31 Days to a Clutter Free Life: Day 3

31 Days to a Clutter Free LifeIt’s Day 3 of Living Well Spending Less’s 31 Days to a Clutter Free Life!  Today we are supposed to be working on mail – sorting through mail and coming up with a system to keep mail clutter at bay.

I’ve already got a pretty good system for keeping the mail clutter away.  We don’t get many (if any) catalogues or magazines and I elect to get several of our bills electronically, so our mailbox might get 3-5 pieces of mail each day.  And some days we get none.

When I bring in the mail, I walk straight from the mailbox to the recycling bin and I sort out and toss everything that is trash.  Then I take any bills and put them in a mail sorter on my desk and put anything else in my “to file” tray.  Since we don’t get much mail, there isn’t much from the mailbox that goes into this tray.  So all of the mail has a home: bills sorter, to-file tray, or recycle bin.

My struggle is with what happens after that.  First, I often forget to file away the bills once they are paid so the bill sorter gets cluttered after a while.  Second, my to-file tray gets filled with papers that come into the house from sources other than the mailbox – work, preschool, volunteering activities, etc.  I am NOT good about filing regularly.  Finally, anything that contains sensitive information gets put into a box for shredding.  This box got really full because for a long time we didn’t own a shredder and my husband would just take little bits at a time to his work and shred them.  So THIS is what I am tackling today.

First, I’m going to share a couple of before pictures.  I don’t have a cute command center or mail station like those featured on Living Well Spending Less, but it doesn’t have to be cute to be organized, right?  Believe me, I have an Amazon wishlist FULL of attractive organizing accessories that I may just get to purchase someday if this whole blog thing works out.  😉

Paper Clutter - Before

The top tray is stuff to be filed, I honestly can’t even remember what the purpose of the second tray was supposed to be, the third tray is paper that has only been printed on one side that I save to reuse, and the bottom tray is blank printer paper.

As you can see, the top tray is very full and so is that bill sorter right next to it.

Paper Clutter - Before

Here is my other bill sorter.  This is where I was storing receipts to be filed.  At the beginning of the year, I made a plan to track every bit of our spending.  I was going to write down every penny we spent, which is why I began saving receipts.  I would keep them so I could come back later and fill in my budget journal.  Well, as you can see, I’m not very good at keeping up with that either!

So I sorted through everything in the top tray.  The second tray actually had a bunch of stuff that needed to be shredded, so I put that in the to-shred box (another problem area that I’ll get to in just a bit).  That top tray was mostly stuff from the kids’ preschool – newsletters, progress sheets, articles the teachers sent home, etc, some of which I want to save.  So I made a binder for all of that and tossed what I didn’t need to keep.  I also filed volunteer and work papers away in their proper binders.

Paper Clutter - Before

This is the pile of papers I had left to file (medical records, home & auto maintenance documents, insurance documents, retirement account statements).  That is ridiculous.  So I filed it.

Paper Clutter

Then I got busy with the shredder and had three trash bags full of shredded paper before I had to stop.  I recognize my problem here: I have too large of a container for this (the box my Kitchenaid mixer came in).  I need to just get it caught up and then throw the box away and make myself shred things as they come across my desk.

So now my paper sorter looks like this.

Paper Clutter - After

And my binder shelf looks like this.

Paper Clutter - After{Please excuse the lovely faux wood paneling!  I told ya our house was built in the early 1960s!  An office makeover is on my LONG list of house projects!}

After going through this exercise, these are my biggest tips for controlling mail and paper clutter:

  1. File don’t pile! Don’t even create a space for stuff that needs to be filed.  Just file it!  It probably takes less than a minute to do if you do it immediately.  Which leads me to my next tip.
  2. Organize with files and binders. Make a home for every single type of paper you’d want to keep, whether that be school newsletters, kids’ artwork, financial statements, or recipes you want to try.
  3. Write in time for clearing paper clutter on your planner or schedule (or put it in your e-calendar if you are more techie than me!). I used to do this and got out of the habit.  I’m going to start again – every Thursday I’ll see “Paper Clutter” written in my planner and I’ll remember to spend some time making sure any stray pieces of paper are taken care of.  This shouldn’t take more than just a couple of minutes if I’m following numbers 1 and 2!

What are your paper clutter control tips?  Please share in the comments below!

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