Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Great Paper Purge

I have at least five books on how to unclutter and organize my spaces and again as many books on how to simplify my life. And there are countless others that I have borrowed from the library and read over the years. They have all been very helpful. I am for the most part organized and lead a fairly uncomplicated life.

That is until we start a conversation about paper. It seems that no matter how much paper I get rid of -- empty envelopes, flyers, junk mail, magazines, catalogs, faded file folders, expired coupons, clippings, newsletters, index cards with indecipherable notes scribbled on them, unneeded receipts, and miscellaneous ephemera that comes from who knows where -- there is always more and more and more.

I have spent a fortune on pretty boxes, pretty file folders, and pretty much every sort of paper organizer that our great capitalist empire has created. And still, there is always a pile of papers here, a stack of papers there.

So today, a helpful friend and I held The Great Paper Purge. I had two years worth of tax returns with all the backup receipts stored in  tote bags. I had a drawer full of folders that contained financial papers and tax returns from my mother's estate. I had a box of magazines that contained articles I have written that needed to be pulled and filed in the portfolio binders. 

We gathered the tax information into two big manila envelopes ready to file in the box holding others from the past five years as my accountant tells me to keep seven years' worth.  

Then we sorted through Mom's papers and got those gathered in one place and taped them up in a package we created from a sturdy brown paper grocery bag. That along with the two envelopes of my own tax information went on the very top shelf of the laundry closet. The shelf is known as The Archives and involves climbing up a step-stool and usually a bump on my head to reach. (Some day I am going to send a bill for storage fees to the IRS!)

We tore out the clippings from the magazines and got those sorted into page protectors and filed in binders. 

After three hours, we had two big bags of paper to be recycled and one bag of papers to be shredded. Then, after lunch, (a girl's got to eat), my friend and I loaded up the three bags and took them to a local shredder company to dispose of.

We liberated three cloth tote/book bags, one drawer and quite a number of file folders and file envelopes.

I don't know what it is about paper but I hate touching it, dealing with it, seeing it, receiving it. In an effort to deal with my neurosis,  I have almost all my bank statements and bills come to me via email which cuts down considerably on the paper mail I receive. I rent a post office box that I visit once a week and try to handle the contents while standing over the big trash can in the lobby. Usually the only mail that comes to my house is junk and I just toss it immediately.

I have a lovely big box that looks like a book and I toss all my mail and receipts and correspondence in it and my Paper Purge friend comes and clears it out quarterly. Of course I pay her and it is so well worth it. She loves to sort and file and has not an iota of anxiety about dealing with little bits of paper.  

It must be noted, though, that my paper aversion does not include luscious stationery, art post cards, notebooks, bookmarks, note cards, and of course, books.

Never would I consider any of that paper clutter. Ever. 


  1. Wonderful accounting of the Great Tuesday Afternoon Paper Purge. I am glad that everything went so well and all of your tote/book bags are now in a very relaxed state - awaiting the next opportunity to hold the possibly-important-not-sure-if-it-should-be-saved paper treasures of life!

    Your paper purging friend...

    1. I couldn't have done it without you. You won't let me procrastinate. Your rallying cry is 'Let's Do It Now!' which I must try to adopt more often.

  2. For a brief, very brief time, after we moved to our current house, we suddenly had almost no mail. A few bills, but not much more. It was heavenly! The found us, though. They all found us, and I find myself engaged in similar purges.

    As to the "luscious stationery, art post cards . . . " no, absolutely never would they be considered clutter.

    1. I dream of a paperless world...except for the luscious stationery, et al. I hope there isn't any mail in heaven.