you just like getting something in the mail, in which case it's served its purpose so you can recycle it right now LOL. Also remember, if you are a paid subscriber, you likely have access to the digital version for free. Consider a digital only subscription. Next month, when the next issue arrives remember to recycle one of the older issues you may have sitting around, and figure out a good home for your magazines so they aren't left cluttering up the living room. Mine are kept in a tray on our coffee table because the living room is where I read them, but if you read them in your room, invest in a magazine basket to sit next to your bed or under your nightside table.
Bills, insurance, statements...If you are still receiving paper statements and bills, consider signing up for e-bills and e-statements to cut back on the paper you receive. Some people don't like doing financial stuff online due to security reasons. And while I understand that, I just want to point out that just because you aren't putting your info online, the creditors have been for years. Your bank and creditors moved to web based processing systems years ago. You aren't adding to your risk simply by signing up to get your bills emailed, and you may actually help keep your info more secure. When those documents are mailed to you there is a risk of the actual papers being misplaced or stolen, or otherwise getting into the wrong hands. Mail tampering happens and is more of a risk than getting e-bills/statements. If you still insist on receiving paper statements, then look over them right away. If everything looks ok then you can shred it. If you were to need it again in the future, you can call the bank or creditor to get a copy sent to you. Another pro to e-statements is you can simply log in and retrieve a copy on your own without having to call.
These pics show the mail that came in one day followed by how I quickly minimized the pile. Papers that need to be dealt with on Monday morning are in a neat pile for me to see, and remember. The catalogs and ads went in the bin, and the magazine went in the coffee table tray for hubby to read later, which is the last pic.
Now you're probably wondering about how to maintain all your newly organized stuff. Well, the answer to that is simple, but often the most difficult. You need to implement and develop new habits! You need to make it a habit to spend 5 minutes opening the mail immediately, and dealing with it. I open my mail in the kitchen, right next to the recycle bin, that way most things can be dropped right in, assuming I didn't drop it in the big bin outside. Somethings have to be opened before I realize it's junk. So I as open the mail, I do 1 of 3 actions....recycle, shred, or keep. The keep pile is for any papers I need to deal with like a bill that needs to be paid, or a document I need to keep. I keep those in a pile in our "Command Center" so I can do what I have to now (if I have time) or tomorrow. Bills, I will sometimes place in my planner clipped to a certain do so I remember to pay it on that day. If you simply change your habits a bit, you can maintain the organization and it will be so empowering to be in control of your space.
If you have kids, you'll totally relate to amount of other paper stuff that can pile up in such a short period of time! It's mind blowing at times...
Kids Art Work: As parents, we all start out thinking we need/should keep every little paper our kids bring home from school. It starts in preschool, but we quickly realize that we can't keep every little project! In preschool, our kids make a new art project every class, and we think they are the cutest things in the world. When my kids were that little, I kept it all, and thought I would scrapbook it all. I quickly realized I was never really going to scrapbook that stuff. I don't have to desire or time to do it. So my solution was to take pics of it all, or at least my favorite pieces. I kept those pics all organized by school year, and I include them in the photo books I make for each kid at the end of preschool and elementary school as shown below. Then I throw away the original. This way we still have the artwork without the bulk. I call this the "Snap and Trash" method. The good news is the art work slows down as they get older and eventually stops unless they are art students when they get into higher grades.
School Work and Info: Once they are past Kindergarten the art work starts to diminish and there is more real school work, and tests, and then report cards. I started out keeping tests they got good grades on, but then wondered why I was doing it so I stopped. I don't keep any tests or school work papers. But I do keep their report cards for each grade, and any certificates or awards they receive. However, those certificates and awards could be photographed and trashed just like the art work. The choice is yours. I have a file box for each kid, and it contains a folder for each grade. Inside that folder is a keepsake sheet that I put their school picture on along with the grade and teacher name. Anything I've kept goes in that folder. Pictures below...
Just as with the mail, maintaining all this paper clutter will require some adjustment to your daily habits. When your kids bombard you with papers from school, deal with them right away. While the kids do their homework, you can deal with paper. Fill out those permission slips right away. When they hand you art work, take a pic of it immediately. If your kid wants to keep it for a little while that's fine but don't keep it forever. But if you photograph it, then you can pitch it when you're tired of seeing it laying around and not have to worry about it. My school work files are upstairs in a cabinet so not easily or quickly accessible so to solve that problem I have a file box at the workstation to put school papers in, then every few months or at the end of the school year I move it all upstairs to the school box. This downstairs file box is also where I keep any other papers I may get in the mail that I need to keep just so I don't have to take it all the way upstairs to file it, though I do eventually do that. This is also where I put any papers that I only need to keep temporarily. Then I can shred or recycle them. Each kid also has a folder in here. They know they can put whatever they want in there that they may need down the road. So my 7th grader will put school notes etc in there that she doesn't really need in her binder anymore but will need to study from in a few weeks, and she'll recycle it all after that.
Whatever type of system you choose to help keep the paper under control, make sure it will work in your space, and for your family. You want your family to help and do their part in helping to keep the house organized, so make sure they will be able to handle the new system.
So go ahead and get started, but only work on one category at a time so you don't overwhelm yourself. Also, don't feel like you need to complete the task at one time. If you need to break it up over a couple days, that's fine. But don't give up on it. It may feel overwhelming at first, but you will be so happy with the results, and if all goes well, the results alone should be all the motivation you need to maintain the organization. You'll be amazed how much more in control you feel after you organize something. You'll feel like a woman who has her shit together, and that's enough to many any of us feel empowered!