The struggle is real. The constant trail of paper that makes it’s way into your house can overtake your counters and your space. It can be suffocating and add to the chaos of any home; paper clutter is so easy to acquire and many people find it hard to get rid of it because it. keeps .coming.
I know because I am there…or well I was there. I decided to take control of the paper piles, the file cabinets, the mail and the school work! I felt like I was fighting a losing battle against all the paper in our house! Now that Paisley is in Kindergarten she brings home papers everyday! If I don’t go through the mail daily it stacks up…and then there’s the bills, the coupons I want to keep, the running lists written on paper and the to-do’s written on ten post it notes scattered in different areas of the house, but mostly the kitchen counter 🙂
The number one way that a house can be simplified and organized is by reducing the amount of paper that is kept and coming up with a system to determine what stays, what goes and then following through with it consistently. I know it sounds like just another thing to do, but let me tell you if you keep up with it, then it will only take a few minutes instead of a whole day or weekend to clear your house of the paper clutter.
I am the queen of keeping something because “Well you never know if we may need that someday…”. This means that things pile up and this includes paper. I think I did an ok job of keeping the paper trail pretty thin, until we had Paisley. Obviously I had less time to devote to organizing and such, but I think it is the amount of paper that a baby and child acquires. At the beginning it was mainly insurance EOB’s and hospital bills that seemed to constantly be sent to us and I kept for records. As she got older it was all the notes, pictures and coloring and then in pre school the projects and writing. I, of course, kept it all and by the end of Kindergarten I was facing quite a pile of papers that was overwhelming and frustrating. Since it was such a large looming amount I couldn’t even look at the papers to enjoy them.
Adding to the pile was of course each Christmas card (our own and others’), birthday invites, wedding programs of friends and family and well you get the idea…all the “stuff” you don’t want to toss but you don’t have a place for, so it goes in the “I’ll take care of it someday” pile. This pile was starting to grow beyond ‘guest room’ pile status into full-on ‘I need my own separate guest house’ status really quick. It was time to take action….
I recently cleaned out and purged our office area of a bunch of stuff. This included the paper piles. Well they didn’t get purged but moved to another area of the basement to deal with at a later date. That date finally came this last weekend, so I am sharing with you how I organized the overwhelming papers to keep the memories but get rid of the overwhelm they were creating. I feel this is best done in two parts as I do not want to overwhelm with the various steps it takes to create a more paper free existence. 🙂 Part 1 is all about getting the overwhelm in order first and Part 2 will focus on developing an on going system so (hopefully!) you will not have to go back to part 1 ever again!
6 Steps to Gain Control of the Paper in your House:
- Figure out where all the paper piles are in your house. The first step to any “conquering” project is to know where your plan of attack must start….I knew I had 4 main areas where we tossed papers: the kitchen desk area or command center if you will, the file cabinets in the downstairs office area, the ever growing-overflowing pile of school, family etc. papers (see above) and the to-be-filed basket on top of the file cabinets in the basement.
- Choose one area to start purging. I choose the kitchen desk area since it is where most of the accumulation starts and I like to feel success early. I knew it would be easy to determine which ‘more recent’ papers to keep and which to throw away. I already have somewhat of a system of where certain types of papers that need to be kept go so I put them there if I was going to keep them. If you do not have such a system yet, do not fret…Part 2 will be out next week and we can work together on it. For now make a pile (I know this sounds counter productive but I promise we will not keep it there for long!) of what to keep from that main area and toss the rest. We will organize that pile soon! Unless number three helps you with some of that pile (so if it works you can move those ‘kept’ papers to the huge pile we are about to conquer or you can keep it small to attack next week when we develop a system…this is up to you) and so on we go…
- Attack the large pile in the “no one goes in there” room. I know everyone has one…there is a room where items, boxes and papers no one knows what to do with go to “deal with later”. Well the later has come and we are going to deal 😉 Our pile was out in our basement area at this point. I started separating it into smaller piles…piles according to what it was…for example I had a pile of family pictures (many I had framed but had switched out with more current ones), a pile of Christmas cards (one pile of ours and then another pile of extended family cards we had received), a pile of other misc. mementos (wedding programs, bday invites, etc.), and I also had separate piles for each of Paisley’s years in school so far. Luckily she is in Kindergarten, so I had 3 year old pre school, 4 year old pre school and Kindergarten. I also made a home pile, because some of the drawings and such she had done here at home with me. I didn’t choose to purge anything until I had put everything into piles first.
- Go through all your file cabinets. I started doing this before I did anything else with the school paper piles. I knew it would be a lot easier to make a huge pile of bills, etc. to throw away then my sweet girl’s coloring pages. So I started going through each file folder and had a huge pile of bills and other non-needed papers that could be thrown away. I had papers dating back to 2007…seriously…get out of my life, right? 😉
- Store papers you want to keep. So I am a sentimental person and like to keep mementos, but I am also realistic. I know I can not keep every single drawing and book that Paisley ever made. So as I went through the piles of each school year, I chose the ones that showed her true development and character…any ones with her picture or self portait- keep! Any that were just books she colored-toss! Artwork- almost, always keep! Math workbook pages- usually toss! I also kept any invites to school functions, progress reports and her pre school graduation program. After I sifted through the piles I put each year’s papers that I was keeping in a file folder labeled with that year. The box then is labeled with her name. I currently have two boxes and this one I started is already half full! So I will be needing to get more once my little man gets to school too, but for now we are good. All the pictures and other invites, cards, etc. I decided we are keeping were put in a basket to put in a scrapbook later.
- Everything in its place. Now it was time to find a place for the storage containers so they are out of sight but not out of mind. I decided to put ours by our file cabinets in the basement office so all papers can be filed at the same time without the build up of another huge pile in the future.
This is a project. It took me almost a whole day to go through and organize. The important thing is to conquer it and then set up a system to keep it from getting overwhelming again…in Part 2 of ‘Clear the Path’ I will tell you how to create a system to handle paper clutter by highlighting what works for me and the steps to developing one for yourself.
Sometimes in order to simplify our homes we need consistent routines and systems that help us organize, make decisions and also relieve us of what weighs us down…and those paper piles do get heavy after awhile! 😉 Stay tuned for Part 2…coming next week…