5 Tips to Clear The Paper Clutter

Many people think because we are in a digital age that paper clutter no longer exists but that is simply not true. We still receive junk mail, receipts, papers to sign, bills to pay, and items to be filed.

How do you feel every time you walk by a stack of papers that just keep piling up? Did you promise yourself last weekend that you were going to tackle it but it never happened? Do you start to add something to the pile and think to yourself I really have to do something about this it’s causing me stress, anxiety, and guilt? Do you wonder why you can spend hours on Pinterest but cannot make a dent in the paper clutter?

You are not alone but now is the time especially before tax season to tackle the paper clutter and get organized with these simple tips and some of my favorite things.

GATHER ALL PAPERS IN ONE AREA  The reason piles begin and get out of hand is they are not in one central location. Set up a designated space for a small office. It doesn’t have to be an entire room just an area to keep office essentials neat and organized.

SHRED OLD PAPERWORK  Invest in a shredder! Open mail where the shredder is located and shred anything you don’t need. That includes all of the multiple credit card applications you receive on a daily basis and any other junk mail. It can be tedious but shredding all old paperwork can also be a freeing experience when you are done. If you have too much to shred put it in a box and take it to a local office supply store or UPS store and they can shred it for you!

SORT Now that you have everything in a central location and old paperwork is shredded or recycled it’s time to sort. The easiest way to do this is to think in categories for example Insurance, Auto, Home, Bills to Pay, Health, etc. Making easy to read labels not only helps you but helps other people in your family if there is an emergency.

SCAN AND FILE  Most printers come with a scanner but even if you don’t have one there are apps like Scanner for Me and Scannable that work great and make scanning and filing a breeze.

COLLATOR  If you want to keep important files at your fingertips invest in a collator. I have talked about this one on Instagram and in this previous blog. It not only keeps you organized but looks great on a desktop or credenza.

Once you have simplified and organized your paperwork you will realize how much better you feel. Clutter causes stress and anxiety and implementing systems prevents future clutter.


How I Became An Organizer

I have been asked by many followers on social media how did you become a professional organizer and can you give me tips to get started. It took me a while to go back through the years and remember the beginning of my career but here we go!

I actually started organizing without realizing it was a business because 12 years ago it was a career not many people knew about. I went to a friends house while our kids were at school and we were sitting in her kitchen and the countertops were covered with paperwork and other miscellaneous items. I asked her if she wanted help clearing the countertops and she looked at me like I was crazy or the best friend she ever had I couldn’t tell.

She said are you sure you want to do that and I think I said yes so fast that it made her laugh. In my mind, I was envisioning how that space could be used and what a difference it would make preparing meals for her family and how calming it would be to walk into a space free of clutter. We started by getting rid of items that were trash, sorted items to be filed and I could see the more we tackled the better she felt. By the time we reached the end of the counter, I lifted a stack of papers and saw a bar sink. I said I didn’t know you had a sink there and she replied yes and now I will be able to use it!

We were done by the time the kids finished school and as we were walking out the door to get the kids she said thank you and I remember the next words out of her mouth like it was yesterday you should do this as a job. I replied they have jobs doing this? She said I don’t know but you should look into it your good at it. You have to remember this was 12 years ago and we had computers but not like they do now and there was no social media so I began to research the prospects on my own.

These are the steps I took to get where I am today. It may not work for everyone but this is what worked for me.

1.  Help friends and family get organized so you can make sure it is a fit for you before you invest time and money. In my opinion, you either have a passion for organizing or you don’t there is generally not a middle road. As an experienced organizer, I can say it is the most rewarding job but it also is a lot of hard work. Many think it is glamorous but it can be a very emotional experience for clients. As an organizer, you wear many different hats. You not only help purge clutter but you are a therapist, a motivator and a confidant.

2.  If you realize its something you want to do the next step is to join NAPO.  The National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals will give you information and tools to get started in the business. You can take classes, join groups and learn the trade from other experienced organizers.

3.  Choose a name for your company and have a business plan. If you want people to see you as a legitimate business you have to make yourself legitimate. That includes insurance, banking, a website and physical help for larger jobs. Although I did not have social media back then it is something that is important in today’s world and needs to be a part of your business.

4.  Be patient. It takes time to become successful at any job and being an organizer is no different. When you have a job that takes you into peoples homes you have to build your reputation. Word of mouth has been everything in my business.

5.  My last bit of advice is to be yourself! I know in the social media world it’s easy to see what others are doing. Don’t focus on them and feel like you are not measuring up be yourself and do what you are best at.

Did I cover it all? I hope so but if not feel free to comment and l will be happy to answer any questions. Like any other job do what you love and love what you do!

Image | Julie Ryan Photography

The Ultimate Checklist to Stay Organized

Now that January is over the real challenge is how to stay organized throughout the year. Old habits can resurface quickly so it’s important to look at some of the clutter triggers and how to avoid them. These are some tips to prevent becoming overwhelmed and living a simple, clutter-free life.

If you don’t need it, use it, love it or have a place to store it, let it go  If you start to understand this concept it will prevent unwanted clutter in your home. It’s basically retraining your thoughts when it comes to the stuff you own.

Keep a calendar  So many people have returned to paper just for the ease of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a digital calendar or paper just make sure it works for you.

Inbox for mail and papers  Do you have papers that need to be signed for school? Bills that have to be paid? Setting up a system for incoming mail and important papers will keep you organized throughout the year.

Keep counters clean  Keeping your countertops free of clutter is a major step to an organized life. Once the piles start forming it can become overwhelming so make a commitment to clutter-free counters.

Keep up with the laundry  Speaking of overwhelming laundry is another area in the home that can quickly become a problem. Make laundry less of a chore by having an organized laundry area and staying on top of the laundry.

Consider the garage part of your home  When you sell your home do you include the garage in the sale? Absolutely! Garages should not become storage units but rather an extension of the home. Purge regularly so you can store items that belong in a garage and have a place to actually park your car.

Paperless receipts  Choosing to have your receipt emailed while shopping will save you from the bottomless pit of receipts that tend to get out of control especially as the year progresses. Set up files on your computer and you will not only be eliminating paper clutter but you will save time when looking for a receipt.

Shred old papers  Owning a shredder is one of the best ways to stay on top of paper clutter. Shred unwanted mail and outdated paperwork on a regular basis.

Desktop File  Keep a desktop file system for important papers you need on a daily basis. It will not only keep you organized but save you time.

Change Your Hangers  If you want to keep the neat an organized closet you achieved in January stay on top of the mismatched hangers from entering your closet. By the way, it’s not too late to make this simple change it is inexpensive and will give you immediate results.

Stay away from Big Box stores  Unless you have a large family big box stores can become a problem for many people who don’t have the place to store what they buy in bulk. Buy what you need and have the room for and you will be surprised how little effort it takes to stay organized.

Label your containers  Containers are a great way to sort and organize items but if they are not labeled people forget what is in them and buy more of what they already own. Purge, sort, contain and label a simple system to stay organized.

Purge kitchen gadgets  Throughout the year take inventory of the small appliances and gadgets you don’t use and free up space in the kitchen for what you love.

Have a place for everything  If there is a place for everything you own it solves the problem of overstuffed drawers, cabinets, and closets. It will also motivate you and your family to keep it that way throughout the year.

If you take it out put it back  The easiest way to stop clutter from forming is to get in the habit of putting back an item after you use it. A small step but makes a big difference in staying organized.

Schedule a regular donation pickup  One way to prevent clutter from forming is scheduling a donation pickup at least once a month. Keep an ongoing bag for items you no longer need or want and when its full consign or donate.

Involve your children  If you want to keep your home organized involve your children in the process. Give incentives to pick up toys and make the storage containers easy for smaller hands.

Do not buy something just because it’s on sale  When I ask clients how they accumulated multiples of items the answer is often because it was on sale. Even if something is on sale if you don’t need it or have room to store it, don’t buy it!

Purge often  I know I already mentioned this but it’s worth repeating. The more you purge on a regular basis the less chance there is for clutter to form.

If you need help getting or staying organized hire a professional  If you feel yourself starting to become overwhelmed reach out to a professional organizer who can help you get back on track. Many clients need a bit of a refresh throughout the year to keep their home running smoothly.

Julie Ryan Photography