7 Hacks For Organizing All The Paper In Your Life

Paper clutter is one of the worst kinds of clutter, because it usually represents a mound of important tasks undone, like bills to pay or forms to fill out. In fact, until relatively recently, getting a handle on paper clutter (or more accurately, not getting a handle on paper clutter) was one of the biggest sources of unresolved anxiety in my life.

Instead of tackling the problem head on, I'd throw things I was afraid to look at — like credit card statements and insurance documents — in a pile in the corner, metaphorically burying my head in the sand, only to succumb to inevitable waves of anxiety every time I remembered the pile was there.

And I definitely wasn't alone. According to psychologist and stress expert Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D. in an article for Psychology Today, "Messy homes and work spaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed." Carter went on to note that, "Random papers strewn everywhere can be Public Enemy #1 when it comes to stressful clutter. We're inundated with mail, flyers, menus, memos, newspapers, and the like. The key is to be conscious of what you bring and what others bring into your spaces."

If you're reading this and can relate, here are seven tips for organizing all the paper in your life that should definitely help.

1. Schedule A Day To Tackle It

This first step is extremely important, as getting a handle on months — or even years —worth of paper clutter can take some time. Once you've scheduled a day to tackle the task, Brooke McAlary, podcaster and founder of the simple living site Slow Your Home, recommended starting by gathering every piece of paper clutter in your home and putting it in one place. "Go through your home and pick up any paper clutter you see. Any at all," McAlary said. "Make sure to check the kitchen (particularly the top of the fridge) and benchtops. Also thoroughly check the office, the desk and any papers floating about in your drawers [...] That way, when the time comes, you’ll know what you need to make a space for, and how best to organize it."

2. Unsubscribe

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In a piece on things you can do to declutter your life right now on the personal organization site unclutterer, contributor Deb Lee sited unsubscribing from junk mail as the number one step in ridding your life of unnecessary clutter. This can take a little time, as you'll sometimes have to call a company directly to get off their mailing list, but it is totally worth it in the long run.

3. Scan It

Epson Perfection V19 Color Photo and Document Scanner, $69.99, Staples.com

In another unclutterer piece by Editor-In-Chief Erin Doland, Doland strongly recommended investing in a paper scanner if you don't already have one. That way you can scan all reference documents without using up any actual space in your paper filing system. She also suggested scanning single pages from magazines to keep things like recipes or household tips you may want for future reference.

4. Take Care Of Mail Right Away

In an article about ways to clear paper clutter for HGTV, special projects editor Kayla Kitts said to take care of mail immediately when you come home. "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," Kitts said.

5. Invest In A Filing Cabinet

Office Design Vertical File Cabinet, $79.99, Staples.com

This leap frogs off the last tip — Kitts also stressed the importance of a solid filing system in order to quickly and efficiently organize incoming documents. "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," she said. "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."

6. Have A "To Do" Box In Plain Site

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McAlary also recommended keeping a "To Do" or "For Immediate Action" box somewhere in your home in plain site. "This category includes bills that need paying, letters that require sending, forms to complete, school permission slips, medical receipts that you need to claim, etc. Basically anything that requires an action on your part." She stressed the importance of keeping this box somewhere you will always see, like next to your computer.

7. Invest In A Shredder

Infogaurd 8-Sheet Cross Cut Shredder, $39.99, Staples.com

Lifestyle author and founder of the The Clean Mama Becky Rapinchuk has extremely straightforward advice when it comes to getting a handle on paper clutter. "Get a paper shredder. And use it," Rapinchuk wrote. That way you'll never be keeping a pile of paper around simply because it contains sensitive information that you're afraid to throw away.

Paper clutter can be a beast, but the good news is it's a problem with a solution. Just invest in a few basics, like a filing cabinet and some file folders, and reserve a day for some serious organizing, and you'll feel a huge weight off your shoulders. So go forth and declutter!

Images: Pexels (3); Courtesy Brands