Break Free From Piles Of Paper: Less is More

throw paper
Are you inundated with paper? Are piles, boxes or bags of paper taking over, creating stress and overwhelm? Do you often misplace important information, costing valuable time and money? Good news…your piling affliction is treatable. Working on tweaking your paper habits can yield transforming results, reduce your workload and could even save a tree.

Piles of paper, like all clutter, are just piles of unmade decisions. They indicate the absence of a workable system to move things along to their final destination in a timely way. Most of my clients struggle with paper. Yet, invariably, when we sort through old paper, we find that MOST of what they’ve kept, is GARBAGE! What needs work is the ability to make faster and more sound decisions at the outset as to whether each item is trash, requires action or should is needed for future reference.

No matter what we do with all the paper we have (file it, shove it in bags, boxes or create a scenic mountain range on our desk), statistics show the vast majority of paper we keep, we never refer to again. Forgetting for now about how you will handle and process the paper you truly need to keep and forgetting for now about your previous accumulation of paper, start by focusing on the root of the problem, the paper itself and how to break the patterns that haven’t worked, moving forward. The answer is pretty simple.  The less paper you generate and the less paper you keep, the less paper you will need to process to keep from being buried again.

Tip # 1: Make Less
For each item you are about to print, starting today, stop and consider, do I really need to print this? Just because that’s what you’ve always done, doesn’t mean you should keep doing it. With easy access to information saved on your computer or most anything else on the internet, plus the ease of backing up data, there seems to be less and less reason to generate and store hard copies. In today’s world of portable devices and storage on the cloud, our file drawers and paper piles should be shrinking, not expanding.

Information you print forms piles you don’t need and the information often becomes quickly outdated. The most current information is generally online. Getting used to reading documents and articles online, if and when you have time, will help save the planet and give you more space to breathe. Also consider how many things you have printed, intending to read, but you never did. If your concern is “out of sight out of mind”, consider merely keeping a list of links to items you need or want to read.

Tip #2: Get less
While attempting to generate less paper, why not also do something so you receive less paper. Where possible, opt to receive online statements and pay bills online. Once these accounts are established online, you can view your history anytime. Voila, no more paper bills and statements to file. Ahhhh!

Another easy step is to reduce unwanted junk mail by getting off direct mailing lists, with these resources:
-Eliminate Credit & insurance offers at
-Opt out of receiving the yellow pages at
-Select your direct marketing mail preferences at
-Call the National Opt Out Center 888-567-8688

Tip #3: Retain less
If you can’t find anything in your filing cabinet, you are likely keeping too much. If you save tons of bills, statements, receipts, coupons, catalogs, articles, travel information, maps, letters, etc., but never refer back to them, stop keeping them or keep them only for a defined period of time. Unless they are needed for tax preparation, they won’t be missed.

Work on developing the habit of sorting mail and other incoming paper daily and immediately tossing anything you have no GOOD reason to keep. With practice, you will get faster at it. It is not difficult and can be liberating. Don’t worry so much about making a mistake. All that one day I might need it is not a good reason to hold onto it. These are not earth shattering decisions. Most anything can be obtained again if one day ever comes, so why store it all?

Take Away: I am not suggesting that paper has no value or purpose anymore or that there aren’t plenty of things we do need to get and keep. But, what I see in the work I do is we are getting and keeping far too much and it is costing us time and money. If you are looking to make a change, start small. Over the next few weeks, scrutinize whether the paper you are printing and retaining is truly necessary, commit to what day(s) you will tackle incoming paper and toss immediately what you realistically won’t ever use or need again or that which can be easily replaced if you do.

Look for future blogs on
-efficient processing of paper you need to act on or retain
-implementing simple filing systems
-maintaining your system

 Your comments and/or questions are welcome.
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