In part one of this post series we covered how to avoid paper clutter before it ever enters your home. Part two of three is all about how to quickly reduce the amount of clutter in your home, leaving only the most important things remaining. It is vital you get rid of the non-essentials (paper or otherwise). If you do not take the time to toss, the task of organizing becomes overwhelming and you waste valuable time and energy trying to manage stuff you don’t even want, much less need. The key to cutting down successfully is consistency; you must do it daily. Here are four ways to reduce your paper clutter every day.
1) Keep waste and recycle bins where you need them.
We have five trash bins in our humble one bedroom apartment; the kitchen, under the bathroom sink, in the water closet, by my side of the bed, and under the desk. I also have a bin in the car. Keeping trash and recycle bins at hand greatly increases the odds that I will actually use them. Having to walk clear across the room interrupts my work flow and I tend to let the trash accumulate instead of getting rid of it. It may seem lazy but rather than fight my inner couch potato, I make tasks as simple and as easy as possible to carry out. Take a minute to consider where you could use another garbage can. Do you always pay bills at the dining table? Do magazines pile up near the couch? Make your life simpler and buy cute but discreet waste bins to keep where you need them most.
2) Keep a shredder handy.
Similar in style to our plan for trash bins, it is essential to keep a quality paper shredder easily accessible in your home. (This cute little guy is the one I have and love!) I receive most of my financial statements online, but I have to deal with the few documents I receive in the mail if I am going to cut my paper clutter. In the past I would keep a box of “things to shred”, but keeping a shredder at my desk allows me to instantly dispose of paperwork I don’t need. It is important to shield yourself from identity theft as much as possible. Using a shredder for bills and receipts containing private information is a great way to do that, and keeping that shredder within arm’s reach means you will use it and cut out the clutter.
3) If you can do it in 2 minutes or less, do it now.
One of my all-time favorite books on time management and productivity, Getting Things Done by David Allen teaches that if you can handle a task in two minutes or less, do it now. The process of eliminating our clutter becomes overwhelming when we procrastinate. (Check out 6 Ways to Stop Procrastinating.) All the little tasks we need to complete pile up in our brains and in our homes. You hold onto that old bill from the dentist’s office to remind you to call and schedule your next appointment. Instead, follow the two-minute rule and make that call (or write that thank you note or pay that bill) now so you can cut the clutter.
4) Put your phone to work.
If you cannot do a task in less than two minutes you may feel like to you need to keep the paper. A better solution is to put your phone to work and take a picture of it. Microsoft Office Lens is just one of many great apps available for your phone to help you digitally store paper so you can safely toss the hard copy. Snap a pic of the flyer from your daughter’s teacher, the invite to that engagement party on Saturday, or the business card from the Tupperware lady you met last week. Once you have taken the photo, you can let go of the paper copy, knowing that the information is safely stored on your phone when you need to reference it again.
What methods do you use to quickly and consistently cut out the clutter? Share your ideas in the comments below, and stay tuned for part three where we will handle organizing the paper you need to keep.
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