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paper clutter

Bad Minimalist – Too Much Paper Clutter Again

Grrr . . . . I feel like a bad minimalist.

One of the piles of paper on my desk right now

One of the piles of paper on my desk right now

Paper has taken over my life again. I have stacks of it in my office, the home office, and my kitchen – notes, receipts, documents to be filed for tax purposes, business cards, and probably a bunch of stuff I can recycle. It’s the one thing I don’t have control over in my life. I can stop buying stuff, but I can’t stop the paper traffic in my life. I can only minimize and manage it.

I’ve been traveling a lot this year and it started piling up before I left town for The Undeniable Tour. I was so busy for the weeks leading up to the trip that everything that didn’t have to get done before the Tour got put in a pile to be dealt with when I got back.

When I got back after being on the road for two weeks, I had piles of mail that arrived while I was away and everything I brought back from the road. Two weeks was a long time to be away from clients; I felt like I spent at least two weeks trying to catch up again. I somewhat got a grip on the day-to-day influx of paper (mail, business cards, receipts, bills) but I still had the piles from the previous weeks. And then I had to prep for my trip to speak at Ungagged in London so everything that I could put off until after I returned was put in a new pile.

Bah! Too much paper around me!
And don’t get me started on how bad my email inboxes are right now.

In my early days of embracing minimalism, I gave myself a 30-day challenge of processing paper through my life in 24 hours or less. It was a great experience that took diligence but it gave me a clean workspaces. Clearing of my desk and counter and creating a de-cluttered environment helped clear my mind. I felt less anxious and distracted. It helped me see that I only need to do one thing at a time and trying to multi-task makes me feel insane.

I need to be more disciplined about the paper in my life. It would be foolish to let it pile up all week, telling myself that I’ll take care of it over the weekend. That is total crap and I know it. Sometimes I’m so tired by the weekend that I don’t do anything but lay on the couch and watch movies between naps or I have events and activities that take up all my time. I think I need to think about paper like flossing my teeth – I don’t like doing it but it doesn’t take that long and the long-term effects are worth it. It’s definitely a suck-it-up-buttercup task.

So what’s the plan? I have a good system for staying organized and mostly clutter-free when I chose to use it. I’ll have to have a conscious effort to get rid of the excess paper in my life and keep it that way. Thankfully I promised Rosie and myself that I’m not traveling this summer so I’ll have time to tackle this project and work on making it a habit. In regards to my email, I’m turning my inbox clean-out into a post for Attorney at Work so hopefully that will motivate me to get it done and stay aware of what’s is/is not working in the process so I can pass those lessons along to my readers.

If you go through periods where your paper clutter gets away from you and you have to make it a big to-do to get un-cluttered, I’d love to hear what works for you. Likewise, if you’ve slayed this dragon, I’d love to hear any tips you an offer for how you stay paper clutter-free.

New Minimalism Project – Eliminate Paper Clutter

Part of the challenge/fun of being an aspiring minimalist isn’t just getting rid of stuff that doesn’t add value to my life but also not bringing new things into my home that are superfluous and create clutter. I’ve notice one of the things that creates a lot of clutter in my life is paper. I subscribe to the Phoenix Business Journal and sometimes it takes me a few weeks to find time to read it; I get business cards from new contacts at networking events; I get flyers and handouts of useful information. I get bills and financial statements that I hold onto for tax purposes; but, unfortunately, I suck at filing them so they will become a massive pile on my desk and every few months I’ll take an hour to sort it all out.

Collectible Cards by J Aaron Farr from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Collectible Cards by J Aaron Farr from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

This month I’m challenging myself to eliminate the paper clutter in my life. I want to get rid of the stacks of paper that are around the house. They’re not as bad as they used to be, but they’re still there. I also want to try to adopt a rule that every piece of paper that comes into the house has to be put away or recycled within 24 hours of crossing the threshold. This will be a big challenge when I get the latest issue of the Phoenix Business Journal or I get a massive stack of business cards from networking events. Last year I went through my stacks of business cards, updated my contact database, and threw them all out. I don’t want those stacks to come back because I’m never going to look at them again. If someone wants a recommendation, I’ll look it up.

When it comes to organizing my records, I’ve noticed that I prefer to use binders instead of file folders. It’s just easier to manage everything. I got a bunch of binders from a friend last year who was cleaning out their office and they’ve been sitting on a bookshelf. I want to take some of my paper file, three-hold punch the documents I need to keep, and organize them in binders so I can easily find what I’m looking for when I need it instead of having to potentially go through every page in the file. This will be especially handy for documents and receipts I have to keep for taxes.

There will be a few exceptions to the 24-hour rule. One is bills and bank statements. I have one day a week that is designated for dealing with bills and bank statements. It’s just more efficient to deal with them in one sitting. Those envelopes have a designated space on the kitchen counter and once a week I deal with them. This system is working so I’m not going to mess with it. The other exception is for grocery store ads. I save money by buying things when they’re in season and stocking up on staples when they’re on sale. When the ads arrive in my mailbox, I highlight the things I might want to get during my next grocery trip and I make my shopping list based on that. The ads sit on the counter until the following week’s arrive and that’s when the previous week’s get recycled.

So basically the rule for the month is all paper has to be put away or recycled within 24 hours of entering the house unless it’s more efficient to keep something on the counter for a specific purpose for up to a week.

This will be interesting to see how this challenge works out. I think it will be great for creating new habits that eliminate clutter, but I think it will be hard to get home late from an event and know that I can’t go to bed until I deal with the papers from the day.