How Do I Get Rid of Years of Paper Clutter
If you’re overwhelmed with piles of paper you’re not alone.
Piles of paper stacked on a table. How do I get rid of years of paper clutter?

I have seen so many of my clients struggle with organizing papers. Believe it or not, the majority of the paper you have is not worth keeping. At least 90-95% of the paper you have is junk! The challenge is the worry you will make the wrong decision. What if you toss something you need someday? As a result, you keep everything!

It’s time for a mindset shift. If you ask how to get rid of years of paper clutter, you recognize something needs to change. The piles are stressing you out. You’re feeling overwhelmed, and maybe you’re feeling guilty about the pile-up. If 90-95% of the paper we keep is trash, imagine the possibilities. You’ll gain space in your home, have less stress seeing the piles each day and more control because you’ll know where all your papers are. To get rid of years of paper clutter here is a quick list:

  1. Gather all your paper together in one place
  2. Start purging the unnecessary stuff
  3. Start filing

Now lets go a little deeper into what each step entails.

Gather all your papers in one place.

Yes. Everything! Every pile, every container with paper in it. All of it. Put it in one area, in several bins, and/or in one room. This may feel scary because you’ll see it all and it may feel like too big of a project. But there are benefits to this tactic.

  1. Everything is easier to find. Sometimes my clients worry they won’t find what they need if everything is piled together. However, they can’t find what they need as it is. Putting it all in one place makes finding something easier not harder. Also keep in mind I am not saying dump papers out of their folders, smaller bins, files, etc. I am simply saying put paper in one area.
  2. You will see the silliness of it all. You’ll realize how much you actually have and you’ll see how it’s absolutely impossible for anyone to store all of it let alone go through it all quickly. Your perspective will change and you’ll stop thinking “why can’t I get organized!” It’s clear why! It’s just too much.
  3. You will know what you’re up against. You will have a realistic view of how to get rid of your paper clutter. This is key in ensuring you develop a plan that works for you. No one said getting rid of years of paperwork was quick and easy but it can be done.

Begin Purging

Consider it a scavenger hunt. Hunt for junk mail, expired policies, and coupons, catalogs, holiday/birthday cards (cards without personal messages are not memorabilia), old bills of any kind, old receipts for small purchases, etc. When you come across something you aren’t sure about simply put it aside. Don’t let the indecision or uncertainty derail you. Simply focus on purging.

If you get stuck on how to purge documents you have options. You can simply toss everything in the trash. However, sometimes my clients are concerned with identity theft. If this is a concern for you keep in mind it will add time to the process. Here are some options for avoiding identity theft if you’re purging a lot of paper at once. Some of the following tips come from this article here.

  1. Use a hole punch instead of scissors. Punch out account numbers, social security numbers, personal info, etc. A hole punch is more precise than scissors.
  2. Buy a shredder. I find a shredder always ends up causing more frustration when shredding large amounts of paper at once. The shredder jams up and needs lubricant.
  3. Use an identity theft roller stamp. This will be time-consuming if you have a lot of paper but it is an option.
  4. Water. Put papers in a bucket of water. Let them sit and soak. Ink will fade, papers will stick together and info will be illegible. This may be the quickest and least expensive option when dealing with a lot of paperwork.
  5. Hire a shredding service to pick it up. Office supply stores offer the service or you can contact a shredding company. They will provide one-time pick-ups. You can also bring the paperwork to them which may save some money. Picking up is the quickest option for sure but may cost the most.
  6. Have a bonfire. This can be very cathartic. However, not really an option if you live in an apartment complex or don’t have a big backyard. I have clients who invite friends to bring their paper and make an evening of it. Not a bad idea.

Next Steps

After purging you should be left with only the most important paperwork. Your piles should be much smaller. What’s left? Are you ready to file?

Or you can simply stop here. Thats right! The simple act of purging unnecessary stuff may make finding what you need when you need it easy enough. Yes, I am a professional organizer and yes I love to file paperwork. However, sometimes it’s best to keep things reaaaaaly simple. I like to say “simplify the filing not the fetching.” This means the act of filing happens more often than the act of fetching. Make filing papers easy. If that means its a pile in one big bin then so be it. You won’t spend too much time fetching since you purged everything that isn’t necessary. If you want further help organizing and filing papers read this post. I share tips on filing and making sense of it all.

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