Stacks of paper can get out of control super-quick!

It’s so easy to have piles of “who-knows-what’s-in-there” on every countertop and table in sight.

For most of us, it’s a source of stress that nags at us because we don’t know what unpaid bill or important document may be buried within!

Solving the problem is not as easy as creating it, but it’s definitely easier than we might think.

With a little effort, you can conquer your paper clutter!

Here are 6 tips to help you as you get started:

1- Use a physical inbox for all incoming paper.

It can be a letter tray, a drawer, or a cardboard box. That’s up to you.  It is SO helpful to have one “front door” through which all paper enters. This allows your “clutter” to be centralized and helps you know how much needs to be processed. This will help you with the immediate problem of the big stack, as well as streamlining for the paper that will come your way in the future. Take your current stacks and place them in the inbox. Then, process them as you have time. For detailed instruction on how to process your inboxes, see my post titled, “Control Your Inbox and Get To Zero…You Can Do This!”

2- Toss all the junk as soon as possible

(Into the recycle bin, of course). The sooner you throw it away, the better! If possible, throw it away the first time you touch it. Open the letter and toss the envelope.  Weed out the junk mail before you ever put it in the inbox if you can.This will help your stack be smaller from the very beginning. It saves time later, and can help with your motivation. Big stacks = I-don’t-wanna-do-it.

3- Use online bill paying services.

Most banks have online bill-paying services. If your bank doesn’t, the vendor likely will. When you choose this option, you eliminate the paper bill, help the environment, and take a chunk out of your clutter.

4- Sort and organize in ways that make sense to you.

Very few people actually get rid of ALL paper. There will be some things that you decide you need to keep around. Whatever you end up with, organize it. Give things a home and make sure they get “tucked in” after use. It doesn’t really matter where, as long as it makes sense to you. There are some great resources and ideas available online.  For starters, check out 43folders.com. I use some of their recommendations in my daily filing.

5- Use Evernote (or some other notes software).

I use Evernote every single day.  In fact, I typed this blog post in Evernote and then pasted it into my blog. It’s a great way to (as they say) “Capture Anything, Access it Anywhere, and Find Things Fast”. They have smartphone and desktop apps, as well as web access so you’re always synchronized and have what you need. You should check it out. This can eliminate lots of paper. There are other alternatives, but Evernote is pretty sweet.

6- Digitally convert the paperwork you may want or need later.

My family of eight just moved across the country with just a 6×12 trailer (you can read about it here). Because our space was limited, we had to go fairly extreme on some downsizing.  We had A LOT of paperwork that related to the kids’ education, tax forms, etc. I had access to a photocopier at work that would scan stacks at a time (assuming there were no staples:) and email a PDF version to my Gmail account. It was crazy fast, and it didn’t cost anything.  If you don’t have access to a scanner you can use for free, you can go to an office supply store and pay a very small fee to use their equipment. For single items or small stacks, you can buy a Neat Scanner or use Smartphone apps like CamScanner to snap a picture and convert to PDF. If you want to keep it super simple and free, you can just snap a picture with your phone and keep it with your other images. You can do this with cards, personal notes, important documents, photographs, receipts…you name it. Remember, you can always print something if you need it down the road.

Paper clutter can be a nightmare, but you can do something about it.

Hey, you’ve still got a little time left today!  Why not jump in that pile and get started?

But, be careful!  Papercuts…