From piles of bills, junk mail and magazines, to stacks of graded schoolwork and receipts, it’s no wonder most people find themselves struggling to tread water in a sea of paperwork. What’s worse than the sheer quantities of paperwork, is that due to it’s multiple forms, shapes and sizes, it’s difficult to keep it organized. After compiling some common reasons Can the Clutter clients are saving paperwork, I came up with a list of questions to help you make the decision: To keep or not to keep.
Excuses for Saving Paperwork
How many of these pertain to your stash of paperwork?
- Someone took the time to print this and hand it to me, so it must be important enough to keep.
- A tree died to create this, so I should keep it as homage to the tree.
- I (or someone else) may need this information sometime in the future.
- This information was important at one point, therefore, it’s important forever.
All presumably valid reasons to save paperwork, right? I won’t discount the ideas behind the excuses, but in order to decide if they are valid and worthy reasons to flood your home with a deluge of papers (that you may NEVER again look at), you need to consider the following:
To Keep or Not To Keep
Do I have a plan to use this? This document may have been useful, maybe even urgent at one point, but that doesn’t mean it maintains that status forever. If its business is complete, and there’s no future plan for its use, get rid of it!
Does it exist elsewhere? In the off chance that you may need to reference this document, does another copy exist (online, colleagues office, library, etc.)? If you are probably NOT going to need it, and someone else maintains a copy, get rid of it!
Is it outdated, or will it be before I get to it? I’m thinking coupons. Do you save piles of printed offers with hopes that you might at some point look into them, but you never actually get around to it? This one is also applicable to printed instructions for processes that continuously change. You can find a manual for just about anything online! Get rid of it!
Do the advantages of keeping it outweigh the disadvantages? How does the anxiety of the possibility of needing it and not having it compare to the stress induced by the clutter of paperwork? What’s the worst case scenario of not having this document? Is that scenario worse than your feelings toward the clutter? If not, get rid of it!
Are there retention rules, written or implied? Are you holding onto company documents that you should have shredded months ago? Do you have personal tax documents from 12 years ago? If no retention rules exist, consider making your own rules. Junk mail gets one day; bills are shredded on their due date; receipts get 30 days (or whatever the return policy is), etc. When a document reaches its date, get rid of it!
Remember, organizing is about being at peace with your space; it’s about the satisfaction of efficiency. Keeping things that have no purpose in your life, out of guilt or obligation, are simply adding to clutter. Always have a plan for every item you bring into your life, including every piece of paper. For more information on how to manage the paper you must save, check out these 10 Ten Paper Organizing Tools, or contact us for an Professional Organizing consultation today.