Paper Management – Part 1: Reduce the Influx

The influx of paper into our homes on a daily basis can be overwhelming. We get more mail in a single day than our grandparents got in an entire year! If you hold on to even half of it, you have the makings of a serious paper crisis on your hands.

And paper comes to us in even more ways than through the mail. There are the papers you bring home from the doctor’s office, from your church, from meetings, or school. There are ads you pick up and receipts you bring home. There are magazines and promotion material and business cards. If you live anywhere long enough, these items can really pile up.

How can we control this avalanche of paper?

  1. Mail – reduce your junk mail     
  • – started in 1917, the Direct Marketing Association has made it possible to opt-out of mailing lists through its Mail Preference Service
  • – a free service that sends merchants your catalog opt-out request on your behalf
  • – to keep your name off prescreened lists which will cut down on credit card offers
  • – will help you evaluate charities and when combined with Direct Marketing Association can help you opt out of getting some of the donation solicitations 

We enjoy some of the mail that comes in like letters and cards and perhaps some of those catalogs. But enjoy them and then let them move on. Of course, some cards and letters you may wish to keep, so place them in your memorabilia box but don’t keep them all. I have seen clients with trunks and dressers filled with old cards, many of them with no special notes but just a signature.

Some bills will come in and those you must deal with but consider paying on line and after paying a bill, decide if you really need to keep the bill.

   2. Items you pick up and bring home – do you really need it and what do you plan to do with it?

  • Recipes – I strongly suggest that if you bring a recipe home, you try it out within a week to see if it is worth filing away
  • Coupons – know yourself – are these coupons you will really use and how do you plan to keep up with them? – each time you look through your coupons, discard any that have expired
  • Special interest material – if you are collecting information on interests like health, home decorating, landscaping, or vacations – plan a special place to store them and at least once a year look through what you have saved and purge the ones you no longer need
  • Receipts – know why you have kept them – if it is something you plan to return, keep it with the item – is it for something you will get reimbursed for? A charge you want to keep until you reconcile your charge statement? A business expense? A large purchase for your home? Have a plan for storing those you feel you need to keep and let the rest go.
  • Business cards – let go immediately the ones you no longer want – pull information from others by scanning or entering the information into your phone
  • Magazines – read them within the month and let them go – if you can’t find time to read them, stop getting them
  • Computer print outs – read them and then decide what action needs to happen – then either do the action or let the print out go
Bottom line – a lot of the paper clutter we have lying around is there because we have not taken the time to decide on what to do with it. It is a deferred decision. Don’t let any of this junk paper linger. It will make it so much easier to find the papers that are really important if the unimportant is gone.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Organizing Recipes

I love to cook and I usually follow recipes. I must admit that at one time I had a huge collection of cookbooks but then a few years back I started my downsizing and many of the cookbooks had to go.

Some of my clients who are overwhelmed with cookbooks and recipes have asked me for advice in corralling and organizing their collections. They have shelves and shelves of cookbooks. They have recipe boxes stuffed with family favorites, pages torn out of magazines or newspapers, and computer print outs. So here are a few suggestions:

  • If you have handwritten recipes from a family member, which may become memorabilia, either laminate the reicpes or put them in a special container. I first make a copy of these recipes and actually use the copy when cooking and keep the original in a safe place.
  • Sort loose recipes by categories. My categories are soups, main dishes, vegetarian dishes, seafood, family breakfasts, low calorie, deserts, and fondue. As you sort your recipes, toss any that no longer appeal or ones that you cut out years ago but have never even tried. Conversely, copy recipes where the original has become so stained or torn that you can hardly read it. I keep my recipes in colored folders but I have seen others use notebooks effecively.
  • Take old cookbooks that have only a few favorite recipes and copy those favorites. Then give the cookbooks away. The copies now go into your folders or notebooks. Only keep the few cookbooks that are really favorites that have many recipes or have a sentimental attachment.
  • Moving forward, if you see a new recipe that you think you would like, leave it out or put it on your refrigerator. Try out the recipe in the next week or two. Then you will know if you really love that recipe and want to repeat it. If it is a “keeper” store it into the proper category

I have found that these tips keep all of my recipes manageable. They are stored on part of one shelf in my living room where I pull them out weekly to make my menus and shopping list.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer