Friday, July 22, 2011

Decluttering Paper in 3 Steps

I have to confess that I've been taking a lengthy break from decluttering projects this year. I was really on top of decluttering last year, but since then I got distracted and off track, and I'm only now (in July!) returning to the project, which for now is to just attack the piles of paper and miscellaneous items that have accumulated in my house. I'm decided to approach The Piles with a 3-Step approach:

1. Consolidate

First I went around the house and collected all the various paper piles in a laundry basket. (Confession: I filled the laundry basket twice!)

I cleared the dining table so that I would have plenty of space--and also for motivation to get the project done before dinnertime.

2. Sort

I set up an empty paper grocery bag for recycling paper, and sorted everything into piles. It occurred to me that this is really challenging work, because you have to make a decision about every piece of paper: keep? recycle?

I ran into a bunch of papers from an unfinished project that I need to refocus on, and also a few photographs and a recipe that triggered some memories. The biggest bulk of paper were the things that my son brought home from first grade at the end of the year. It takes a lot of energy to decide to recycle your child's artwork! I did save a few things that stood out.

Whenever I started feeling overwhelmed or unable to make a decision about something, I walked away and worked on something else for a while, then came back later. It helped that I needed to shuttle the kids around, and my mom stopped by for a little while. Sometimes I would just go switch the laundry to clear my head so that I could return and continue to make decision after decision...

3. Distribute

After all the piles were sorted, I found a place for each set of items. Some things were easy--obviously the two full bags of discarded papers went to the recycling bin, and the saved artwork went to a box in the basement designated for that pupose. Other things were more challenging to put away, and I admit that a small pile of those random items are sitting in a pile on my desk right now, still to be housed. Similar to the sorting, I did a few piles at a time in between other activities.

The good news is: I finished! I think that focusing very specifically on Paper Only helped me to avoid distraction, and setting a specific space and steps helped as well. I even got the dining table set for dinner, hours in advance. I think I will use this technique again on the disturbing number of Random Items scattered around the house--you know, the what-is-this-and-why-are-we-keeping-it stuff (I hope I'm not the only person with this problem!)

Find more declutter and organizing inspiration with 52 Weeks of Organizing at!


allysgrandma said...

Oh you and me both, with DH's recent pneumonia hospitalization and my ongoing medical problems the insurance EOBs and bills alone are a mess. That is why the extra table is still in my offce/craft/quilting room, because I am not done with paperwork yet!

Marsha S said...

When I found out we were going to be able to buy our own home, I got serious about papers and de-cluttering. I didn't finish though until I started this challenge thinking I was going to do my desk first. OMG---some of the papers in the thing on the top of my desk were from the 80's!! I had no idea, just kept stuffing more and more in to it.

Tammy_Skipper said...

great job! I have so been there with paper. I think I finally have systems in place for most of the incoming paper, but now I need to figure out what to keep or purge in my scrapbooking supplies!

Mary said...

Paper clutter is the worst! I think it is worse than kid messes, in that it just comes back again and again! Everytime it is conquered, more paper shows up somewhere. Good job tackling the paper monster!