Column 07 – The Anatomy of Paper Clutter by The FlyLady, Marla Cilley

 If we didn’t have paper clutter, our homes would be clean! Oh yes I know you will all agree with me on this one! Paper has multiplied like rabbits and is hopping from one flat surface to the next. How can we stop this invasion from taking over our homes? 

Have you ever gotten the call that your mother was coming to visit and you catch yourself raking all the piles of paper into bags and stuffing them into the bottom of your closets? Out of sight out of mind; we don’t remember they are hiding in the closet till we have searched all over the house for the phone bill to pay because you just picked up your phone to make a call and it has been disconnected. We all hate that feeling.

I have known people who have moved across country and put those garbage bags of paper in the moving van because they didn’t have time to sort through four huge bags of paper clutter. Those bags alone are enough to overwhelm us at the thought of opening up the guilt and fear that is associated with that paper clutter!

Let’s look at what happens when we get that call from our mother. Our brains shut down and we can’t think! All we know is that we have to stash and dash! We don’t think about what is going to happen when we hide things from ourselves. We just know that it has to be done and we will deal with the consequences later. What problems could stuffing all those piles into a bag cause us anyway? We know that answer too; lost utility bills, checks and other important things we might need.

Many years ago I listened to a story by Rita Davenport. She had been on vacation for a couple of weeks. While she was gone all the mail was just piled on her desk. When she got back to work; she could not function for the piles on her desk. She took a garbage bag and raked all the mail into it and placed it on the credenza across the room. All day she was busy returning phone calls and forgot about the bag of mail. That night the cleaning service came in and disposed of the bag. The next morning she went into a panic. What was she going to do! What had she missed? Over the next few weeks and months she realized that there were only three items of importance in that bag of mail; One check that needed to be replaced, an invitation that needed an RSVP, and they called her to ask why she had not responded and a letter that needed a reply.

So I dare you to throw those bags away or just happily shred them! I also know that you will not take my dare! The fear still has you held hostage! I am going to set you free once and for all time!

I want you to think about how long those bags have been hiding while you gather up what you need to only handle these bags one last time! Do you want to know how to keep this from ever happening again? Develop the simple habit of dealing with the mail when it comes in the door. Open up your bills and throw away the advertising; only keep the bill and the envelope. Put the magazines where you will read them; by your chair or in the bathroom. If you put one in a magazine rack; get rid of one that is already there. Put it in your recycle bin. This paper clutter has to earn the right to come into your home. DON’T PILE IT ON A TABLE TO DEAL WITH LATER! That is why you have that big bag now! DO IT NOW! This will save you a lot of heartache later.

One friend put an industrial shredder in her garage. She would cull through her mail as she got out of the car. She shredded the credit card applications and other ID sensitive mail and recycled the rest. It was all in the garage and not piled on a table cluttering up her home!

Stop yourself the next time you feel the need to put something down on a flat surface in your home. You are creating a hotspot! Nip it in the bud before it gets started by using the DO IT NOW principle! It will only take a few seconds to take care of it now! We all know that later never comes!

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