3 Simple Ways to Take Control of Your Paper Clutter

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Do You Really Need All That Paper?

Have you ever spent a few hours cleaning your work space, stacking up old magazine articles you've been meaning to read since the beginning of the year, trying to find a good place to store wrinkled receipts that you might or might not need someday and filing away bank statements and utility bills that have been taking up valuable room on your desk for months?

If so, then you also probably looked in vain for something you really needed a day or two later – maybe a receipt for something you bought at your local office supply store or an invitation to attend a seminar. Your desk looked a whole lot neater and infinitely more organized, but you had no idea where the items that once covered your desk were now located.

Maybe it's time you took a serious look at eliminating most of the paper that is currently cluttering up your life.

#1 – Use the Internet

You can get rid of much of the paper that plagues you simply by taking advantage of the options available online.

  • You can pay most of your bills using your computer or smartphone, rather than buying stamps and wasting gas driving to the post office. Visit the websites of your utility companies, cable TV provider and credit card companies and sign up to receive and pay your invoices electronically.
  • Do you really need hard copies of the publications you read? You would have less paper to deal with if you simply perused your favorite newspapers and magazines online. Most magazines are available through digital form and at a discounted price.
  • You can cut down on the junk mail you receive by subscribing to a mail-scanning service, which sends you a photo of your mail and lets you decide if you want each piece. This type of service costs money, of course, so unless you are inundated with unwanted mail, you might want to simply trash what doesn't interest you.
  • There are companies that claim to eliminate most of your junk mail. If you are tired of hearing from people trying to sell you insurance or convince you to sign up for another credit card, you might want to look into one of these:

#2 – Use Digital Storage

Another good way to reduce the amount of paper piled up on your desk and make it easier for you to find the things you really need is to store information digitally.

  • You can store information on CDs or DVDs or on a remote hard drive or two. Remember, however, that hard drives don't last forever and that when they go, they often take your valuable information with them.
  • You can store up to 128 gigabytes of information in your pocket or on a keychain by putting the info on a flash drive.
  • You can store your important files through a cloud-based document management service. The information will be safe and available when you need it, but, of course, these services aren't free. Here are a few options:

#3 – Keep Only What You Need

One way to help eliminate the excess paper in your life is to throw away the things you really don't need to keep. While you probably want to hang onto marriage and death certificates, tax returns and papers pertaining to your discharge from the military, some items just aren't worth keeping, as hard copies or electronically.

  • Get rid of ATM and bank deposit receipts after you balance your checkbook.
  • Don't save an entire magazine just because you want to read an article later. Cut the pages you need out of the publication and trash the rest.
  • If you can't think of a reason to print an email, don't print it.
  • Throw away your credit card receipts after you get your statement unless you need them for tax purposes.
  • If you're not going to return an item you purchased and it's not a potential tax deduction, you probably don't need to keep the receipt.
  • Get rid of the monthly or quarterly statements for your retirement plan; the year-end statement will provide you with all the information you need.

Most of the paper you pile up on your desk is simply taking up space. Using online options and getting rid of the paper you don't really need will give you more time and space to take care of business.

Garret Stembridge is part of the team at Extra Space Storage, a leading provider of self-storage facilities. Garret often writes about sustainable practices for homes and for businesses.