Tips to win the constant battle against paper clutter.


Paper is one of the most challenging kinds of clutter.  You may be able to declutter a whole room in a few hours. You may only be able to go through 1-2 inches of paper in one hour.


After decluttering a room you may feel accomplished and empowered. After spending a few hours dealing with “paper clutter” most likely you won’t notice the difference, or you may feel frustrated and overwhelmed.


Do you find yourself wasting a lot of time looking for papers you need, paying  extra money in late fees and feeling stressed and frustrated due to lack of control over your paper? Don’t let paper clutter win this battle!   


We would like to share our experience dealing with paper clutter. Hopefully, these tips will help you conquer the paper clutter and set up a functional paper management system that you feel comfortable using and maintaining.  


The same principles of the “Decluttering: A transformation that will change your life” post will apply when it comes to paper. There are a few extra steps that we find helpful:


  • The first goal should be to clear your working space from paper. Making this space inviting and functional will empower you to use it.
  • While clearing the space have ready a small box for “Important documents to take care of immediately”. Bills to pay and other documents that require immediate action will go in this box.
  • Have the recycling bin and a “To shred” bin ready.
  • You can store the “To deal with” paper in boxes. You can label them and you can stack them nicely in the corner or out of the way in another storage area. Schedule time to deal with it later.
  • If you have space on the floor, you can start creating piles. Use “post its” or masking tape to write the name of the categories.
  • You can also use a temporary filing system. You can use a bankers box, a collapsible filing box or similar solution. Start creating temporal folders with categories. You can always change them very easily as you go. Once the project is done, you will know how much filing space you need. You can decide then if you require additional filing space. Don’t forget to measure before purchasing any product.
  • Some financial papers need to be kept for up to 7 years. Some other you will need to keep them forever. Make sure to double check with your accountant before discarding anything valuable.
  • Break the project down into several sessions. No one likes to spend too much time dealing with paper clutter. Make sure to deal with it in stages. A good idea could be to spend time dealing with it while watching your favorite TV program, watching the kids, listening to nice music, radio station or interesting podcast. It can take around 1 hour to go through 1-2 inches of paper.
  • Keep a to-do list. Every time you find a paper that requires an action from you can add it to the list. Schedule it later in your calendar.
  • You can reduce your paper by signing up for electronic correspondence when possible and unsubscribing from services you no longer need. Most owner’s manuals and instructions can be found online.
  • You can digitize documents and store them on your computer or use a cloud service. Be aware of the time that this will require. Maybe you can start doing it from now on. Some tools to do this could be using the “tiny scanner” free app or similar product.
  • When using digital solutions to store your files, make sure to create a simple system easy to follow. If some papers are stored physically make sure to use the same labels in digital files as you do in your paper filing system.
  • Consider using your local library system for books/magazines/movies. This will help you reduce the clutter.
  • Have a “home” for all the paper that comes in/goes out/to deal with. Having a command center could be an idea. Make sure to involve everybody in the system. Make recycling easy and convenient.



We hope this post helps you bring Functionality and Joy into your Life. Happy journey!


What did you think about this article? Please feel free to share your story with us. You can leave us a comment below.

Take control over your paper clutter!

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Emilio provides personal, home and business organization solutions for individuals who are ready for change. He is a Co-Founder of KW Professional Organizers, a sought after public speaker and blogger.

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