Simple Ideas to Conquer Paper Clutter

Are stacks of papers, mail, newspapers, and growing "to do" lists cluttering your home? Has it been months since you've seen your countertops or have you completely forgotten what your countertops look like? Paper clutter includes bills, warranties, cards, mail, memos, sticky notes, lists, letters, advertising flyers, school papers, etc. If any or all of these items are cluttering your home and countertops, follow the simple ideas below to organize your papers and gain control over the clutter.

Mail: the general and well known rule for reducing stacks of mail is to handle it only once.

? Choose an area for sorting mail and sort through it as soon as it arrives. Immediately throw away junk mail and separate the rest into several piles: bills, reading material, and mail to be shredded. Sometimes a fourth pile may be needed to separate your mail from your spouse's mail.

? Place reading material, such as magazines or catalogs into your inbox or magazine holder to be read later.

? Shred all mail containing personal information. This will help to protect yourself from identity theft by safely disposing of mail that contains your Social Security number, bank account numbers, or credit card numbers. Be sure to shred all unwanted credit card applications and home refinancing offers.

? Place your bills in your in box or wherever you pay your bills in order of the date they are due. Create a 13-pocket accordion file with tabs for each month and the last tab for income tax receipts. As you pay bills, write the check number and date on your copy and file accordingly. Also, add bank statements and credit card receipts in the correct months. At the end of the year, add your tax returns and store the entire accordion file.

? Another bill paying method is to purchase a portable filing box or a filing cabinet. Create a filing system of bills paid by labeling manila folders for each company that you pay a bill to. After paying a bill, make a note of your check number and date paid on your copy and file in the appropriate file. At the end of the year, clean out the files that you don't need anymore to make room for the upcoming year.

Permanent Papers:

? Create a tabbed filing system for papers you need to keep long term, such as car insurance, life insurance, homeowner's insurance, medical insurance, children's records, animal records, etc.

Receipts: use an accordion file, a large envelope, a plastic divided envelope, or a coupon wallet to organize your receipts.

? Sort through your receipt file every 60-90 days and throw out receipts that have an expired return date. Be sure to shred receipts that have your credit card number printed on them.

? Save gift receipts. A good rule to follow is to save the receipt for three months after giving the gift. You can also give a gift receipt with the gift for easier return or exchanging.

? Toss out receipts that are not tax-deductible such as groceries, pet grooming, and dry cleaning.

? Staple the receipts of major purchases to their warranty cards or with the instruction manual. For example, if you purchase a vacuum cleaner, staple the receipt to the instruction manual and file it in a labeled folder.

Income Tax Receipts:

? Create a large envelope or a file folder for the current year's income tax receipts. Place all receipts for the year that pertain to income tax in the envelope or folder. This will make it much easier when it's time to figure out your taxes because all your receipts and statements will be in one location.

Manuals, Booklets, and Warranties:

? Create a folder for each major appliance and store manuals, warranties, receipts, and any other important information to be saved. Label the folder for quick and easy reference.

? It's also helpful to keep the receipts, instructions, and warranties of children's products in case a product receives a recall notice or it stops working. This applies more to the larger products such as car seats, bouncy seats, swings, high chairs, electronic toys, etc. Create a folder for each product and label the folders for quick and easy reference.

Magazines and Catalogs:

? Place them in decorative magazine holders next to your couch or wherever you read magazines.

? Store the magazines and catalogs upright so it is easy for you to thumb through them and see what issues you have. As new magazines and catalogs come in, discard the oldest ones.

Books:

? After you have read a book, donate it to a library or sell it if you don't plan to read it again.

? Once your children outgrow their books, have them donate their books to a charity, kid's book store, or library.

Coupons:

? File the coupons in a coupon wallet or an envelope and carry them in your purse or car.

? Be sure to go through your coupons on a regular basis and throw away the expired ones.

Business Cards and Contacts:

? Store all business cards in a business card holder or a Rolodex.

? Keep all addresses and phone numbers in one location such as an address book or a spreadsheet on your computer.

Children's Artwork:

? Purchase a colorful three-ring binder and include favorite artwork. To protect the artwork, place the papers in plastic sleeves made for three-ring binders.

? Turn children's artwork into cards that can be mailed to friends and family.

? Create a file folder for saved artwork.

? Purchase a portable file storage box with hanging file folders. Help your child to decorate the box and label the folders. For example, you might want one folder for kindergarten artwork, one folder for first grade artwork, and so on. This will keep all artwork organized and together in one place.

? Hang up a bulletin board in your child's room where he or she can display their favorite artwork. They can change out the artwork as often as they like and they will enjoy seeing their artwork hanging up in their room.

? Let your child choose a few favorite pieces of his or her artwork and frame it to match their room decor. Then hang the framed artwork in a special place in their room.

Whether you have a built-in desk filing system or you use portable file boxes, the important thing is to label your folders and boxes the way it works best for you. There are many attractive binders and file boxes available on the market today to help you organize your papers. You can purchase portable file boxes in all shapes and sizes. They come in natural fibers, pretty pastels, shabby chic, contemporary, and even see-thru. Three-ring binders and file folders come in different sizes and all the colors of the rainbow, while in boxes made of fabric or linen can be purchased to match your home decor.

In today's fast-paced world, it's often easy to toss papers on your desk or countertop and deal with them at another time. By doing this, you create more work for yourself and more countertop clutter. So, take the steps to get rid of paper clutter for good and you will be more organized, you will take pleasure in seeing your countertops again, and most of all you will enjoy a more comfortable and peaceful home.

Lesley Dietschy is a freelance writer and the creator/editor of The Home Decor Exchange and the Home & Garden Exchange. The Home Decor Exchange is a popular home and garden website featuring resources, articles, decorating pictures, free projects, and a shopping marketplace. The Home & Garden Exchange website is a link exchange program and directory dedicated to the home and garden industry, as well as offering free website content and promotional ideas. Please visit both websites for all of your home, garden, and website needs.

http://www.HomeDecorExchange.com

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