The Modern Love-Hate Relationship with Paper Clutter

Case study: Putman and Co.
February 11, 2020
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The Modern Love-Hate Relationship with Paper Clutter

Picture all the paper in your house. Yes, everything from today’s stack of junk mail, to that filing cabinet, to that letterpress calendar on the wall that doubles as art. Depending on its content, paper can literally be deemed trash or treasure.

It’s not so surprising, then, that many of us have a love-hate relationship with the paper clutter in our lives. We love those sweet handwritten notes and beautiful journals—yet we hate those endless bills and flyers. And when we want a specific piece of paper, we can’t find it.

And no matter how all that paper makes us feel, one thing is for sure: It’s not going anywhere. Despite our highly digitized world, paper is still very much a part of our daily lives.

That’s all the more reason for you to develop a sorting system for it. As paper comes into your life, you should have a quick and easy process to funnel it where it needs to go. That’s the key to preventing clutter and keeping your peace of mind.

That may sound like a big leap, but we’ve broken it down into a simple system here below. Follow these easy tips and in no time, you’ll be showing all that paper who is really boss:

Ditch It, Deal with It, or Digitize It

The best way to manage your daily dose of paper clutter is to immediately decide what you need to do with it. For most paper, this comes down to three options: Ditch it, deal with it or digitize it.

Let’s briefly walk through those.

DITCH IT

This applies to paper that you can immediately toss, such as junk mail. We strongly encourage you to recycle this sort of unwanted paper.

It could also apply to paper bills. These days, most companies offer online bill pay, which we recommend because it reduces clutter, is more secure and more sustainable. If you must keep a paper copy of your bills, consider turning them into a digital file (more on that in a few moments).

It’s also a good idea to comb through your drawers every month or so. You may have been holding on to some sort of timely handout that’s no longer needed—meaning you can now ditch it.

DEAL WITH IT

This applies to paperwork that requires some action, such as business reply mail. For example, maybe your college alumni network is confirming your contact information. Get into the habit of filling out the paperwork on the spot and returning it. This will keep it from cluttering your home—or worse, getting lost.

If you get an invitation to a party, shower or wedding, RSVP right away—and put the event details into your calendar, along with all the pertinent information, such as registry sites. Now you’re free to toss that paper version.

Or, as another example, if you get a nice card from a friend, call or text him or her right away to say you appreciate the gesture. Again, that’s one less piece of paper floating around.

While these may seem like simple, obvious steps, many of us neglect them because of our daily hustles. And over time, these small things accumulate. Train yourself to handle action-oriented papers on the spot and you’ll thank yourself for a calmer, less cluttered home.

DIGITIZE IT

When you do get a paper that isn’t fit for tossing, yet it requires no immediate action—it’s time to digitize it. Very few original hardcopies must actually be kept (i.e. birth certificates, passports, etc.). The majority can be scanned—saving you a tremendous amount of space.

When you do receive a must-keep piece of paperwork, such as tax returns, scan it with an easy-to-use scanner like the ScanSnap iX1500—which also has the Scan to Cloud feature that’s particularly handy for important paperwork you don’t want to lose. Once this official paperwork has been scanned, you’re free to shred it.

Beyond official paperwork and keepsakes, you can also scan other papers that fall into the miscellaneous category.

For example, maybe you went to a professional mixer and collected quite a few business cards that may come in handy down the road. Scan those rather than letting them take up space in your home.

Or, maybe the latest edition of Sunset magazine spotlighted a boutique hotel you want to check out this summer or a recipe you want to try this Thanksgiving. Rather than letting those magazines clutter up your space for months, simply scan the pages you want to keep. The ScanSnap iX1500 can even send those directly to your phone, making them even easier to access when you need them.

As an added bonus, the ScanSnapiX1500 can scan a stack of various sizes of paper—from small business cards to those odd-sized tax forms from your employer—all in one batch. That makes it easy to scan all your “need-to-keep” paper in one sitting, so you may only need to set aside a half-hour each week to tackle it.

Truth be told: It seems our love-hate relationship with paper is at the very heart of our daily lives. But by following these simple steps, those mounds of papers will no longer stand between you and the decluttered life your heart desires.