Despite the fact that we live in the digital age, so many people are still immersed in the clutter of paper. When I ask my clients what their biggest organizational challenge is, paper handling is always at the top of the list.

Keep this quote from Barbara Hemphill in mind as you begin to declutter your paper: “Paper clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions.

Daily decluttering

Spend just 10 minutes each day clearing out old paper on your desk, coffee table, kitchen counters, and nightstands. We focus on visible clutter, which brings us feelings of overwhelm and embarrassment.

Watch out for mail

Sorting your daily mail only takes a few minutes. Open it above the recycle bin and immediately get rid of anything you don’t need. If you don’t need flyers, don’t take them home. Now take five minutes to sort the mail you need by categories. Sort bills, important papers, reading papers, and papers for family members into bins labeled for each person.

Manage your memories

This one is difficult for all of us. We simply cannot bring ourselves to give up sentimental papers. Old love letters, your child’s masterpiece, birthday cards from a dear friend, flyers from your favorite vacation, invitations to a wedding you attended in the last century or photos of people who are not in your life today.

Reassess your sentimentality. I offer you two small and beautiful boxes. Once the boxes are full, drop the papers that have the least sentimental importance. That way the only papers in the boxes are the ones you like. You can scan your photos and papers and keep digital memory instead of physical memory.

Magazines or minefields

I once had a client, an intelligent professional woman who had over five thousand magazines, many of which had never read. Her whole little living room was covered with stacks of beautiful glossy magazines. She kept the magazines to read them someday.

Until then, she didn’t have the space to work or relax. When you read a magazine, you’re bound to find an article, recipe, or craft that you want to refer to later. Cut out the page you want to keep and rank it in your ranking system.

I discovered that if we don’t plan for the weather, we will never read a word in a magazine or a book.

Recordkeeping Dynamo

Sometimes it’s hard to decide what to keep and what to throw away, especially when it comes to banking, credit card statements, tax returns, canceled checks, etc. It is always advisable to speak with your accountant to determine how long you need to keep certain papers. The average person who does not operate a business can typically:

• Keep paid invoices for non-tax deductible items and utilities for one year.

• Throw away credit card receipts and ATM receipts once monthly statements have arrived.

• Recycle monthly inventory or other financial statements once annual statements have arrived.

Ranka Burzan owns a professional organizing business based in Powell River and has written several books on clutter reduction and organizational improvement. For more information, visit


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