Paring Down the Paper

I've gotten a bit better over the years about not keeping so much paper around, but it's still definitely a problem. And with the advent of "going paperless," I find fewer things coming to me in hardcopy, but they have been replaced with a surplus of emails, PDFs, and other files on my computer that are still wasting valuable space and creating unneeded stress. Going paperless doesn't solve our problem if we're still receiving just as much communication and holding onto all of it far longer than we need to, letting it clutter up our lives, and causing the truly important messages to get lost in the chaos.

I've come across multiple sites with tips for eliminating paper and electronic clutter, but one that seems more comprehensive is from Living Well Spending Less, and I thought I would share some of the tips with you and how I have already or am in the process of implementing some of them.

Stopping the clutter before it comes in is key. Having a screening system and organizational system in place can help keep things under control and prevent important messages from slipping through the cracks. This means that you carefully decide what makes it into your home in the first place, and determine where each message should go, according to categories of priority and how you intend to respond.

One thing that has helped me curb my electronic clutter is unsubscribing to emails that I don't find helpful or interesting anymore. I have subscribed to blogs, store newsletters, and other sites to get updates or get deals before, but I don't necessarily want to continue receiving emails from all of them. It saves me time and energy if I just unsubscribe from the lists instead of having to deal with an overflowing email inbox.

It's so easy to keep all of our photos. In order to get the best pictures, I tend to snap several shots in quick succession, but I rarely go back to delete the duplicates. I have spent hours going back through old photos to eliminate the ones that aren't my favorites, paring down the collection to the photos that truly are the best. I did a big overhaul of my photo library when I bought a new computer in November. I knew I didn't want to transfer duplicates or poor-quality photos, so I transferred only the ones that I really wanted to keep. It was good motivation for me to purge, knowing unnecessary photos would take up valuable memory on my computer, and starting over from scratch was a good opportunity to do bite the bullet and get rid of extra photos.

When things come in that I do need to keep, I file them in an organizer that's separated by category. I currently need to go back through my file folder and weed out things that are outdated, as I've been using the same file folder system for a while, but it makes finding things like banking summaries, loan information, or receipts easy to find. Having all of my important papers in one place makes it less stressful and less cluttered.

My sister and I have a small mail organizer inside the door of our apartment that allows us to place letters for each other in a defined place. I know that without it, we would end up with mail piling up all over the place. We also sort through the mail as we bring it in, immediately recycling things we don't want, putting sensitive information in a "to be shred" bin, and opening anything urgent.

Although my email inbox isn't as full as it used to be since I have begun unsubscribing from email lists, I need to get better about how I sort through my emails. I use Gmail, and I have the Sortd extension, so I can drag and drop emails into various categorical lists. Alternately, I can file them in folders in my regular email settings. I'm still working out the kinks to determine what works best for me, but I'm making progress in creating my own process for handling emails quickly and efficiently.


What things help you tame paper and electronic clutter?