I hear from a lot of women that their biggest clutter crutch is **drumroll** paper! Are you raising your hand saying, “Yep. That’s me. I’m one of those women” ?
Trust me, girl. I get it. Decluttering paper can seem like such an unattainable goal because it’s not like normal clutter.
With normal clutter you can just train yourself to not buy the useless crap. But paper is always coming in. And it feels like it multiplies by a billion when you have kids.
The thing is that you’re always going to have more paper and get more paper. And that can feel suuuper discouraging when you’re doing all you can to work towards a minimalist lifestyle.
There are so many “solutions” online and organizational systems that promise pain-free, eternal freedom from paper clutter. But they’re not real solutions.
They’re band-aids. These tips and systems are not for real people dealing with real life.
And that’s my whole mission—to make minimalism and simplified living something that real-life women can work toward and attain. I like to take whatever is not working for everybody and figure it out for all of us, and then share it.
And that’s essentially what I’m doing today because I have figured out that paper clutter crutch for you, girlfriend! I have created a system—tried and tested by myself—that is going to get your never-ending-arrival of paper under control.
Do I hear the Hallelujah chorus? I thought so!
This system is for everything. It’s for mail, it’s for school flyers, it’s for announcements, to-do lists, random post-it notes, any kind of paper.
It’s not a magic pill. It’s not pain free. You’re going to have to work at this and keep working at it or your paper is going to come back.
But this system has eliminated my paper clutter and I know it can eliminate yours too. Follow these six steps to overcome your paper problem.
Create an Inbox
Mine is a white, metal magazine holder from Target. Yours can look however you want. It doesn’t matter.
It can be a basket or a box. Pretty or simple.
It just needs to be able to hold a week’s worth of incoming paper. This inbox is going to be the “landing zone” for any paperwork that comes into your home.
Whether it’s mail, bills, school flyers, wedding invitations, baby shower announcements or even the post-it note with that amazing idea you crammed into your purse when you were at Target. You’re going to put any paper into this inbox so that you can process it later.
Buy a Folder
You can use a plain manila folder or buy a fun one. Whatever you want. You do you. Mine says, “Follow Up” on it because that’s exactly what it’s for.
This folder is going to live inside your inbox. It’s going to be where you put any mail that you can’t take immediate action on.
Sidenote: You could also go digital here if you’d prefer that. Just create a folder in your phone and take a photo of any mail or paper that you need to follow up on and put it in that folder.
The main thing is that you have one place where you can put anything that you need to come back to at a later date.
Pick a Day to Process Your Inbox
Don’t overthink this. Just pick a day.
What day of the week is going to work best for you to sit down and spend time sorting your mail? That is going to be your paper processing day.
This day is nonnegotiable. Of course, you can change the actual day if you find that it doesn’t work for your schedule like you thought it would.
But you must always have a day for processing. Don’t skip a week. That’s how the paper piles up.
Because if it’s negotiable then, when life happens (which it will), you’re not going to take action. You’re just going to have this pretty inbox sitting there but it’s going to be totally pointless.
So, always have a processing day. Put it in your calendar. Set alerts to remind yourself if you need to. Do whatever you have to do to make this day happen.
Make It Fun
Brew yourself a fresh cup of coffee or tea. Or pour yourself a glass of your favorite wine.
Play some music or put a podcast on. Make this a treat. It shouldn’t be a burden. It shouldn’t be a big ordeal.
It should be something you look forward to because you have a system. You have a plan.
You are being an action-taking, problem-solving woman. You’re the CEO of your home and this is the day where you organize, systemize, and handle the things that would stress you out otherwise.
Process Piece by Piece
On processing day, sort through each piece of paper and ask yourself, “What is this? What’s the point of it? What do I need to know? What action needs to be taken, if any?”
Sometimes the action is straightforward and you can do it right away, like adding an event to your calendar or paying a bill online. Other times it takes a little more time.
Maybe it warrants a response from you and you need time to think about your decision or have a conversation with your husband. Maybe you need to call and talk to the company that sent you the piece of mail, but it’s Saturday and you can’t.
That’s fine. That’s what you have your “Follow Up” folder for.
Just stick that piece of paper in there so you can come back to it later when you can handle it. But add a task to your to-do list or set a reminder on your phone or calendar so you remember that it’s in the folder and you need to take care of it.
Your goal is to put as little amount of papers in the “Follow Up” folder as possible. Any time you can take immediate action, do that.
If you need to pay a bill, pay it. If you need to RSVP to something, do it. Don’t wait if you don’t need to.
Then throw the paper away. We want our processing days to mostly look like a checklist of: “Process, finish, trash.”
Quit the Excuses
You need to understand that you’re going to stay overwhelmed and overrun by paper if you don’t get a system in place. And that’s not what we want because it’s not necessary.
I hear so many excuses:
“Oh, there’s just no day of the week for me to do this.”
“Well, I’m not good at things like that.”
“This won’t work for me because of [insert any reason].”
Listen to me, friend. Anything can work for you if you make it work. If you decide that you don’t want to be a mess, that you want to handle things, that you want to get your crap under control, it will work.
Having a system like this takes the problem out of it. This is the answer. I’m literally giving you the answer.
Now it’s up to you. It’s time to channel your inner Olivia Pope, and handle your business.
Did you know my signature program, Your Uncluttered Home, has an entire section on paper clutter? Tens of thousands of women have completed the course and decluttered their entire homes.
Ditch the clutter, decrease stress, and spend your time on what matters most to you.