Paper has a way of collecting and stagnating a space. If we get overwhelmed by the clutter of papers in our living space, we lose our inspiration and productivity. Let’s bring this space back to life!
Stacks or piles of papers. The stacks of papers look intimidating. But when you actually take a closer look, they become insignificant things that are temporarily in the way. Take a small doable stack of papers from the counter, desk top, or floor and sit in a comfortable place. Have a recycling bin or bag by your side. You’re going to go through piece-by-piece. We think better when there’s just one thing to consider. Ask of each piece, “Do I need this piece of paper or can I let it go?” If you need it, then either place it where it needs to go, or if it requires some action, take that action. A lot of clutter are unfinished actions. When you are done with that stack, go and pick another small stack. Notice the space you are creating as you take the paper away. It’s helpful to encourage yourself every step of the way.
You may feel some inertia while clutter busting these stacks. Tell yourself that’s a normal feeling caused by the dulling presence of the paper hills. Then take a breath and tap into the “doing” part of yourself and begin again. You may notice that as you keep moving forward on to each next piece of paper that a momentum is kicking in to support you.
What to do with all the articles? We print articles from the internet, tear them out from magazines, or save the full magazine, telling ourselves we are going to read the article. But the fact that it was saved without our reading it is a red flag. Our minds are insatiable and get easily distracted by information. We automatically grab and store info. The funny thing is, most of the information isn’t actually useful to us.
We end up saving all this info and creating a huge unsatisfied need in ourselves by not reading what we saved. I remember one client looking at the stacks of articles in her kitchen that she saved for years and wearily saying, “Even if I took two weeks off from work and did nothing else, I could never read all of these.” Trust that because they are unread, you will not read them, and let them go.
How about the files? We tend to put paper into our files, but rarely take them out or toss them. Most of the papers are never looked at. Out of sight, out of mind. My experience from working with people on their files is that at least 60 to 70% of the papers get tossed in recycling. The way to dismantle the paper clutter is take out one file at a time, open it up, take out the first sheet and ask, “Do I still need this piece of paper or can I let it go?” If it’s not a resource that you use, an important legal document, or receipts and papers for tax purposes, it doesn’t have a home in your files. Also, if you empty out a file and realize you don’t need it anymore, take it out of the file container, and either recycle it, or put it with office supplies for later use.
Oh, those boxes of paper. You might have a box or boxes of papers. It can be overwhelming to open a box and see hundreds of papers. You might react by closing the box and hiding it in a closet. The problem is it’s still there, having its negative effect on you.
The way around this is by taking small servings. Open the box. Take out a doable handful of papers. Face away from the box and go through one paper at a time. Have a recycling and shredding bag by your side. Begin. Beginning helps clear the overwhelm. Asking “Do I actually need this paper of can it go?” makes your mind orderly again. When you’re done with that stack, pick up another and continue.
Take your time. If you start to feel overwhelmed while clutter busting your papers, stop and take a break. There’s no deadline when this has to be done. It’s important to keep in touch with yourself during any of the clutter busting processes. Chances are the clutter got to be the way it is because we temporarily lost touch with the quieter part of ourselves. This is a way to learn to work while keeping in touch with your peace of mind.
Starting a new habit. Once paper makes it into your house, it has a way of not leaving. As we have seen, paper’s presence tends to be disorderly. I’m encouraging you to create a new habit of not bringing papers home.
To do this, you’ll be breaking an old habit. We tend to grab and take home paper if it’s interesting. We also take papers that are given to us at events, or from friends that want us to read something. It’s an automatic response.
But perhaps a little alarm can go off inside of you as you find yourself wanting to keep some paper. You hear your voice ask, “Am I going to read this?” Be honest. What’s your first impulse? If it’s no, recycle the papers. It’s much, much, much easier to get rid of paper outside of your home.
(This has been a repost from two years ago.)