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Kicking the Clutter: Achieving paper clutter clarity

File with a smile. It’s the only way to do it! ~ Ranka Burzan

One of the main reasons we have paper clutter is not due to lack of organization, it’s more likely a lack of a system and how to file the papers we need.

We only need 20 per cent of the paper we file; 80 per cent is paper we will never need or use. We all have two kinds of paper: permanent and temporary.

Permanent papers are documents that need to be contained and kept: medical records, birth certificates, passports, tax documents, insurance documents, loan documents, investments, and warranties.

Temporary papers are not a part of your filing system. They could be invitations to a birthday party, your child’s field trip form, a letter for a donation, catalogues and junk mail.

What you need to start

Garbage and recycling bags, a paper shredder, file folders, a calendar and a simple filing system. Filing is not a very exciting chore, so add some pizzazz to it. Use coloured hanging files, beautiful boxes, paper trays, et cetera.

Create a place for daily mail 

The way we handle paper begins on the day of its arrival. If you don’t need flyers or any other advertising paraphilia, don’t bring them in the house. Open the important papers and bills over the recycling bin. Don’t postpone this for later; it only takes a couple minutes to finish the process.

Now is the time to find a permanent home for the papers you need. I recommend filing every day or at least once per week. Schedule the filing and commit to it.

Gather papers in one room

From my experience, people tend to have their papers scattered all over the house. They are stuffed in the boxes, bags, drawers or any available space. They also cover every horizontal space, making them feel overwhelmed and embarrassed. A backlog of papers going back many years consumes time and energy, but once finished, you will feel liberated and inspired.

Documents to keep

The reason many of us keep unnecessary papers for decades is a fear of discarding them and the possibility of needing them in the future. Adoption papers, birth certificates and death certificates are permanent; financial records and medical records fluctuate; marriage certificates and warranties might change.

For minimal cost and peace of mind, you can rent a safety deposit box at a bank to store documents. Fire, floods and thefts happen; don’t take a chance on losing something important.

Emotional attachments

I have heard every excuse from paper collectors and why they can’t part with it. Sentimental things are usually the toughest to discard.

“The paper belongs to my grandpa who fought in the war and I just like to honour him by keeping this letter,” a proud granddaughter once told me.

So, the mountain of books, magazines, catalogues, postcards, letters, brochures, business cards and more take over a home and its occupants’ peace of mind.

File with a smile. It’s the only way to do it!

Ranka Burzan owns a professional organizing company based in the qathet region and has written several books on reducing clutter and becoming more organized. For information, go to