Inside: Drowning in paper clutter? Read this post to learn the best way to declutter paper quickly, even if you’re overwhelmed by all the mess.
“Where is all this paper coming from?” I yell in frustration.
On top of the papers we need (bills, notices of things we want to remember, and kids artwork that is more than a scribble) we’re bombarded with paper from all directions.
There’s the junk mail. And the notices from your kids school for the latest fundraiser. And the thousand pieces of artwork where your kid scribbled for 5 seconds and taped a piece of cardboard to it.
So what should you do to declutter paper that accumulates in your home?
In this post, I’ll walk you through five simple steps to declutter paper quickly.
#1: Throw out Trash
When you’re sorting and decluttering paper, the first thing you’ll want to do is throw out trash. Keep a trash can nearby so you can quickly and easily throw out trash as you find it.
Here are some common things to throw out:
- Old receipts
- Scratch notes you no longer need
- Reminders for events that have passed
- Scraps of torn paper
- Old newspapers
- Magazines you’ve already read or will never read
Learn more: Here’s how to make a decluttering checklist (that actually works).
#2: Sort Paper
The next thing you’ll want to do is sort papers into categories. This will vary based on what kind of paper you’re decluttering.
I’m a notebook addict. I buy more notebooks than I will ever need with the intent to keep my notes organized by category.
Running a business means I have to learn about all sorts of topics, from email marketing to product creation to technology that always breaks when you need it most. ::sigh::
The hope is that I’ll keep a notebook all about one topic, say product creation, and then everything I learn will go into that notebook.
But as usually happens in my busy, somewhat chaotic life, I wrote notes in one notebook. The next time I wanted to write notes about that topic, I couldn’t find that notebook and end up writing in another notebook.
Before I knew it, I had notes from various topics scattered all across several notebooks. It was a mess.
I first started decluttering paper from my notes by ripping all the pages out. Then I did a quick review of the notes to see if I even needed to keep them or if I could throw them out.
I then sorted the notes by categories, so that I can group them together.
#3: Go Through Each Category
Once you’ve sorted the paper into categories, it’s now time to go through each category and declutter the paper.
Do a quick review of each paper. Do you need to keep it? Do you need to shred it?
Go through each page and declutter the paper that you no longer need. Keep doing this until you’ve gotten through all your paper.
Something you might be interested in: Crush Chaos with this Amazing Declutter Your Home Checklist
#4: Work in Small Batches
Decluttering paper is exhausting, and I’ll be honest, it’s straight up boring.
I once sat down to go through two boxes of “important papers” we had accumulated over the years. Over the course of two evenings, I threw out or shredded 90% of the papers (because I guess they weren’t really that important).
Near the end, my brain hurt and I wanted anything to give up. But I kept going and felt so much better once it was all done.
For this reason, it’s important to declutter paper in small batches. Unless you have a filing cabinet, it’s difficult to sort papers and save them for later.
Rather, it’s much easier to declutter paper a small stack at a time. Odds are, you’ll find you can throw out or shred most of it.
Pick up one small batch and work on it through completion. I know it stinks. But sorting paper into 20 piles that cover up the floor and then walking away…that’s not decluttering, that’s procrastinating.
It is far better to see one small project to completion, than to leave a giant project uncompleted.
#5: Focus on Progress, Not Perfection
If you have a lot of paper to declutter, it may seem overwhelming. That’s okay.
Choose a small project you can work on first and work as quickly as possible to complete it. This is called a quick win, and it will motivate you to declutter more and more paper.
Our brains thrive on a sense of accomplishment, so it’s important to find one project that you can complete quickly.
One of my favorite quotes comes from the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Focus on taking one step — no matter how tiny — towards your goal of decluttering paper.
You can do it!