Here’s the thing about procrastination: The longer we put it off, the more frightening it becomes. But when we finally sit down and get to it, we realize it’s not so bad after all. This is the case with all things declutter. It’s not ideal to let our papers pile up, but the greater the distance between ourselves and our clutter, the easier it is to let it go when the time comes.

The first step is to make a decision. Always. Not just in design; not just in declutter. In all aspects of life, we must first decide we want to make change before it can actually happen. Shift from “I should probably…” to “It’s time that I…” Decide on a day to sit down and organize your paperwork. If you have a sporadic schedule, choose a month instead of day. Plant the intention in your mind and commit to it.

When the opportunity arises, seize it. Start by adjusting your attitude. Instead of dreading the process, imagine how light you’ll feel as you eliminate chaos from your home. Create an uplifting atmosphere. Light candles, play music, listen to an audiobook or a podcast, invite your pet. Allow yourself to get excited about finally letting go.

The goal is to trash what you don’t need (likely the majority of the clutter), organize what’s left and develop habits that prevent pile up from returning. Most of your paperwork will fall into the categories that follow:

Junk mail
Trash. It. All.

Most likely all trash. Even the ones you kept just in case you decided to make a return. That was probably months ago and the receipt has probably expired. When given the option, only accept receipts you need. And even then, be real about your behavior. Are you a person that actually makes time for returns? If not, don’t bother with the receipt.

Bank Statements
Hard copies aren’t necessary. The info is neatly organized online and doesn’t take up space in your house. Shred em all and opt for paperless statements.

Same. The info is online. No duplicates necessary. Go paperless.

Insurance policies, investments and retirement accounts
It might help to have a hard copy of account details for reference. Organize into an expandable folder or a file drawer if you have one. More than likely though, you’ll end up calling customer service with your question anyway.

We hold onto manuals as if there’s major danger looming amid our electronics. And while malfunctions are imminent, it’s instinct for me to take my questions to YouTube. Thousands of people experienced the same problem and more importantly have found a fix. Plus, many product manuals are online as well. I prefer to keep manuals for speakers, TVs, game consoles, etc. But that’s just in case I decide to sell. And that’s only to make the purchase feel more official because the buyer too, probably takes their questions to YouTube.

Business cards
This one’s tough. I personally feel guilty for throwing away people’s cards. It feels like I’m trashing their effort. At the same time, people giving out business cards should know there’s a chance they might end up in the trash. Even business cards that get used only get used a couple times. Once you’re in communication with somebody you probably have their number locked in or their email address saved. Then the card is useless. Eventually, I accept that sometimes decluttering is cut throat and I trash what I don’t need.
Cut back on what you bring home by saving the number on site or taking a picture of the card. In some settings this might not be appropriate but do what you can when you can to reduce what comes home with you daily.

Will Read Eventually
Eventually is now. Start reading through the brochures, flyers and miscellany you kept for later reading. In less than three minutes you’ll know if it’s a document you need.

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  1. I love this practical advice. One note about business cards: I often take pictures of them. I send them to folks electronically when referring people. At some point their number does get locked in. Will you post about cutting down electronic clutter? I have emails in the five digits. 🥺

    1. Thanks for reading and thats an excellent idea! I’ll get to work on digital declutter. My email boxes are a mess as are my photo galleries and text inboxes. This may take more than one post haha

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