Paper Clutter: More 10 Minute Tasks

This post covers the second set of 10 minute tasks to control paper clutter. Read the first post here.

paper clutter

“The key to being a minimalist is controlling the stuff that flows into your life.”

– Francine Jay, Miss Minimalist 

As you work through these projects, remember that to get rid of paper clutter, you have to cut back on incoming paperwork. It’s not just about organizing what you have.

1. MAGAZINES & NEWSPAPERS

Cancel subscriptions for periodicals you don’t read. “Planning to read” does not count as reading.

For those you do read, subscribe to digital versions, or, if you prefer paper, see if they’re at your library.

It took years for me to give up all my magazine subscriptions since I have hoarding tendencies I’m all about gradual minimalism. I don’t miss any of them.

If you’re not ready to cancel all your subscriptions, plan how you’ll catch up on your reading.

Luckily, most periodicals lend themselves to being read a few minutes at a time.

  • If you watch TV sans DVR, read during commercials.
  • Keep magazines in the car or a tote bag so you can read while your kids play at the park or you’re waiting for an appointment.
  • I know this sounds funny, but I even read while I brush my teeth. Added benefit: since I’m reading, I brush longer.

What can you do with old periodicals besides recycle them?

  • Sheets of newspaper under mulch help prevent weeds in your garden.
  • Make biodegradable starter pots for seedlings.
  • Crumpled newspaper substitutes for foam packing peanuts.
  • Small rolls of newspaper work as kindling.
  • Give old magazines to a hospital, library, senior center, prison or school.
  • Wrap gifts in newspaper and top them with gift bows made from magazine pages.

2. COUPONS AND SALES CIRCULARS

Sales circulars and coupons can’t save you money if they’re buried in a pile of paper. Recycle expired items and find a set place to keep the rest.

Put them there as soon as you sort the mail or read the paper. Every week, recycle the newly expired items.

3. BOOKS TO READ

I rip book reviews out of newspapers and magazines. I scribble titles on a notepad I keep in the car for books mentioned on NPR. I write book suggestions from friends on corners of take-out menus. Talk about paper clutter!

Luckily, my library lets me keep lists on its website. Every weekend, I enter all these books on my library list and recycle all those scraps.

See if your library has this system. If not, use a small notebook or an app like Evernote to cut your paper clutter.

4. HOBBY PAPERWORK

Today’s task is getting of hobby paper clutter. See what you don’t want anymore and donate or recycle it. If you want to keep it, try to find a paperless method of storage.

I used to save paper knitting patterns, whether magazines, circulars bought from the yarn store or print-outs from the internet.

Although I like knitting from paper patterns, I finally realized I shouldn’t print a pattern until I’m ready to knit it.

After all, I save many more patterns than I’ll ever have time to knit.

I began saving patterns as PDFs on my computer. Now I keep them in my Ravelry library instead of cluttering my hard drive.

If you do need to save paper materials, think about you can better organize them.

5. KID RELATED PAPERWORK

By this I mean not items you want to save for sentimental reasons (which I’ll discuss in a future post), but all that other stuff that goes along with having kids. Examples are field trip permission forms, directories, registration forms, invitations and handbooks.

You need to act on some of these papers, like field trip forms. Fill these out and put them back in your child’s school folder or backpack the same day. Also, try to RSVP to invitations as soon as you receive them.

Add everything to your calendar as soon as you find out about it, even if the date is tentative. If you don’t need the piece of paper after this, immediately recycle it.

For papers I keep, I use a wire sorter, labeling a manila folder for each type of activity. Each time you add paperwork to a folder, see if there’s anything you can recycle.

6. AUTOMATIC BILL PAY

Set up automatic bill pay for all the bills you can. This saves time and, if you have trouble remembering to pay bills, saves money, since you’ll no longer owe late fees.

Don’t forget to check bills and statements for errors.

7. JUNK MAIL AND CATALOGS

One of the easiest ways to cut paper clutter is by taking yourself off junk mail lists.

In the comments to my first post on controlling paper clutter, Sharon Harding kindly provided some resources for those of us in the US: www.catalogchoice.orgwww.optoutprescreen.com and www.dmachoice.org.

Also, check out the FTC’s tips for stopping unsolicited mail, email and phone calls.

I used to save catalogs for companies I order from, but I realized I don’t need them. I always go to the website to order anyway, so it makes sense to ask to be taking off the mailing list.

8. OTHER CATEGORIES OF PAPER YOU NEED TO TAKE ACTION ON

You probably have types of paperwork I haven’t listed. If so, create your own 10 minute challenges to deal with those items.

9.REFERENCE AND SENTIMENTAL MATERIALS

Almost everyone will still have paper clutter. Quickly review what’s left, recycling what you can.

If you already have a good system in place for filing and scanning reference and sentimental paperwork, do it.

Otherwise, set it aside for now. I’ll discuss storage solutions for these materials in a future post.

Your Paper Clutter Solutions

Please share your ideas for combatting paper clutter in the comments. I’d especially love tips for readers in countries other than the US for getting off junk mail and catalog mailing lists.