I get asked all the time for tips for organizing paper clutter. Well, I'm going to tell you the only strategy that works for these paper piles . . . are you ready? Because it's really quite simple.
Yes, the strategy is to declutter it. Simple, huh?
Well, I grant it is simple in theory, but not necessarily in practice otherwise no one would have problems with paper clutter.
But while later articles in the Paper Organization Series here on the site will give you the nuts and bolts of how to go about decluttering these piles of paper (***update, that article has now been written and the link is at the bottom of this page!***), before you can begin to actually make real progress you've got to be mentally convinced that this strategy -- decluttering -- will really work.
When people ask me how to organize paper clutter I immediately know they haven't gotten quite in the right mental space yet to really conquer this problem.
Same goes for people who say, "I'm getting serious about tackling all these piles. I bought more file folders."
Ummmm, wait a minute please. Just wait. You seriously may need more file cabinets or cool labeled and tabbed files in your home -- but you don't know that yet. Before you can figure that out you've got to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. You've got to get rid of the majority of the paper, which is clutter, so you can actually organize the much much smaller pile of paper that was worth keeping.
The reason is that you can't organize clutter, you've just got to toss it!
Much of that paper is just useless. You'll never look at it again, you'll never need to reference it, it doesn't bring you joy, and it takes up a lot of room. If that isn't the definition of clutter I don't know what is.
It would be both a waste of time, and an almost impossible task as well, to try to organize all this useless paper. It will quickly just get you disgusted with the whole process and make you think you're a failure at home organization and give right back up.
So don't set yourself up for failure. Instead, embrace the trash bags and the recyle bins and the shredder and free yourself from the dead weight of so much of this clutter.
If organizing paper has always seemed like a daunting task it may very well be that you've imagined having to organize all the stuff that in actuality just needs to leave your home, never to be thought of again except with a sigh of relief that it's gone.
So good news, you don't actually have to organize paper clutter at all. Instead, you just need to get rid of it!
Now that hopefully you're convinced that the strategy for getting a handle on your household papers is to declutter the majority of it, the next step is to get to work putting this strategy into practice.
That's the focus of the rest of this Paper Organization Series.
What follows is basically your roadmap and big picture of what we're going to do for the next several weeks as we tackle our paper clutter in our homes.
While there is just one strategy, decluttering, it is a "war" of sorts that needs to be fought on two fronts.
The first war is getting rid of the accumulated paper clutter you've already got. You know the stuff -- all strewn on the counters, shoved into file cabinets, stuffed into boxes and tubs, and on and on.
In this series we're going to help you start asking the right questions in your mind to help you identify what can be tossed versus the relatively very very few things you should save.
The second war is an ongoing battle because every single day you're going to have to declutter your newly acquired paper clutter.
So in another part of this series you're going to learn how to daily ruthlessly and quickly deal with those piles of paper and stop the clutter from reaccumulating.
This involves putting certain systems, routines and habits into place so it never gets as overwhelming again as it may feel to you right now.
So hopefully you've now gotten into the right mental space to really attack your paper clutter, and not to try to organize it, but to get rid of it.
Sometimes it is these subtle mind shifts that make all the difference between success and failure of your endeavor.
So in the next article in the series I'm going to stop getting in your head, and instead help you begin to take some action.
I'll be discussing how to declutter your paper piles, with questions to ask yourself so you can identify what is clutter from the few items you actually should save for reference.
I would love to hear from you, sharing your thoughts, questions, or ideas about this topic, so leave me a comment below. I try to always respond back!