Hate Clutter? 10 Sure-Fire Ways to Cut It.



Clutter.

In my house, clutter is a "five letter word" that actually means "paper – and too much of it."

Summer food, office 080 Too much junk mail I won't read. Too many newspaper advertising supplements I don't use. Too many coupons I don't clip. Too many business cards from people I don't know. Too many receipts I don't need. Too many empty cardboard boxes I can't fill. Too much throwaway packaging I can't use. (Yes, this is what my desk looks like every now and then…cluttered!)

Maybe all this papery nonsense served a purpose at one time, but it becomes clutter in my eyes when it physically gets in my way. It's especially annoying when it covers my desk or makes a mess of my coffee table. Then, it can take me HOURS to go through it, sorting, shredding, tossing, WASTING precious time. To add insult to injury, all this wasted clutter weighs down the recycling bin I have to lug out to the street every week. 

Plus, it pains me to think about the environmental impact paper clutter has. According to 41pounds.org, a group that works to reduce unwanted junk mail, more than 100 million trees are destroyed each year to produce junk mail. Just creating and shipping junk mail produces more greenhouse gas emissions than 9 million cars.

What to do? Reduce, Reorganize, Recycle

My anti-clutter crusade is based on these three strategies. I am reducing the amount of waste paper coming into my house as much as possible. I've re-organized my filing systems slightly so I can keep track of the minimum amount of paper I need to hold on to. And I'm recycling the rest.

How?

1) Pay bills and bank online. Many banks now actually charge their customers a monthly fee to send them a paper statement (my Bank of America outlet charges $8.95/month for this "service."). So not only does online banking reduce the clutter in my house; it saves me money, too. Plus, paying bills online gives me longer access to my capital, since I can pay bills the same day instead of having to send a check a week ahead of time. In addition, I'm saving money on postage – not a lot in a month, but dollars that will add up over time.

2) Read newspapers and magazines electronically. Why? To avoid all the ads. The news part of the paper is actually rather thin; the advertising supplements are huge. If I bought what they're selling it might make a difference, but I don't.  When I want to know what a store has on sale, I check out their website before I go shopping, or pick up their sales paper when I enter the store. If I want the coupons, I can usually find them online: there are all kinds of mobile phone coupon apps so you can skip the print-out completely. (You can find coupons for green products here. ) Meanwhile, I read the paper on my laptop or my phone. I don't have an e-reader, but you could certainly read newspapers and magazines there, too.

3) Share or go to the library. Sharing works especially well for for magazines. I share a variety of magazines with my neighbors, and drop in at my local library for others.

4) Stop junk mail and unwanted catalogs. You can use a service like 41pounds.org who will contact junk mailers on your behalf. What I've found, however, is that the most effective solution is to call the contact number directly on the mail or magazines I don't want and ask them to remove me from their lists. Here are more services that will help you stop junk mail from cluttering your house. You can also put a "No Solicitations, Please" sign on your door or mailbox so people won't leave their sales fliers at your home.

5) Skip paper receipts. I don't take receipts at the ATM, the gas pump, or the grocery store. I've discovered that grocery stores will usually take back a product they sell without a receipt; but honestly, I almost never take anything back to the grocery store, so why bother with the receipt? I only take receipts when I buy hard goods, like clothing or some kind of equipment. I keep all receipts in a file, just one file per year, so they're not on my desk. NOTE: Whole Foods market gives its customers the option to receive receipts online, though I don't want this clutter in my e-mail box, either.

6) Limit business cards. I recently threw away a shopping bag half-full of business cards I'd accumulated over the last couple of years because they were just cluttering up my office. I couldn't remember who most of those people were, anyway - and I'm sure they don't remember me. Now, I only give out business cards to people whom I really should be networking with, and I only take business cards so I can follow up with people I really want to be connected to.

7) Carry reusable bags. In addition to grocery bags, you can use small mesh bags for produce or grains you buy in bulk. I have a couple of snazzy shopping bags I use when I go clothes shopping, too. Plus, I just say "not" to the extra tissue paper some stores like to wrap around the items I buy. 

8) Use a blackboard. Note pads and stickies are supposed to keep people organized, but they're a big source of clutter for me, given how easily they stack up. A clutter-free alternative? Blackboards. Put one in the kitchen where you can leave "notes" for family members, put one in your office or workroom so you can write notes to yourself.

9) Consolidate.  Right now, I'm in the process of consolidating the contents of five different notebooks into just one. It will make my life sooooo much simpler. I'm also consolidating paper files into fewer folders that have only the essential papers in them. Everything else is headed to the recycling bin. Speaking of which…

10) Make recycling easy. Keep a recycling bin nearest to where the most paper comes into your house or where it creates the most clutter. Some options: 1)Near the front door, so you can deep-six unwanted mail before it makes it to the dining room table. 2)In the kitchen, so you can easily recycle packaging. 3)In your office, so you can keep paper from piling up on your desk.

 For more anti-clutter strategies, don't miss this month's Green Moms Carnival, hosted by Amber at strocel.com.

 

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9 Responses to Hate Clutter? 10 Sure-Fire Ways to Cut It.

  1. Anna@GreenTalk January 17, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    Diane, so true. Why do we hold on to stuff that we will never use. If you really want to hold on to the biz card info, just enter into gmail, outlook, etc.

  2. Ms. Adventuress January 17, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    You said it, sister! It takes dedication to keep things this simple, but it gets so much easier and it’s 100% worthwhile. Excellent leadership, this post!

  3. Condo Blues January 17, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    I painted my kitchen back splash with chalkboard paint. It’s great when the family has to leave notes for each other. It also made a pretty good countdown calender during the holidays.

  4. Tarin Rafferty January 21, 2011 at 6:12 am #

    Not to be insensitive but what do I do about the ridiculous amounts of artwork that my THREE girls bring home from pre-school everyday. Of course, I want to keep some of it forever but I feel like we are getting buried in it :) I try to hide some of the “less sentimental” pieces at the bottom of the recycle bin but it is a time consuming, never ending battle…does that sound awful?

  5. Diane MacEachern January 21, 2011 at 7:25 am #

    Tarin, What a great question! I kept a drawer in an old desk for each of my kids’ art pieces. At the end of the school year, we went through it together and picked out the pieces they wanted to save – with a limit, like maybe five at the most. Then we put the pieces in their individual art “boxes.” The box was actually a container I got at Target about 24x24x18 or something – big enough and deep enough to hold long art paper, but not too big to slide into the attic. Now, I’m glad I have some of that stuff – in fact, I’m much more attached to it than they are. However, the day to day drawings on construction paper and what not, we recycled pretty regularly. Usually, once they brought it home and I cooed over it, they forgot all about it. Good luck!

  6. Emily February 2, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    One thing I started doing to cut down on mail clutter (I tend to lose mail for months at a time) is creating 3 boxes labeled DO, FILE, SHRED. I open mail as soon as I get it and immediately shuffle it into one of the boxes, or the recycling, then once a week go through each of the boxes and empty them according to task. One week in and I’ll see how it goes from here!

  7. Christina Marlett February 16, 2011 at 8:31 am #

    One great idea I heard for kids artwork is to take photos of it and then make a photo album of it. That way all the keepsakes are in one beautiful package and you can do it yearly. Kids will be really proud to look through and see how their skills have progressed. Keep a few of the best pieces posted around the house, and the rest can be happily recycled because it has been recorded in the photo album!

  8. Diane MacEachern February 18, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    A photo album is a great idea. Thanks for sharing.

  9. shredding San Antonio May 8, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    With the help of organizing systems, we can easily locate files and we do not have to worry about the clutter on our desks. We just need a practical way to handle our existing paper files and dispose of them properly. Paper clutter is indeed one of the major problems encountered when getting organized. You can opt to go paperless for most of the transactions that you engage in and you can also reuse or recycle your used paper so that you do not have a bulk of trash all the time.

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