Image: Ultra Linx
Paper clutter is annoying.
And the more we try to get rid of it, the more it somehow creeps back into our lives: statements, bills, invoices, flyers, brochures, letters, printed documents, forms etc…etc…which is sometimes hard to believe, given we live in a world with sophisticated technological devices and solutions.
Moving to a less busy life involves scratching beneath the surface of busyness, to look for the not-so-obvious things that are contributing to our hectic lifestyles. Paper clutter is one such thing.
Think about the last time you checked your mailbox and found a bill or bank statement. You had to open the envelope, and either action the item or file it away for another day. Did you place it in a folder or drawer, or did you leave it in a pile with other paper documents? Did the pile increase until one day, you had to look for that document and couldn’t find it amongst the pile of paper clutter?
Paper clutter is also a physical reminder of the some of the tasks and issues we may be dealing with in our lives, and sometimes we like to file things away for another day because we don’t want to deal with the issue at hand.
Credit card statements remind us of the money we have spent, or maybe the money that we don’t have to pay for the things we have purchased. It could trigger emotional responses relating to financial stress.
Flyers and advertisements may remind us of things we need to attend to but “haven’t got time for”.
Paper clutter also impacts on our environment- think about the resources that have been used up in producing paper (both mechanical and chemical resources- did you know that paper is bleached?), the ink used to print the documents or the plastic used to cover magazines to make them waterproof. Yes paper can be recycled, but according to Clean Up Australia, producing 1 tonne of paper consumes 20-full grown trees however recycling the same amount of paper only saves 13 trees.
So we can see that the impact of paper clutter extends beyond the obvious of having too much junk in the house.
If we all make a conscious effort to either reduce paper clutter or eliminate it completely, we will have less clutter in our homes, feel less stressed and busy, and contribute to protecting our environment.
Here are 5 tips on reducing busyness through eliminating paper clutter:
1. Digital bills and statements
Contact your local energy/water/telecommunications suppliers and bank to ask if you can receive your bills and statements online. If you are in Australia, visit B Pay View where you can easily set up digital bills and statements, and can elect to receive reminder emails and SMS prior to your bill due date to prevent late payments. This also saves you getting late payment reminder letters when you have forgotten to pay!
2. No Junk Mail
Place a “No Junk Mail” sticker on your letterbox to stop the delivery of catalogues and other advertising material. Some organisations ignore this request, however if this is a problem for you either contact the organisation or find out if there are local laws or standards addressing this issue. If you are in Australia, it is actually illegal to place advertising material on car windscreens!
3. Deal with paper immediately
When you receive a bill or statement, deal with it straight away. If it is purely “junk”, place it in a recycling bin. If it can be paid straight away, then pay it! If not, then find a folder, box or some other storage solution to keep all such documents together in one place. Once the bill has been paid, then file it in another storage solution if you still need to keep it, otherwise shred the document before putting it in a recycling bin. Shredding personal documents prevents the theft of documents thrown into bins, which can be used for identity theft. Remember also that most companies keep your records on storage for a number of years, so if you are concerned about throwing out bills you may later need for reference, keep this in mind.
4. Say no!
The easiest way to prevent paper clutter is to say no! If you are out somewhere and someone tries to distribute a flyer to you, politely say “no thank you” or quickly read the flyer and return to the distributor. Self-serve cash registers in some supermarkets now give you the option to choose whether or not a receipt is printed for you. You could even use the camera on your phone to photograph information that you would otherwise receive in paper format!
5. Embrace technology
Modern technology not only allows us to shop and bank online, and receive electronic communication- we can use apps to plan and diarise our days, view calendars on our phones, Google maps for directions rather than street directory books. We can purchase electronic versions of novels, send digital images to each other, take and store photos. Take some time to explore all of the technological options available to you: research some new apps that may help you eliminate clutter. Our local schools communicate via email and SMS, and even school lunches can be ordered via an app. Use Dropbox or Evernote to store files, documents and information that you can then access from any device anywhere in the world- saves you having to waste paper printing documents. Many government departments are beginning to accept scanned copies of documents rather than print outs. Some airlines no longer require you to print plane tickets purchased online. The possibilities are endless!
Reducing paper clutter may take some time and effort initially, and may require us to step out of our comfort zones. But the rewards are far greater, with a home or office free of paper clutter, allowing us to spend time and effort on things that are far more important than sorting and filing.
What are some ways that you are reducing paper clutter in your home or workplace? What apps do you use to help you transition from paper to paper-free? Share your suggestions!