Before I share my tips for minimizing and managing paper clutter, I feel like I need to quickly address the elephant in the room; yes I disappeared from the Blissful Elefante blog and YouTube channel for over a month and no I am not sorry (well, maybe a little.)
If you follow my story on any of my other social media platforms you may have seen that I was working through some deeply personal issues. In many ways, I still am. One breath at a time.
Being a “blogger” can be all consuming and it’s easy to get stuck in this place of how much do I share? How much do I not share? Do I back away quietly or do I share some sort of update? All while trying to figure it out yourself.
At the end of the day I pride myself on being pretty self aware. I understand that I am just a person living my own life that other people don’t care about half as much as I do, and that’s exactly how it should be. My disappearing from the internet doesn’t effect anyone else’s life as far as I know, so I felt it made more sense to just step back and take a moment privately.
That being said, I am still passionate about living my life in a way that hopefully helps to inspire others. I’m just going to continue doing so in a way that allows me to focus on new passions while putting my wellbeing and my family first.
I took a poll asking you, my readers, what is the area you need the most help with when it comes to simplifying your lives. The overwhelming response was “paper clutter.” Bills, taxes, sentimental items…
There are two things I forgot to touch on in the video; photos and paper items from my children. Instead I have included those topics onto the end of this post.
Now before you watch the video keep this in mind: my husband and I have a lot of paperwork that we have to hold onto because of our lifestyle. We own businesses and we have investments so those things are most secure as physical copies in our home. We also both have very elaborate medical files that we keep on hand for immediate access. In addition we’ve got our vital documents, important military documents, and more. So perhaps a little more than your average household?
First things first. I encourage you to get rid of as many things as you possibly can. If you are not able to throw documents away or scan them into a computer, be sure to create a system that keeps paper clutter manageable and convenient to your lifestyle.
Watch the video and continue reading below for additional tips to help you manage your paper clutter:
Set up your bills so they are sent to your email inbox as opposed to your physical mailbox. Go one step further and set up your bills with “automatic billing” so the money will be automatically withdrawn from your bank account. If you use this method be sure to write the due dates in your calendar so you aren’t caught off guard with any unexpected transactions.
Managing Junk Mail
Sort mail before you enter the house. Important mail is brought inside while junk mail is immediately discarded in the recycling bin.
Discard of non essential receipts immediately.
Receipts that are needed for taxes should be placed in a designated spot that is easily accessible throughout the year.
Avoid receipt clutter all together by using a scanning program to scan receipts into your computer where you can organize them appropriately.
Designate a Spot for Unopened Mail
If you are unable to sort through mail promptly, designate a spot in the home to keep it until you are able to tend to it. Avoid leaving mail on tables and countertops. Doing so can result in mess, unpaid bills, and loss of important documents.
Tax Related Documents
Visit the IRS website to read the most up to date information in regards to keeping tax related documents.
Keep documents from each tax year in separate folders that are kept in a secure, easy to access location incase you are audited.
Important product documentation such as pamphlets and warranties should be kept in one location unless you have access to them online in which case physical copies may not be necessary.
Credit Card Statements
Check credit card statements for accuracy and discard immediately unless needed for tax purposes.
Most banks will keep digital copies in the event that an old statement becomes necessary.
Keep monthly statements for up to one year or until you receive the following month’s bill confirming that you have paid the previous month.
Anything that is difficult or costly to replace should be kept in a fireproof, waterproof document safe with a key. This includes birth certificates, social security cards, passports, etc. Keep anything in this location that you would need to grab quickly in the event of an emergency.
Drawings/Awards/Letters From Children
Keep one small box for each child and fill it with items that your children may appreciate when they are older. Sort through the box annually to ensure you have not added items solely based on emotion and sentimentality.
I have made an entirely separate post regarding children and minimalism HERE, but I believe it may be beneficial to share more of my experience in this post.
Growing up my mother and I saved a lot of my belongings from my childhood. I had a binder full of rewards, stuffed animals for days, books, and expensive high school memorabilia. While I am appreciative of my mother for holding onto things she believed I would continue to value, eventually these things took up a lot of physical and mental clutter in my life.
Books are something I have always found great value in so I kept a few of my favorites for my children. We still read them today at 6 and 8 years old. I also kept two stuffed animals that I passed onto them, but only under the condition that I would gladly pass them on when my kids outgrew them (SPOILER ALERT: they did, we have.)
As for the binder full of awards and expensive high school memorabilia? I kept these items out of guilt ($$$) and sentiment. Every time I went to pass them on I struggled to let go and they continued to be pushed to the back of my closet. Eventually I came to the conclusion that I didn’t value the items themselves, I valued the memories. In that moment I got rid of them and told myself I would be more mindful about the things I kept for my own children.
p.s. mom, I love you and appreciate you and I am forever grateful for the amount of thought you put into my happiness.
Photos should be kept sparingly.
If you have photos of someone else’s child/family, pass them on to the appropriate party.
Do not keep multiple copies or a collection of photos that are similar. For example, rather than keeping 10 photos of your child on the beach, keep 1 quality photo that brings you joy.
Contain all photos in a small box that you can grab quickly in the event of an emergency. If possible, store your photos digitally.
In short, limit the amount of paper that you bring into your home, and organize the remaining using a simple, effective method that adds the most value to your life by freeing up time, space, and mental clutter.
Do you have a paper hack that we need to know? Share it in the comments below.