House and Home

Rid Your Home of Paper Clutter Once and for All

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As much as we don’t want to believe it, organization does, in fact, boost productivity. Being organized also makes you a more attractive person to your friends, and a desirable employee to your colleagues. But if you’re like most Americans, you probably think there’s room for organizational improvement. The good news? At least you’re not alone. In a 2011 study, 9 in 10 Americans admitted that unorganized clutter at home or at work had a negative impact on their lives. 

We spoke to Amy Panos, a senior editor at Better Homes and Gardens, who shared with us her system for organizing paper clutter, which can be both a source of stress and a major obstacle to productivity. Panos gave us her tips on how to efficiently manage the flow of paper clutter in and out of your home.

Set Up an Inbox Center“An inbox center is a place in your home where you can deal with incoming papers — everything from collection, to filing, to disposal,” Panos says. "The inbox center can be as simple as a basket or a box you leave on your kitchen counter that you go through — every two days or so — to prevent it from overflowing."

What goes in the inbox center? Panos says there are two major sources of paper clutter: mail and children. “Your kids bring home a lot of paper,” she says. “Train your kids to put all of their incoming paper in a central inbox. Then, go through it and edit it by throwing things you don’t need into the recycling bin.” These papers can include (gasp) your child’s artwork. “You don’t have to keep it all,” Panos says. “If you keep too much of it, it won’t mean anything.” Panos, who has three children of her own, says she keeps pieces that are particularly illustrative of that child, like a standout piece of artwork or a story written in the child’s own hand.

Having an inbox specific to each child will ensure that you aren’t missing permission slips, fliers or other important documents your children might be bringing home.

Create an Action FileIn terms of mail, take the inbox one step further and create what Panos calls “an action file,” which consists of three folders in which you can place mail and other documents based on how quickly you need to address them. The three folders include:-Right Now (a bill that’s due)-Later (a credit company with an interesting offer)-Paper Waste Station (mail bound for the recycling bin, the trash bin or the shredder)

Shred Paper With Personal InformationPanos emphasized the importance of a shredder: “Shred anything with personal information, like bank statements, social security information, etc. If in doubt, shred it.” She did say, however, that the average credit card offer doesn’t have personal information in it, so there's no need to shred it.