There is a sea of papers washing into our homes every day. How can we manage it all? Learn the KonMari way to banish paper clutter, once and for all!
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!
Next week’s post: Storage
I usually enter my home through the garage. So when I go out to get the mail, and come back in through the garage, I throw the ‘junk’ mail right into the garbage cans. It doesn’t even enter my house. I’m still working on simplifying my filing system, but at least I have my mail under control.
I love this! This year is actually my “go digital” organization year so this works perfect. Tomorrow I have 1 hour dedicated to getting the papers thrown out like you share!
Melissa Howell says
Yay Melissa! This seriously has been one of my favorite challenges. It has a made a HUGE difference for me!
It’s a lot easier to let go of all this unnecessary paperwork. Don’t think the sentimental stuff will be as easy for me! I’m one of those who has tried to keep all the kids artwork etc and ended up in a real mess. Not completely finished with papers yet got saved recipes to do sometime this weeks!
Oh, I forgot to mention I found my driving licence ! It’s been kept in a very safe place for well over 12 months, it was that safe even I couldn’t find it!
Melissa Howell says
Linda, I love it! Now you don’t have to worry so much about being pulled over 🙂
A note about paystubs. My husband worked for a small company that was struggling and eventually failed to pay him a substantial about of his wages. He needed his pay stubs to file a claim against the company through the state workers protection agency. You’ll know if you are possibly in this type of situation and I would suggest keeping those paystubs.
Melissa Howell says
Connie, this is a great idea! It is definitely a good idea to keep financial records if you see danger ahead!
Laura M Banse says
Situations with pay stubs are (likely) more frequent than we would like to think. I wonder if this is where a scanner or Neat system would come in handy – scan it all in, then shred the original?
I don’t know the KonMari way of things, but I need to declutter. And fast. As a writer, I have a lot of unused work that I’ve been told I should *never* throw away. Perhaps I should invest in a Neat system myself.
And let’s not, please, discuss all those recipes I’ll never use now that I’ve gone low carb high fat. Oh. That means this is an EASY dump!
Melissa Howell says
Laura, what great ideas! I didn’t even know about the NEAT Scanner! That’s so cool, and definitely something I will be recommending to my readers!
And yes–THE RECIPES! (I am also low-carb/sugar, high fat). Anyhow, I mostly use Pinterest for recipes and I have a board for “Pinterest Winners” where I can put recipes I have tried and loved.
Good luck on your decluttering! You will feel so much better after you do it! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. It really means a lot to me!
Loretta Evans says
This seems to be what I’ve needed for years. Worked in management positions for over 20 years and setting up and organizing paperwork and files AND I was great at it. I’m retired now, however, and volunteer in several positions. I CANNOT GET IT TOGETHER!!! I can get my volunteer files together, but files for my home are non-existent! I don’t know where anything is.
Melissa Howell says
Isn’t it crazy how we can do things for someone else (or for a job) but not for ourselves? I hope this post helps you get your papers together! After you throw most of them out, hopefully you won’t have that much to get together 🙂 Good luck!
So ready for my obsession with hoarding paper documents to find a new, more spacious home. In the digital world.