Paper, Paper, Everywhere ©

(excerpt from the CLUTTER BUSTING chapter of

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 sort.

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 recycling bin.

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.


Want to write a book? Go to Rita’s web site and click on The Writer’s Room. Take a look at Rita's The Procrastinator's Guide To Authorship: Stop Putting Off Your Success. Find a free article about writing proposals in The Writer’s Room

Don’t procrastinate in going there now.

Rita Emmett, author of The Procrastinator’s Handbook and The Clutter-Busting Handbook, is a professional speaker who presents Keynotes and Seminars nationwide. She can be reached at 847-699-9950 and email is

To subscribe to her free monthly Anticrastination Tip sheet with quick short tips & ideas to help break the procrastination & clutter habit, click here Subscribe

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