Getting Rid of the Stuff: Papers

Papers. They're everywhere. EVERYWHERE.

No other part of the Kon Mari method has stressed me out quite like this one did. There's just something about loose papers lying around that bothers me. It's the worst kind of clutter. I can't deal with it.

Maybe it's because papers typically require some form of attention and/or action- mail that needs to be opened and sorted, a bill that needs to be paid, a newsletter that needs to be read, a note reminding me of something I need to do. All of these things out in the open, on the counter tops, on the table, piling up around me, get overwhelming. Do you know what I mean?!

Please say you do.

Matt and I had already "decluttered" the paper in our kitchen fairly recently because the pile on our kitchen table was putting quite a damper on our moods, but as you'll see below, our old way of decluttering and Kon Mari decluttering are pretty different. 

Take a look. Papers. All over the fridge. (And yes, this was after we cleaned.)

Papers on our kitchen bulletin board.

An entire kitchen drawer full of papers (and other random junk).

Papers on the desks.

All my new Beachbody paperwork, messy and unsorted, in the box my 21 Day Fix challenge pack came in (tsk tsk tsk).

Following the Kon Mari way, I gathered up every single stinking loose piece of paper in the house and piled them all in one place.

When that was finished, I pulled up a chair, sat down, and just stared at the pile for about twenty minutes. Not even kidding. I did not want to sort through that mess. I got really antsy and uncomfortable, and I had to fight the urge to get up, walk away, and find something more fun to do.

In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpMarie Kondo says her policy on papers is to "throw everything away." I don't think she's entirely joking; that was my first impulse. But her usual method doesn't exactly work here. You can't hold up pieces of paper like this and ask, "Does this spark joy?" If you did that, you'd likely end up in a lot of trouble with the electric company and your landlord and, goodness knows, Navient.

Instead, you must go through and sort the papers into four categories: 1) what you're currently using/needs attention (like this month's unpaid electric bill), 2) what you need to keep for a short period of time (maybe this month's work schedule or your kid's school year calendar), 3) what you need to hang onto indefinitely (your birth certificate, high school diploma, or parents' will), 4) TRASH.

As I began sorting into these four categories, my trash/shred/recycle pile grew bigger and bigger. I had saved every single check stub I've received at this job. Every utility bill we've gotten and paid. Two or three menus from China Palace. The manual and owner's guide to every appliance in the house. And so. many. business. cards.

The important papers- things like our birth certificates, our marriage license, and a copy of our lease agreement- I kept locked up in our fireproof safe. The endless appliance manuals? They went into a binder.

As did the highly dangerous takeout menus we shouldn't even have, but hey, 80/20 lifestyle, right?

I also made binders to store this kind of paperwork:

The 'Debt' folder has some special spreadsheet print-outs I made to track our debt snowball. :)

I also collected all of my Beachbody coaching paperwork and organized it in the big white binder on the left. Isn't it all so nice and neat?

Then I made a "needs attention" station on the right side of my desk:

Those are things we need to deal with promptly and get outta there.

Everything else went in the recycling can or the shred box.

So. Here's the key to overcoming paper clutter: when you are finished dealing with a paper (paying a bill, reading a letter, placing a telephone order with China Palace), store it properly or shred it/recycle it. Don't just stick it somewhere randomly like I've always done.

It's not that hard. We got this.

In case you missed them, check out the first two parts of this series:

1 comment

Regine Karpel said...