The Problem with Paper

The problem with paper isn’t just that there is so much of it. The problem with paper isn’t just that it’s coming into our homes from every direction. The problem with paper isn’t just that there is so much unsolicited paper. The problem with paper is all of these things on top of which we put… not dealing with the paper.

If you take a typical, non-pandemic week during the school year here is just a sampling of what kinds of papers are in a typical home with school-aged children. Junk mail, letters, bills, home work, school announcements, permission slips, craft projects, more junk mail, church bulletins, Sunday School papers, magazines, paper crafts, grocery lists, doodles, sweet notes, drawings, the list could go on.

The way to solve the paper problem is to deal with it. I typically have 2 routes I go with paper. The first is to deal with it right away. The second is to wait until a specific day to deal with it all. Either way, you will be doing just about the same thing.

TIP: Take the time to decide which mailings you want to unsubscribe from. It will be worth it to stop having to deal with those mailings that you just put straight into the trash. Not all mailings can be unsubscribed to but a lot can.

If you are dealing with your papers right away, you will sort into these categories every day. You may choose to also deal with all of your “to do” and “file” papers on the same day as well. Or you may choose to deal with all of those once a week.

If you are dealing with your papers once a week just be sure that nothing that will come into your home has a pressing deadline. Other than that, you will want a place that all paper that comes into the home goes. A bin marked “mail” or “papers” will do nicely. Each and every piece of paper that comes into the home goes there until it is time to be dealt with. Mail? In the bin. School folder papers? In the bin. Worship Guide? In the bin. Receipts? In the bin. Then on the selected day, all the paper comes out and it dealt with. See the categories below.

  1. Trash.
    This is both the easiest and the hardest part of dealing with paper. It’s the easiest because you will be throwing away obvious junk. That packet of coupons you never use, for example. The hardest part is when you have to decide which (if any) of the seven pieces of scribbled on paper you want to keep. Here’s one quick question for you to ask: do I have something that is just about the same or represents the same stage of life?
  2. Shred.
    This is anything that has sensitive information that needs to leave your house. The trash won’t cut it (haha!) it needs to be shredded. This is up to you and your comfort level.
  3. To do.
    Any piece of paper that needs a response (bill, letter, permission slip, homework, etc) goes into this pile.
  4. File.
    Some papers will end up in this pile right away because it just needs to be filed but nothing else needs to be done with it. Other papers will need to be dealt with then filed.

Here’s what it might look like to go through your papers. Sort pile of papers into the 4 categories (trash, shred, to do, file). Put trash in the trash can if not already done. Shred papers to be shred. Work through your to do pile adding papers to the file pile as necessary. File papers. Done! The more often you do this, the less time it will take (depending on the amount of papers, of course) as less papers will have accumulated. Once a week is a good way to do it all at once by making a plan to have time to deal with the “to do” items.

If you are dealing with a large pile or multiple boxes of papers you will do the same sorting and working. Just keep in mind that you will need to set aside time to work on it and get it done. You can do it!

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