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19 tips for making your home paperless

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by Tsh

Tsh is the founder of this blog and is currently traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

About a month ago, Maya wrote a fabulous post about going paperless in the kitchen.  It got me brainstorming on the myriad ways we can further the paperless trend in our whole house.

See, I detest paper clutter.  It’s my absolute arch nemesis in our home.  Receipts, napkins, bills, food wrappers…  With two preschoolers and a laid-back husband, they can quickly form a monstrous layer over our surfaces.

Reducing the paper at home saves money, lowers your trash load, conserves environmental resources, and teaches good stewardship.  All of this adds to more sanity, an essential component to a healthy family.

Aside from in the kitchen, here are 19 ways to reduce the paper clutter in your home.

Receipts


Photo from Apartment Therapy

1.  Create a workable system for your receipts. If you’re on a cash budget and keep track of every expense, take care of your receipts frequently.  Set aside weekly time to enter the expenses from your receipts (we do this using Pear Budget), and then toss most of them into the recycling bin.

2.  There are actually very few purchases for which you need the original receipt. For those receipts with useful information but aren’t important enough to keep, look into a simple program that easily scans the originals and tracks the vital information.  We’ve enjoyed our compact Neat Receipts, but you can also use a scanner.  Then shred and recycle the receipt.

3.  That said, there are a few receipts you should keep. Do this neatly with a simple filing system.  There’s no reason to have anything bulky or expensive — we use a simple canvas file box that fits on our bookshelves.    Then label files by receipt type, such as “electronics,” “appliances,” or “home maintenance.”

Mail


Photo by Boris SV

4.  Invest in a decent shredder, and use it often. Keep it in an easy to reach place, so that you won’t let the paper pile up.  Get in the habit of shredding most anything featuring your name and any pertinent information.  This means even those “pre-approved” credit card offers need to visit the shredder.

5.  Remove your name from mailing lists and opt out of credit card offers. It doesn’t stop them all from coming, but it certainly helps.

6.  Pay your bills online. Then request these companies to stop sending you paper bills.

Files


Photo by Eve

7.  Keep your filing system simple. Don’t over-complicate it – simply store certificates of warranty, copies of your tax returns, birth certificates, and other vital papers in one safe location.  We use the same canvas file box where we keep the receipts mentioned in number 3.  (By the way, the IRS suggests keeping tax returns for three years.)

8.  Shred things you just don’t need, such as paycheck stubs, bill statements, or expired records (like for insurance) that are older than one year.

Information


Photo by Declan Jewell

9.  Rely more on your digital tools to store information. Keep your calendar digital, store your recipes and other Internet finds on Delicious, and process your financial bookkeeping with a simple software tool like Pear Budget.

10.  Reconsider that newspaper subscription. You can find more news online for free than you could possibly digest in 24 hours.

11.  Make the local library your best friend. Before you clutter your bookshelves with books you’ll only read once (or never read at all), check it out at the library.  You can always buy it later if you decide you want your own copy.

12.  Regularly back up your computer, at least once a month. This propels you towards a paperless lifestyle because it adds a safety net if you’re skiddish about tossing the paper.

Collections


Photo by Ian MacKenzie

13.  Create a workable system for keeping your children’s artwork. In short, keep only your favorites, and only a few from each stage.  You can repurpose or photograph the rest.

14.  Frequently purge your magazine stash. Create an “idea notebook” for saving certain pages, photos, and articles, then recycle the remainder of the periodical.  If you have the ink, scan and print that which you want to keep, and then donate the magazine to your local library or used bookstore.

15.  Organize your digital photos chronologically or by event, and store them on well-labeled CDs.  Only print those you want to give as gifts or frame as art.

16.  Be brave and toss all those semi-sentimental documents that don’t truly mean much to you. Christmas cards from ten years ago, high school notes, and your scribbles from Intro to Psychology 101 can all go.  If you’re on the fence about anything, snap a digital photo of the document.  But I promise you, you won’t miss it.  It actually feels good to let the past go.

17.  Regularly purge your book collection. If you haven’t read a book in a year, or if you don’t think you’ll read it again, see what you can get for it at your local bookstore.  The one exception I take to this are quality children’s books — I save these for our kiddos’ different stages, for guests, and for future generations.  My mom saved all my childhood books, and I’m so glad she did.

This and that

18.  Purge your coupon stash frequently, as you work on your menu plan and grocery list.  This way, you’ll be more apt to use them instead of forgetting about their existence and letting them expire.

19.  Keep wrappers and needless packages from entering your home in the first place. Don’t buy individual-sized snacks, cook more from scratch than from boxed foods, and resist buying more than you really need.  Use the bulk bins at stores, and carry your goods home in reusable bags.

I’m sure there are more ideas out there.  What can you add to this list to help create a more paperless home?

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Comments

  1. For very important receipts I staple them to the handbook which I then keep in a box file titled ‘Handbooks’. It’s pretty simple but it means if I ever have to take something back because it broke then the info is all in one place. Oh and I download a PDF copy of the handbook as soon after I bought it as possible, you never know when you might need it!

  2. Paper clutter drives me crazy!! The one thing that is the worst though is our Roth IRA statements. I get a huge packet every month and we have been filing them but I wonder if anyone knows if it’s okay to just keep maybe one per quarter of the year?
    .-= Mrs. Money´s last blog ..A Teller Deposited Too Much Money- Can I Keep it? =-.

    • You should be able to opt to have them Emailed to you. I would keep a copy of the year end statement that has you contributions & distribution for the year. Anything else your broker should be able to provide at least going back seven years.

    • We have them emailed to us, so it’s all online. We print one annually, just for our files. There’s no reason at all to keep monthly statements — so often those things are huge and full of needless paper.

  3. These are great tips! For my receipts, I found a great little file folder (the size of a coupon folder) at the dollar store that helps me organize them. I keep it in the glove compartment of my car, because I normally throw them in my purse where they become big time clutter. I toss them weekly if I don’t need them. For the keepers, I always have them handy..this has saved me during tax time more than once!

    For my vital papers, and pictures that I would have a heart attack if I lost them (ultrasound, infant pics, pics of my grandmother) I put them in a fire-proof box. That way, if my whole house burned down, I’d have all of my necessary papers and the pictures that mean something to me. I had copies made, and those are in frames on display.

  4. Wow.. Love these tips and ideas.. I hate paper clutter and am working really hard to get the receipts and bills under control. Thankfully, my toddler is not yet in school, so there isn’t much artwork but have already decided to scan most of them, and save only hot favorites.
    Love your suggestions.. But then, I love pretty much everything that Simple Living has to offer. :-)
    Congrats on the new sites and blessings for the future.
    .-= prerna´s last blog ..How to Buy Clothes for Your Toddler =-.

  5. Tsh, you’ve covered a ton of things here. It’s a great list. I would say the one addition I can bring is to REPURPOSE some of the paper clutter. I love using food boxes for some of the kids’ crafts, cutting pics out of magazines for collages, going through the paper to circle new letters we’ve learned, etc. Of course, we still end up purging and recycling and tossing. But, the idea is to use the paper items we already have ‘to the death’ so that we don’t end up going to the store to buy craft paper, wrapping supplies, etc.–adding to the paper problem rather than solving it.

    Thanks again for your great tips!
    .-= Nicole at Burning Bushes´s last blog ..A Lesson from Tigger =-.

  6. Hmm.. I did leave a comment here.. but can’t see it.. Anyways, thanks for the amazing tips and ideas. I hate paper clutter and have worked really hard to get our home paper-free. Just need to tackle the receipts and bills. I’ll try out some of your systems to get these under control.
    Love the new sites. Congratulations on them!
    Blessings and best wishes for the future.
    .-= prerna´s last blog ..How to Buy Clothes for Your Toddler =-.

  7. The library is definitely every mom’s friend – and its a great spot to get some writing done.
    Thanks for the tips.

  8. The one issue I have with this list is “reconsider your newspaper subscription.” I am very concerned about the future of journalism, and until the newspapers come up with a viable online model that can support the same staff and quality of reporting that we’ve come to expect, I’m keeping my subscription. I use the newspapers for everything from making seed starter pots to lining the hamster cage to bedding for my composting worms, so it doesn’t go to waste. But unlike the other items on the list, there is a downside to canceling your newspaper subscription that folks should consider.

    • Yes, that is true, and I’m glad you’ve found reasonable ways to repurpose your newspapers. But for me, I feel like newspapers will more quickly find viable online models if their subscription rates let them know that we don’t want needless clutter in our homes. I value journalism, but media needs to stay up with the rapidly-evolving times. Just my little opinion, though. ;)

      • I have to add to this, that I recently realized my teen daughter has never seen us reading the newspaper. My husband and I read several every day, but it is online, so she does not actually witness this – she sees us on the computer. When I was a kid, I started picking up the paper that was lying around and that is how I became interested in ready news daily. So, we have decided to subscribe to one good daily paper, to kick-start her news reading. Of course, these will be reused/recycled.

  9. For my receipts that I save for warranties, etc. I just have a file in my filing cabinet labelled “warranties”. Any receipts or warranty-related papers go in there, completely unorganized. I think maybe a few times in the last 10 years I’ve had to look through it for something – and even then it only takes maybe 3 minutes to find what I’m looking for. So I don’t find it is worth the time to organize those more carefully.

    I also have files in my filing cabinet for bills, paystubs, etc. – I probably keep way too many, but it doesn’t feel like clutter when it is put away in the cabinet, and I just can’t be bothered to take the time to purge them regularly. When I start running out of room in the bills folder, I’ll just take a huge chunk from the back and trash them.

    Income tax returns are the only paper that I don’t keep in my filing cabinet. We always file online (here in Canada, not sure if you can do that other places?). So all of our receipts, income statements, etc. don’t get sent in – but we have to keep them in case they call and request them. And I think we’re supposed to keep 7 years in Canada. So they end up being pretty thick. I have each year’s return in separate labelled envelopes and stacked in a small rubbermaid-type plastic tub. Also both my husband and I have rubbermaid tubs the same size as the income tax one and that is where we can keep sentimental-type things. If it doesn’t fit in the tub, then it has to go, or something else in the tub has to go.

  10. Great post! I try to purge a lot of our paper stuff. Also recipes as well for those I haven’t made in a while. This is hard though as I always feel like I will make it again or whatever. I can store them online.
    .-= Sherry´s last blog ..Menu Plan Monday – February 22-28 =-.

  11. Great tips for being clutter free and environmentally conscious. After reading I felt both good that we already do many of these things and motivated to tackle the things we haven’t yet done.
    .-= Nicole´s last blog ..beddy-bye =-.

  12. TAX PAPERWORK, FILINGS AND RECEIPTS (for U.S. taxes) SHOULD BE KEPT FOR 7 YEARS!!!

    The IRS typically runs 3 years behind in auditing – and can go back 3 years- so any tax professional will recommend you keep your tax filing AND ALL RELATED BACKUP (including receipts for deductions/expenses/donations/etc.,) for SEVEN YEARS.

    • Yes, the typical answer to this is anywhere between 3 to 7 years. The IRS website says 3 years, but do what you feel comfortable with. Definitely no reason to keep beyond this.

      • To Faith’s point, my father in law is currently being audited for something that happened 9 years ago. Thankfully, he still has the paperwork to lay his case out against the IRS. For this reason, I am probably prone to hold onto tax paperwork until the end of time. Just my two cents…

        Tsh, great post…wholly inspired by it!

        Christen’s last post: 5 Techniques to Inspire Healthy Food Choices in Your Child’s Diet

      • Sorry Tsh, I’m going to respecfully disagree. As a financial professional, it freaked me out when I read what you wrote about 3 years. STATE laws may differ from IRS requirements. Most people use the same backup & documentation for both. Last year our State return for 2004 was audited. They had a question about a deduction and we had to provide proof – 5 years after filing! Fortunately, we had everything to back it up. If we had not, we would have had to pay the amount of the deduction PLUS interest and penalties.

        Taxes is not something to take a chance on and toss just to reduce clutter. HOPEFULLY most people keep their tax records together. Just keep everything together by tax year (in a file folder or manila envelope or even shoebox!) and each year you can purge the oldest in the file. If you are concerned about clutter, you can scan all of your documents and receipts and keep them electronically IF they are backed up to a reliable source and are secure.

        Here is an IRS publication link that specifies for INDIVIDUALS what should or should not be kept and timeframes that readers may find helpful. http://www.irs.gov/publications/p552/ar02.html

        Depending on how complex your return is, the more you need to keep. The IRS publication above is more detailed about what exactly needs to be kept (for Individual filers) depending on how complex (or simple) your return is. Again, STATES may require more or additional information to be kept for state only deductions, credits, etc.

  13. Great ideas here! Some of them I already practice but others (quite a few) I really need to work on. Paper clutter drives me nuts and my husband batty. Our three children, however, seem to derive super powers from it.
    I think I’m going to start taking photos or scanning their artwork and printing it on CDs. The best stuff we frame for the walls so this would be a huge way to decrease clutter.
    Thanks for the suggestions!

  14. This is a great post! I’m definitely on your wavelength. One way I’m trimming expenses and paper in my home is by subscribing to bookswim – it’s like netflix for books. I’ve had a pretty good experience with it. I do love my magazines, though. I’ve been using my iphone to take photos of things I like in magazines before I recycle them. That, plus doing tear sheets is really helping the clutter around here.
    .-= Trisha´s last blog ..Throw Me Down Week – Day Two: Ugly Afghan Contest =-.

  15. I agree with Faith’s comment. For U.S. taxes, I’ve always been taught to keep tax paperwork (returns, receipts, expenses, etc.) for 7 years. No one wants to be audited only to find that they tossed their paperwork a couple years ago. The IRS is not friendly in that regard.

    Otherwise, this list is so comprehensive — I have much to work on! Great work.

  16. I am sad to say, I LOVE paper! I love notebooks and to do lists, and looking back over them years later. However, I don’t like the clutter, so it is a constant battle. The only thing I’d add to the list is a Kindle or Nook! I don’t actually have one, but it sure would clear some space for me.
    .-= Angela @ Homegrown Mom´s last blog ..Routines, Rituals, and Traditions =-.

    • I thought about adding a Kindle to the list, but since I don’t personally have one, I don’t feel like I have the authority to say so. I love paper books — that’s probably the one analog, old-school format I cling to.

    • avatar
      Catherine S. says:

      I am a paper person too. I need a paper planner, not an electronic one, and I have different notebooks all over the place for all my different lists. Writing down my life’s to-do’s, using pen and paper, is very soothing to me! However, I could do without the rest of the paper mess…old bills, papers sent home from the schools, etc. I hate to file so it tends to pile up. I have magazine holders on my desk labeled with each kid’s name, and when they bring home papers from school or have forms they need for acitivites I stash them in these holders. I usually purge them at the end of each school year. It’s not super organized but I really can’t stand to file any more than that!

  17. Have a personal blog to “scrapbook” memories. :D
    Its a thousand times easier (and less cluttered) than trying to figure out the millions of different paper, stickers, and pen options.

  18. Great tips! We do keep tax stuff, which is a must. And I’ve definitely found that cooking from scratch, already a joy in itself, has greatly reduced the amount of waste (although much of it can be recycled) going out of our home.

    The only problem I have is getting rid of books. I have stacks of them everywhere, although I suppose my habit is at least somewhat ‘green’ because I VERY rarely buy new books. I get them from garage sales, used book giveaways, and keep them from my literature classes. I just love them too much to let them go!
    .-= Nikki Moore´s last blog ..the best potato soup you might ever eat =-.

  19. I’ve unsubscribed from catalogs and subscriptions through http://www.catalogchoice.org/

  20. I love used book stores. I buy, read & bring back ( I love the library also but I’m so forgetful that I pay more in late fees than the book is worth). I use the local Goodwill & if I bring them back there it’s a tax write off. Also http://www.BetterWorld.com Books will take your used books & sometimes pay you for them. They also take donations of text books & send them to schools in impoverished areas. Now there is a reason to purge that book shelf!
    .-= Elissa´s last blog ..What do you do with the pictures your kids draw for you? =-.

  21. I started buying my older children (ages 12 and 10) little notebooks for them to write in, or draw comics in, so that most of what they do is contained in one place. This saves me finding 23 first paragraphs of stories all over the house.
    .-= Visty´s last blog ..Family Portrait project 01.10 =-.

  22. Tsh, this came in perfect timing. I am 36 weeks pregnant, in a nesting frenzy, and so completely overwhelmed with all the paper clutter laying around in my office. I was about ready to invest in a new filing cabinet simply to “hide” the mess, but now I realize that so much of this clutter is expendable. Instead of spending the money on a filing cabinet, which would end up taking up precious space in our small house, I’ll plan to save that money for when the baby comes. And goodness knows, I’ll probably need that extra space, too. Thanks again for your insight…and thank you Maya for the inspiration!

    Christen’s last blog: 5 Techniques to Inspire Healthy Food Choices in Your Child’s Diet

    • Love this post Tsh! And hope you are well Christen :)

      My biggest challenge has been to convert my daughter’s montessori to go paperless. We almost never look at those flyers and it seems like such a waste of paper

      I love the list Tsh – removing paper clutter really helps me clear my mind too!
      .-= Maya´s last blog ..Why is storytelling important? =-.

  23. Great tips to get your toes wet. A while back I blogged about the subject of organizing my mail when I get it. The way I do my mail when I get it is to separate it in three piles: 1) shred pile, 2) pay or follow up pile, and 3) company file. If it needs to be shred I will shred it in my paper shredder that day. If its a pay or follow up, as I get around to it, I will then pay / follow up and put in the company file. That keeps me pretty organized.
    .-= Toni´s last blog ..I find it interesting how many sites haven’t updated their copyright to include 2010 yet. =-.

  24. Thank you Tsh!
    I’m on the path to turn my home as green as I can and your tips are very, very helpful, useful and easy :)

  25. We are making our way to becoming paperless and have a great start by going to automatic bill pay with the majority of our bills. Our phone company allows us to pay electronically but they still send us a paper bill even thought it is on automatic draft- that drives me nuts!
    One of my biggest paper headaches is with all of the “EOB”s from our health insurance company with 6 people in the house. I have a huge 3 ring binder with a tab for everyone just for medical receipts and EOBs but it seems like I am having to take time to file those documents constantly.
    I would love to see insurance companies give you the option of going paperless as well as financial investment companies!
    Thanks for the great tips Tsh!

  26. Great tips! I use the file folder…which has many compartments for storing necessary ppwk in an organized fashion…also store as many things electronically as I can…damn that paper clutter, can’t ever seem to do away with it completely!

    http://thepursuitofmommyness.com/
    .-= The Pursuit of Mommyness´s last blog ..Sadly, I Did have a Miscarriage =-.

  27. Does anyone have a good list of how long to keep paperwork other than tax returns? How long do we need to be keeping our utility bills and bank statements, etc? Sometimes I hear a year, sometimes just until the next statement arrives… anyone have a good list?

    I like the tip about being courageous about tossing old paper. I have a little file box of paperwork from COLLEGE just in case. Surely those flyers and pamphelts can go…yikes!
    .-= Alissa´s last blog ..What’s Working =-.

  28. these are some great ideas! I really struggle with what to save and what to toss. One really simple thing I started in the office I share with my husband is we have 3 wastebaskets. I made really simple labels using stamps and shipping tags for shred, trash, and recycle. This way when we are going through the mail and our “piles” we can sort easily. My other struggle is kid artwork. My twins started preschool this past year. They go 2 days a week and each day bring home something. I got caught by them tossing something so I came up with a plan. I made a builteen board where we display the projects of the week, then I take them down and put them in their own large envelope. Now I’m going to lay them out and take photos, make a bunch of 4×6 collages with these and make a mini book. Maybe a little overkill but this way I can keep a small reminder of their stuff!
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..real love stories- mini book =-.

  29. I love this article and I love the fact that you also hate paper clutter. My home is also full of paper clutter but I cannot get rid of it because my mother’s mail tends to always be important. I also have a lot of notebooks that are half used. I think it’s truly a waste to throw blank sheets of paper away.. for any reason. I also hate that people do not like to recycle paper :( Especially in school.

    Anyway we invested in almost 4 shredders, they all let us down. One got stuck, the other kept overheating too fast, the other one also overheat and the last one was wayyy too noisy and loud. They also always get jammed which is a annoying. I would use one, but my mom decided to shred paper in her office where they have the big monstrous shredders that shred 10 sheets at once or so. Now, for little things, I just use scissors and cut small pieces :(

    Cool article!

  30. It’s also sad that I’ve heard that even the best brands of external hard drives tend to fail so often. I hope I do not get that problem because I have hundreds of gigabytes worth of information.

  31. I have to agree with Laura’s comments – I won’t be giving up my newspaper subscription anytime soon. Laura’s point about journalistic quality is a great one – plus, I just can’t easily find and access the LOCAL information I want online. I have had so many happy accidents perusing the paper – coming across an article on a local topic I’m really glad to learn more about, finding an interesting class or event going on in my area, or learning about local causes that might need my support. The internet connects us to the big wide world – but sometimes we really need to connect with what is physically right around us. For that reason, I will continue to support my local paper.

  32. avatar
    Mother of Pearl says:

    One thing that really helped cut down on paper clutter in our house was giving my kids notebooks for writing and for drawing. All the papers are together and not scattered all over the house.

  33. WE, us, me, I haven’t conquered the paper cluter just yet… BUT we do have a filing system (not working), but at the end of the year, we put everything together, what is not important we toss out and we make a YEAR FILE. Is just one envelope with the most important paperwork for that year and we keep up to 5 years. The TAX FILE we keep for 5 years too and file in a separate folder next to the year file. We just need to tackle and discipline ourselves to deal with the mail when we get it and not one month later! :S We have all our bill pays online and maybe that’s why we are so laid back in that sense.
    BUT WE WILL CONQUER IT! Eventually! :)
    .-= lvlc @ FromMomToMom´s last blog ..NEW TEMPLATE… VISIT AND VOTE IN MY POLL… =-.

  34. I loved Maya’s column on paperless in the kitchen, and I am loving these tips!

    Receipts are what get me. I am so sloppy with them – you should see my wallet right now. EEEEK. It’s going on my Most Important Tasks list for tomorrow.

  35. Great organization tips!

    Kim @ http://frostmeblog.blogspot.com
    party inspiration
    .-= Kim´s last blog ..Pink Baby Shower (Part 1) =-.

  36. I am in the process of implementing a way to combine display/storage of children’s art. I am using the deep, blocky clear display frames in my stairway (1 for each of my 3 kids) to display seasonal art they have done over the years. Because the frame is deep, I can store all 12 or so pieces (for the 12 months/seasons) in each child’s frame and just pull the appropriate one to the front each month. When I finish, I’ll be storing almost 40 cherished pieces on the wall in my stairs – talk about vertical storage!

  37. While we are able to reduce our paper clutter with most of the above tips, paper inevitably makes it into the house, so we try to use it. We re-use all of the recyclable box board from food packaging for my daughter’s painting before adding it to the bin, and we use the back of every piece of paper. As for shredding, when our shredder, which was always in the way, broke, we started tearing all the “must shred” stuff into tiny pieces for the compost bin. It keeps us from using the extra electricity, and it’s a great way to relieve pent up aggression toward the companies that keep sending you paper!!!
    .-= Ouiser´s last blog ..apparently… =-.

  38. Our house is awash in paper clutter. My husband and I both work for ourselves and he is hypervigilant about saving every scrap of paper he thinks the IRS might even contemplate wanting to see if we ever happened to get audited. It’s a nightmare. I am getting better about culling books and magazines and have a one in one out policy for preschool artwork. One step at a time. Your hints were great and I think I can really use a few of them!
    .-= Jackie Lee´s last blog ..Books Books Books: What to do with the books? =-.

  39. Great post! Paper clutter just keeps on piling up.
    As for backing up my computer, I did not know how good it would feel to know that all my files and pictures were safe, until I started backing up my computer. Here is a review http://www.momtechnology.com/mozy-online-backup-review/
    Thanks for the tips!

  40. You may want to use a certified shredding company to insure your old documents are disposed of correctly. This website has services in every state http://www.document-shredding.org

  41. One thing I did was get my bank to stop sending me my monthly statements in the mail. Those things take up a lot of space and I just didn’t need them, given that I balance my account online.

    Took one click, made a big dent in my paper clutter.
    .-= Meredith from Penelope Loves Lists´s last blog ..You might catch me dancing: music helps you boogie while you clean =-.

  42. This was such a good and motivating post. I cant wait to get started tomorrow. Also I have a question, how do you go about getting rid of things when your spouse is a pack rat and flinches at the phrase “Give away pile”?

  43. For our receipts, we use a restaurant receipt spike. I’ve never been able to put them in the monthly envelopes or otherwise organize them, no matter my good intentions. I just never got around to it. This way I just periodically clean out my purse/car/countertop and spike it. When it gets to be a new month, I just spike a post it note with the name of the month on there. I can pretty easily find a receipt if needed. Ideally, I would go through these and file/shred/store them, but I’m just being real about my lack of follow through. I am trying to get them into quicken someday…At least they are all in one place. At the end of the year, I go through them quickly and toss any that aren’t tax deductions or warrantied items.

    As for the IRS website… perhaps I should have pointed that out to them when they audited me for something that was 5 years prior. For three years in a row. I’m sure they would have just told me they were sorry for the mistake and left me alone. It’s unfortunate that the info they give and the reality are so different.

  44. Tsh, Excellent list for going paperless. I’m following many of your tips but there is more that I can do, I’m sure.

    My tip is to buy reusable cleaning towels like handi wipes or similar instead of paper towels for household chores. Use mops with washable heads instead of the throw away kind is another idea.

    Keep up the good work!

    Kimberly Aardal
    Publisher, EveryDayRockingChairs.com

  45. Thanks for the advice! I too super duper hate paper clutter, or any type of clutter for that matter. That’s a lot of tips, some of them I already do, but there are some new ones I will start incorporating to my current routine. And less paper, more trees!

  46. Awesome post! Many of these things I had never even thought of or had meant to do and never got around to it. Definitely going to save this list and implement as many things in our home that will work well for us and help reduce paper waste as well as unnecessary clutter.

  47. Paper clutter is my biggest organizational weakness. So, so, so much paper comes into our home. It’s unreal. I have boxes full of papers that I just don’t know what to do with. A few things keep me from letting go of stuff.

    How far back do you need to keep paid bills?

    How far back do you need to keep bank statements, credit card statements?

    How far back do you need to keep pay stubs?

    My husband has a lot of tax deductions in the line of business he’s in, so we keep all of that. How far back do you need to keep information for the purchase of a home?

    One day, I will tackle the paper clutter and keep it under control. We just have so much to sort through before we get to that point.
    .-= Renee´s last blog ..Diagnosis: Terrible Twos, or Something Else? =-.

  48. avatar
    Cassandra says:

    Hi Tsh – These are some great tips on how to make your home paperless. Another great way to do this (and great for the office as well) is to cut back on printing with a file sharing application such as Office Live Workspace. It gives you the ability to create, save, access, and share documents and files online for free, making printing unnecessary! Check it out here: http://workspace.officelive.com/en-us/.

    Keep up the good work!
    Cassandra
    Microsoft Office Live Outreach

  49. New fan of your blog. As far as getting rid of old coupons you can donate them to military families. http://secretsofmom.blogspot.com/2010/03/what-to-do-with-your-expired-coupons.html
    Thanks for the post.

  50. Here is what works for me. I keep folders on my PC like this PERSONAL and within that folders called ASSETS LIABILITIES INCOME EXPENSES OTHER. In the ASSETS folder I have subfolders of AUTO HOME INVESTMENTS THINGS and I drop the scanned statements and paperwork into each of the folders. Each scanned document is named like Amex20101031.pdf so the vendor/comnpany followed by the date. The date format automatically sorts everything nice and neat. I shred everything after its scanned if it doesn’t have a raised seal or official stamp (those I scan but keep in a fireproof safe). I then back everything up at month end to an external hard drive (ebook is my brand). Then I copy the ebook to another and send that offsite in case of fire. Every item that has instructions that I buy I go online when the item enters the home and get the pdf version of the manual. That goes into a folder in Assets called THINGS. I toss the paper one. Now I always know where the manual is for everything AND I name each with the model and serial number so if I need to use the warranty I have that info. I have so much more room in my home now!

  51. Another great thing about my method above is that you can user the SEARCH feature on your PC/laptop to find just about anything because its a pdf. Scanners all can save as PDF and if you have documents on your pc just print them to PDFs (cutepdf is a free utility available online that lets your print to a pdf file instead of a printer). This also lets me fax anything from my PC/laptop using software that is free that lets you email docs to a free fax server. You can send/receive this way so you can toss your fax machine too!

  52. avatar
    Jonathan Ray says:

    Other tips:
    Buy from companies that have low prices with no-strings-attached. Boycott coupons and rebates.

  53. The attractive fronts of Christmas cards and other greeting cards can be a great way to dress up a package instead of ribbons or bows. Then buy plain wrapping paper, which is usually cheaper than fancy patterns.

    I also have a friend who takes old photo cards and $1 store photo albums and make picture books for her kids. They love looking at any faces when they are little and when they are older they like saying who everyone is. Plus if they get wrecked it’s no real loss.

  54. Hi,

    This is definitely a helpful one. I featured this entry in my blog since I believe it would help those who visit my site. :)

    Keep it up.

  55. Hi,

    This is definitely a helpful one. I featured this entry in my blog since I believe when people who visit my site will get a worthy blog entry to read when they click the link to your site. :)

    Keep it up.

  56. I’ll follow along for sure! My house is so overwhelmed by the comments I keep trying to get rid of, but never seemed to fully manage. PCS’ing us this summer, too, so I have more reason to get this place in shape!

  57. This is great!

    Also, if you run a small business out of your home. Initiating paperless billing is also a great service. I just print them off to PDF using free software and email it to my clients. They usually really appreciate it.

  58. avatar
    Teresa Carlucci says:

    One of my goals for this summer is to scan and digitally store all my recipes onto an external flash drive that I can use on any of my computers . I am also working on updating my address books!

  59. Some good ideas here. What I really hate about paper stuff is the dust they collect!

  60. One really simple thing I started in the office I share with my husband is we have 3 wastebaskets. I made really simple labels using stamps and shipping tags for shred, trash, and recycle.

  61. @Teresa I guess Digital Scanning is the ultimate solution for all the current archives we have for papers that we should keep. Beside some good secure Backup service to make sure you wouldn’t lose your Scanned stuff in case of anything bad happened to your PC or your flash drive.

  62. avatar
    GoingPaperless says:

    I suggest Evernote for storing your digitized paper. It is accessible from any computer and most all smartphones. The free account would work for recipes and basic paper. I use the paid account and can upload 1GB of data each month. It’s so freeing to finally get rid of so much paper.

  63. Great suggestion about the shredder. My wife and I recently purchased one and we keep it right next to our desk in the office. It really helps us eliminate keeping a bunch of useless paperwork and junk mail around.

  64. Sometimes you have to produce actual paper copies of an
    invoice/purchase order/delivery slip/etc. and having the power
    out/the computer crashed/etc. isn’t an excuse.
    Hence the paperless office won’t happen in my lifetime.

  65. Thanks a lot for this 19 tips it really means a lot to me.. This could be nicest tips I’ve ever read.. I hate paper clutter so much! It ruins my day every time I’ll see it in my house, I’ll use to trash over and over again it’s good thing to have your tips i can easily now get rid out of it!

    Thanks,

  66. Great tips. Paper clutters are such a nightmare for me because it sucks me up, pay slip, electric bills and whatsoever kinds of papers is that I really hate such stuff. Thanks for this great tips and it helps me actually.

  67. It is almost midnight and I just took 4 bags of shredded paper to the recycle can. Uuuuugh! After being laid off recently I made up my mind that the 1st thing I was going to do was go paperless. I came across this article and love some of the tips. I do have a few concerns and wanted to know how the paperless folks handle it.
    1. My paper bills are my reminder when things are due. Does anyone have a good app or online system that works for them?
    2. Has anyone ever tried the Neat Desk Organizer? I was thinking about it but wanted some feedback before investing $399.

    Any input would be FAAAAANtastic :)

  68. avatar
    Josette Traycheff says:

    I definitely hate paper clutter it really cost money, time and so much stress I use to organize Electric Bills, Water Bills, Phone Bills and other clutters of paper. glad to know about this 19 tips above, it really helps a lot to me, I totally become stressful when it comes to paper clutter.

  69. Some great advice there. We are in the process of going paperless throughout the house and you have given me a few extra things to look at!

  70. I’ve been looking for something like this forever. I’m tired of saving every receipt and paper in a drawer (since there is no file cabinet in my new place yet).

    Thank you for the great post!

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