My Quest: Helpful tips on how I decreased those unwanted piles of paper, gained control and stay organized.
PAPER. As much as we try to become more eco-friendly and use less paper, it seems to multiple exponentially. Like most families we have lots of paper floating around our house screaming for attention: "pay me", "read me", 'make me", "don't for get to buy me...". In a quest to eliminate the paper clutter in my home, I took decisive action to eliminate it. It took commitment. It took time. It took a bit of coaxing, but in the end, it was worth it.
I have a two-drawer filing cabinet in my office. That is where nearly all of my paperwork resides. My day-to-day challenge is to be sure it does not overflow into other areas of the house or exceed the necessary two drawers. It is always a work in progress.
I think that is the first, most important, thing to say to yourself when you begin your de-cluttering program. THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS. Know that you will never be done completely. It's called life and life is filled with paper products. Your quest is to manage it. PERIOD.
A few years ago, I purchased a wand scanner. A brilliant little tool that allows me to scan nearly anything, make it into a jpg and store it on a hard drive. This eliminates a tremendous amount of paper and provides me assurance that I have important documents at my finger tips.
For example, I have maintained all our tax records, including all the receipts, electronically. I no longer have to keep the piles of forms and bank statements. The scanned records are accepted by the IRS (do be certain to check that the IRS will accept scanned items from the product that you buy).
Scanning your documents will take some time at first. Don't get discouraged. It works easily and quickly and once you've scanned all your documents, maintaining this system is quite simple.
It's easy to walk into your home after a long day at work and place everything you're holding onto the counter. DON'T. This is your first habit to break and the one way to assure your success. I'm sure you recall the adage 'a place for everything and everything in it's place'.
Establish proper places to keep things and you will always be able to locate them quickly. If you've just walk in the door with bills in your hand, put them directly into the bin that you've been keeping all you bills. The latest school flyer is in your hand ready to be posted to the fridge. Before you post it, take the old flyer down and throw it into the recycle bin.
Habits are very difficult to break. Creating new habits are equally difficult. Keep at it. Don't quite.
I'm a former chef and foodie. Aside from the many cookbooks, I have collected thousands of recipes (yes, thousands...let's move on).
Keeping the magazines that housed these recipes would have been foolish. So I began tearing the recipes from the magazines and keeping them in binders. Each binder is labeled with the types of recipes kept within: Desserts, Breads, etc.
I could scan these recipes and catalog them on my computer. However, thumbing through the recipes is a visceral experience for me. Know that there will be some papers you will not be able to part with, such as your son's kindergarten drawings. Make a concerted effort to understand the difference between those papers you cannot live without and those you can't seem to let go of.
Since 2003, when the National Do Not Call Registry went into effect, an estimated five billion pieces of mail where sent by direct marketers. Certainly one of the easiest things to do is place that unwanted mail into recycling, but by eliminating it entirely, you save yourself that unnecessary step and help to de-clutter your home.
For a few of the companies that didn't seem to respond to my request and continued to mail me insurance information, I simple returned a portion of their letter with a note stating; "please stop mailing this to me, I am not interested"-in red marker-and I used their postage paid envelope to return it. For what ever reason, I only had to do this a few times and those mailings also ceased.
Stopping it before it comes into your home will help save you time and unwanted hassles.
Information about you from any and all public records are collected and used by list brokers. It's big business and it's big money. List brokers preparer a myriad of lists to accommodate a variety of business, selling them detailed information about YOU. Write to the following companies and have your name removed from the list of mailings. By contacting these organizations, you are also removing yourself from the telemarketing lists, as well.
901 West Bond
Lincoln, Nebraska 68521
R.L. Polk & Co. / Name Deletion File
List Compilation Development
26955 Northwestern Highway
Southfield, Michigan 48034-4716
470 Chestnut Ridge Road
Woodcliff, New Jersey 07677
For so many reasons, you should have contact information on the three major credit card reporting agencies in your files. Pre-approved credit cards can easily be stolen from your mailbox making identity left not only possible, but easy. Here are the three agencies you need to know and should speak to at least once a year to learn your score and be sure that nothing hinky has been noting in your:
- Equifax, P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, Georgia 30374
- Experian, P.O. Box 9532, Allen, Texas 75013
- TransUnion, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, California 92834
To cancel pre-approved credit cards and insurance offers call: 888-567-8688 (888-5-OPT-OUT). You must call from your home because your personal information will be checked against the address database. If you'd prefer to do this online, log on to: www.optoutprescreen.com/.
It's worth noting that I needed to do this for both my husband and myself. Each adult in your family must opt out in order for the mailings to stop.
Don't be fooled by the warranty.
Each time to complete that warranty card and send it in, your information is collected and you, as a consumer, are profiled. The profile information is then sold to many other companies who will in turn begin mailing you their own products and services.
Submitting warranty is uneccessary. Provided you have your product receipt, the item you purchased is already under warranty for the duration specified on the manufacturer's card.
Unsolicited mailings come from the companies that you already do business with creating a taller stack of mail to sift through. Stop the temptation of opening and reading each letter by calling the company and requesting that they stop mailing you the information. If you have all your insurance coverage with company 'A' except for life insurance and they continue to mail you information regarding their rates, call them and tell them to stop.
In addition, your financial institutions, by law, are required to provide detailed records of your accounts. However, you no longer have to receive the prospectus by mail. Call them and ask for the information to be emailed instead.
Are you certain that the companies that you are dealing with don't sell your information? It is worth asking. If they do sell your information, tell them you wish to opt-out.
Buying a shredder is a good investment. I recommend buying one that cross-cuts and can cut credit cards, and CDs. Anything that I no longer ned to keep that has personal information on it, I shred it. I purchased a Shredsafe Shredder. Its not the most expensive product on the market, but it suits my needs.
When the bin is full of shredded paper, I move it to a recycling station that we have for easy transport to the dump. Some of the shredded paper is kept for shipping purposes. I mail a lot of things to different parts of the country and using the shredded paper as packing materials is another great way to re-use it.
After I contacted all the organizations and requested they remove me from the mailing lists, after I scanned all my documents and carefully cataloged them, once I shredded all the documents I could, I felt compelled to stop the madness from happening again.
The easiest way to stay in control of the paper and maintain an organized home is to not allow the unnecessary paper inside.
GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR QUEST.