how to deal with paper clutter

How To Deal With Paper Clutter

Today I am sharing how to deal with paper clutter as a minimalist family.  Before we started decluttering I kept our papers filed in a huge two drawer metal file cabinet.  This was full!  I felt decluttering paper was too overwhelming so I always put it off.  Once the decluttering was finished I wondered why I waited so long.

Here are some tips on how to deal with paper clutter and how to avoid it all together.

Immediately Recycle

My number one tip to dealing with paper clutter is, don’t wait.  The second any paper, mail, projects, flyers, etc come into our home I deal with them immediately.  Junk mail, ads, and flyers go straight into the recycle bin.  Why don’t I look at the ads?  If I wasn’t actively looking for something in particular, then why should I waste my time looking through an ad for something I never even wanted.  When dealing with mail immediately you will cut down on 50% or more of the paper clutter right away (this is something I noticed in our home).  The mail that is important and I do need to keep I take into my office, which brings me to my next tip.

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One Place

Keep all of the paper clutter, items you need to look through, and files in one place.  If you can do one thing to cut down on the paper chaos it would be keeping all the paper in one box or one room.  When everything is spread throughout the entire house it is impossible to know what you have.  I keep all of our paper and files, everything is in my office.  This is the most logical place for our family.  Find what works for your home, but make sure it’s all in one place. 

When something important needs to be dealt with I know it is in my office.

Appliance Manuals

I don’t save appliance manuals anymore.  Once I learn how to use my appliances I get rid of the manual.  There are 2 reasons for this; first, most manuals are online, and second, when I go to look for the manual I can never find it!  When we moved a few months ago I went through our house file to see what should be left for the new home owner.  I found a whole bag of manuals, half of them were for things we didn’t have anymore and the other half I had never looked at.

The exception to the rule! I keep my car manual and I store it in the car.  This is the only manual that I have ever referenced over and over.

Children’s Paper Clutter

Children create a lot of projects especially once they are in school.  On average there are about 3 to 5 papers coming home everyday.  Again it is best to deal with all the paper immediately.  Anything that is informational I transfer the information into my calendar and recycle the paper.  If I have to keep the paper until the event I make sure to get rid of it as soon as its taken care of.

The homework that is returned to us I usually recycle right away, but I am saving a few educational papers that I think we can revisit throughout the year.  Once these skills are mastered we will declutter them.

Projects are the hardest to declutter because they were made by your child and sometimes my boys want to keep them.  I normally keep a few projects for a while and once my boys lose interest I recycle them.  The worst thing is trying to get rid of something too soon!  This can cause a scene, especially if they want to keep something.  I have learned over time they will care less and less.

Each year I do save a few special projects that I add to a binder.  My goal is to save 3 to 5 projects each year so when they are done with school they will have a nice binder of their school career.  At that time they can decide what to do with that binder.

When my children make me something special I will save it in my keepsake box.  This box is only so big and that is my limit, when it fills up I have to declutter.

Watch How To Deal With Paper Clutter

Research & Google

Do some research on what you need to keep.  Sometimes I forget how easy it is to ask google a question and find an answer.  I always thought we had to keep everything!  It turns out there aren’t that many things that we have to keep.  Where I live we have to keep 7 years of back taxes.  This is easy because I have each year in a folder marked with the year.  When the newest year’s taxes come in I declutter the oldest year’s taxes.  Here is a good article on what to save for tax time.

I also like to keep one hard copy bill from each service that we have.  This first bill has all of the information that I will need to contact the service and it also stands as proof of residence.  I like a hard copy because there are times when the internet is not working and there are times when my computer doesn’t work either.

Pay Online

A great way to cut down on paper clutter is to pay everything online.  I have set up all of my services online and they email me my monthly bill.  If you like to keep every bill it is very easy to download the bills and save them in a folder.  I don’t normally do this because I have never had any trouble looking them up on the website when needed.

The more mail I can stop from getting to my home the better.  It saves time and paper.

No Mail Lists

I never sign up for mail lists.  If I have to put my address in to sign up for something I always tick the box that says don’t send me anything.  There are a few flyers that come in the mail no matter what, but most of the time we don’t even get junk mail.


Since decluttering all of the papers in our home we were able to go from a large file cabinet to a small file box.  The nice thing about having limited file space is I am forced to go through the files at least twice a year.  By going through all of the files I know exactly what we have and I know where everything is.  Now I understand not everyone can fit all of their files into a tiny box because you might have a business, but I was really surprised by the amount of unnecessary stuff I had.  We found a very affordable file box on Amazon.

Also I know there are ways to scan documents and store them online and if that works for you then that is great.  I personally don’t want to add more online and computer clutter to my life so I find it easier to deal with the few papers I have to keep.

See how we decluttered our file cabinet.

That is how we decluttered and minimized our paper clutter.  With the tips I shared we are able to store everything in one small file box.

How do you deal with paper clutter?

If you liked this post then you will probably like “What is family Minimalism” and “10 Lessons I learned After a Year of Decluttering“.

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  • Marla

    I guess my problem with paper is I find lots of articles that I want to keep to read later. Then I file them and then I end up with tons of reading materials in my file cabinet! I always think that after I read it once I may want to go back and read it again. Any suggestions?


      This is a hard one especially if you do go back and read the articles again. What I might do is give myself a time limit. For instance if I don’t read the articles for over a year I will get rid of them. I feel with the internet it is so easy to look up almost anything I need at a moments notice that I don’t tend to keep articles anymore. Another idea might be to scan them and store them digitally. At least that would do away with the bulk of the paper.

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