“Paper, paper, everywhere, but not a drop of ink.”

Stacks of books and papers

That’s the current state of my kitchen as we strive to get back to normal after the holidays… Christmas cards have been cherry-picked out of stacks of mail, so that now bills and junk mail are all that remain on the island, waiting to be sorted. An overflowing cup of unsharpened pencils and dead pens sits on the corner desk. Receipts and coupons of all kinds as well as tickets to sporting events—a pile my husband refers to as “his stuff”—accumulate on the counter next to the stove. Then there is the pile of newspapers and magazines that I am not quite sure what to do with because they contain articles I have written.

As the constant war on clutter wages on in my house, it’s definitely the paper battle that is the hardest to fight. That’s probably because, like laundry, it never ends. When the kids were little, there was a constant stream of school-related paperwork—permission slips, newsletters, order forms, homework to be signed, artwork to be “treasured.” While that clutter source has somewhat dwindled as they’ve grown up, the larger problem remains. Every day, a brand new stack of paper clutter arrives in my mailbox. As a “list-person,” I create my own clutter as various lists float about the house (and of course, I’m never quite sure where to find them when I need them.) And from previous attempts to organize the clutter, our office filing cabinet is stuffed to the brim, unable to accept even one more piece of paper.

Well, it’s the New Year, and I’m making a resolution to take control of my paper problem once and for all. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I’m probably not the only person out there who is struggling with this, so I’m going to share my plan—which I’m developing by picking the ideas I like best from a variety of articles found through a Google search— right here.

Create a system.

Most of the articles I’ve read start with this tip. Easier said than done, but it makes sense. Because of the constant influx of paper, all other attempts are temporary, unless you have a system in place for handling future paper flow. Basically, a “system” involves acting on paper right away — sorting mail into stacks of “Toss,” “Take action,” or “Keep.”

One problem with this system is you need a place to put the “Take Action” and “Keep” piles. The recommendation for this usually involves a beautiful Pier One basket for the “Take Action” pile and an empty, well-labeled filing cabinet and/or multi-colored 3-ring binders for the “Keep” papers.

Another problem with this system is you need to be disciplined enough to go through your lovely “Take Action” basket on a very regular basis so you don’t forget to pay the Visa bill or turn in Junior’s permission slip for the field trip to the Zoo.

But this is the year I’m going to tackle it, so it’s time for me to head to Pier One and then go through my filing cabinet to toss the elementary school files for my now college-age kids, the veterinarian records for my dead dog, and the car repair receipts for the minivan we got rid of 10 years ago…

Go paperless.

This is the other consistent tip in almost every article. Pay your bills online, and opt out of the snail-mail version of bills. I have two problems with this tip: 1. It requires remembering more passwords, and 2. It requires opening email that looks like junk mail— and I literally currently have 22, 324 unread messages in my email inbox. I am not exaggerating. I counted one day — I receive over 200 emails each day, and generally, 198 of those are junk mail, while only 2 are from real people. I generally just skip to the ones that look legit and open them, while the rest languish in my inbox until the number of unread messages causes me enough anxiety that I need to go through and start deleting in bulk.

So, with the realization that this tip is probably not going to work out so well for me, there is a 99% chance that you are more organized than I am when it comes to email, so I’m passing it along.

Use technology.

I like this one. The suggestion is to use your smartphone to take photos of things like sports schedules and lunch menus, so you can toss the paper version rather than stick it in a pile or on your fridge. Also, when you consider that most restaurants post their take-out menus online these days, you can toss all menus that get shoved under your door and rely on Google instead. Likewise, whenever possible, store the electronic version of things like airline tickets, sporting events tickets, and coupons in your phone’s wallet.

With these 3 tips, I’m going to take a stand against paper clutter in 2019. Let me know if you are willing to join me in the fight—and share your own tips! Once I get this one down, it’s onto the next fight: the battle against electronic clutter–charge cords and ear buds and old cell phones, oh my…