Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Paper decluttering

As I'm trying to catch up with the past assignments from the cut-the-crap decluttering challenge, I see that there are at least some thing's we've already done to help with the paper decluttering challenge.

A little background first: Partner and I both have a tendency to be packrats, but we've gotten dramatically better over the past few years. Now, "better" doesn't mean "we've got this thing down" but it does mean that we're a little less prone to hold onto things -- hey, if I can get rid of BOOKS, then I can get rid of ANYthing.

I have ADD which definitely contributes to my tendency to be overwhelmed with clutter, but I've learned to compensate and my practical tendencies do help in that area: I have developed a firm belief in the significant benefits of "a place for everything," I just don't have the "and everything in its place" part down yet. And Partner... gah. Partner is what I refer to as an "out of sight, out of mind Virgo," which means that anything left out is fair game to be stashed in the nearest closet, drawer or cabinet, no matter how obvious its actual home might be.

But we're getting a lot better. Up until recently, a regular source of conflict between us was mail and other papers on the dining room table. I won't go into the relationship negotiations (and occasional strong-arm tactics) that led to our solution, but we did finally work out a system that works well for us.

The two key parts of this system are that there is a place for everything, AND it's very easy to put everything in its place. Here's our system:
  • Partner brings in the mail, tosses out the junk, opens envelopes, tosses newly identified junk mail and junk inserts to non-junk mail.
  • Partner then sorts mail into three baskets: Reading material (the bi-weekly newspaper I get plus the few paper magazines that still arrive), bills and financial-related materials (including paystubs, and retirement and medical insurance statements), and Other, which includes stuff we need to fill out, reminders of things we really do wish to be reminded of, etc.
  • As I'm finally ready to read stuff, I take it out of the reading material basket, and it ultimately ends up in the newly created Place to Stack Old Newspapers and Magazines for Recycling. Well, some of it makes a long detour through the bathroom but that's another story.
  • After I pay bills and look through financial stuff, it gets placed in one of two baskets (Paid bills/Statements or Tax Stuff).
  • We also now have baskets for Product Literature, where we put the instruction booklets and warranty information for stuff we keep (with receipt attached to the warranty papers), and a basket for Other Receipts.
  • All of these baskets get sorted through and shredded or filed, as appropriate, every year at tax time.
We had tried so many other types of systems for our everyday paperwork, including file drawers, file boxes, large envelopes, etc., but we finally realized that what works best for us is something big enough for us to just literally drop in whatever goes there. Yes it takes just a wee bit more time to find things when we need them, but it's a heck of a lot easier than when we just left things out and about because we didn't have a place to file them, or simply didn't want to go through the hassle of filing something.

One last thing I did that is working towards keeping things green and decluttered: I put a big canvas bag next to my desk for me to dump all papers that don't need to be shredded. As both a student and a teacher, I go through far more paper than I'd like, though I now print everything possible on the back of misprinted paper from our school's copy center. I ended up just tossing far more than I wanted, just because it was easier than bringing it into the other room to the recycle pile. I know it seems more than obvious, but it took me a very long time to realize that I can actually accomplish what I want if I just put my resources in the right places.

No comments: