We have now arrived at the portion of this challenge that I have been dreading the most. Papers. Papers, papers everywhere. There is a constant flow of papers into the house, whether it’s from the mailbox or the backpack(s) of my children. We can control the clothes, shoes, books, and magazines that come into our home, but we have so little control over the paper that comes into our home. And it’s fairly safe to say that precious little of it brings us joy. Therefore, it comes as no surprise when Mari Kondo says to throw it all away.
There are exceptions, of course. In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Mari suggests that we keep only the papers that fall into the three following categories:
- Needs attention
- Should be saved (contracts, leases, warranties, etc.)
- Should be saved (others)
(When we say “papers” here, we are not referring to sentimental items like letters, journals, or cards).
Let’s talk briefly about each of these categories.
- Needs attention. These are bills that need to be paid, permission slips to be signed, newspapers or magazines to be read, etc. Mari suggests keeping these items all together in a vertical organizer. Take special care not to spread these items all throughout the house. They should always be put in the same place.
- Should be saved (contracts, leases, warranties, etc). These papers rarely need to be accessed and can be stored all together in a single clear plastic folder. There is no need to sub-divide.
- Should be saved (others). In the book, it never specifies what “others” means in terms of paper. But I suppose it could refer to things like frequently used take-out menus, a list of phone numbers and addresses, passwords for all your computer accounts, etc.
The KonMari method is quite ruthless when it comes to papers. It even suggests that you throw out lecture materials (that you plan to study “someday”), credit card statements, warranties and owners manuals for electrical appliances, greeting cards, used checkbooks, and pay stubs. Though it may be difficult to get rid of these things, realize that most of this information is rarely looked at or needed, and a simple email, call, or online search can solve most problems.
A major part of keeping paper clutter at bay is to deal with it right when it comes into your house. When I get the mail, I take it directly to the recycling bin and throw most of it in there. Any bills or other items that must be dealt with get saved, of course. The key is to always put them in the same place.
Don’t get sucked into saving coupons that you “might use” someday. Just throw them in the recycling bin with the knowledge that you can take them back out if you realize that you actually need them. If you know you are going to use a coupon, I suggest you put it in your purse immediately so you will have it with you when you need it.
If you have a complicated filing system for your papers, now is the time to abandon it. Keeping things in three clear plastic folders (one for each category) is all you really need. (There are exceptions, of course, which I will address in the “tips” section below).
Here is a picture of my desk after I tidied it up. On the left are two reference books I consult. On the right is a file box with my three plastic folders (color coded), a folder for my photography business, a folder for my book ideas, and a folder for this blog. Open on my desk is my planner, which I refer to every day. And, of course, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Do you have any great ideas for managing paper clutter? Please share in the comments!
This challenge is based on the KonMari method found in the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. If you are just joining us, be sure to start at the beginning! It’s very important to go in order! You can also visit my Transform Your Home, Transform Your Life page for all the previous posts in this series. Don’t feel like you have to catch up if you are just finding this challenge now! Just make sure to start doing the weekly challenges from the beginning, and you will be fine!
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Next week’s post: Storage