Look around at all the paper in your life. Are you
keeping up with all the reading material
that gravitates toward you?
Do you have stacks of papers, memos, professional
journals, newsletters, magazines,
catalogs, and junk mail growing at work or in your house? Do you fear
that future generations
of children may not know what trees look like because they are all
being cut down and turned
into paper (the trees, not the children) and being stuffed into your
mailbox or splattered across your desk?
Do you start off tackling your paper clutter with
determination, and eventually wind up whimpering in a corner curled up
in a fetal position?
Or have you ever sorted your papers into five or
six different stacks, then – while your back was turned – the clutter
gremlins came and merged them all back together in one big pile. You
can’t just sit and sort, and be done with it. If you don’t go ahead
and file, toss, recycle, process, or put each paper where it belongs,
you won’t accomplish anything. You’ll only end up having to sort
through the whole pile again. The secret is: move your body. You have
to stand up and walk around delivering your papers to their proper
spots. Let this become your motto and follow it frequently:
Sit and Sort
Stand and Deliver
If you don’t have a place to put your papers and
files, create a place to put everything ahead of time. Find a
spot to file everything and have empty files ready to fill as you
The next step in your journey of conquering paper
clutter is to change your attitude about your wastebasket. It is not
an enemy who gobbles up all your important data. It is your friend who
needs to be nurtured and fed. So feed your wastebasket.
In fact, buy several wastebaskets -- one for every
area where paper accumulates; but don't buy little bitty dainty ones
unless you have little bitty dainty stacks of papers. Mega-paper
clutter requires mega-wastebaskets. Lots of them.
Now for one of my favorite clutter questions, one
that people should ask themselves at least once a year: Would you pay
money, would you pay your hard-earned cash, to increase your paper
clutter? Most of you would say, "No, never! I hate this paper clutter.
Why would I pay to add to it?"
Well, that's exactly what you are doing each time
you subscribe to a magazine you don’t really want or need. How do you
decide if you've subscribed to a "too-much-of-a-good-thing" magazine?
When your magazine arrives in the mail, do you shout, "Hooray! It's
here! I'm going to read it before I fall asleep tonight"? Or do you
mumble, "Oh, good...another issue...I’ll read it after I catch up on
the past six month's worth that I haven't found time to read..."
Ask yourself, "Why did I buy this magazine?" Did
you buy it for the technical articles? The health tips? The recipes?
Investment information? Then tear out the articles you need, file them
away, and toss the magazine into your friendly wastebasket or
Are you buying it to read every single word? If so,
do you have time to read the entire issue each month? If yes, fine,
there's no problem. If you don't have the time, stop and re-evaluate
the situation. Would you be better off buying a
copy every few months
when you do have the time to enjoy it, rather than letting back issues
accumulate, and feeling guilty?
Are you buying them because they contain important
information that is necessary for your career or hobby? Then set up a
place to store or file them and accept the fact that you don't have
time to read every word, but they are available as reference material.
If you have the space to store magazines and you
are happy to be the caretaker of them, then fine. No problem. But if
you are ready to let go of them, consider donating them to a hospital
or a library or to your doctor’s office. Perhaps a teacher or scout
leader could use magazines with wonderful photos. Or simply put them
in a recycling bin.
I'm not suggesting that you throw out important or
sentimental or meaningful papers. Just the ones that are cluttering up
your life; papers that you know you'll never read or need.