Based on reader responses, and our own personal experience, paper clutter seems to be the hardest thing to conquer and stay on top of.
You get enough random papers piling up yourself, but when you have kids, the paper clutter seems to increase exponentially!
Artwork and crafts, school and church papers, birthday and holiday cards and stuff their friends give them… You wouldn’t think it would get so crazy so quickly, but it does, oh does it ever.
Of course you could just use the trash-it-all method, but 1. it’s not practical for everything, and 2. it doesn’t teach the important skill of editing.
Here’s a quick rundown of what we do in our home.
First, Conquer the Paper Piles
When you’re ready to divide and conquer, the first step is to gather all the papers you can find around your house into one place. Yes, ALL of it.
Seeing everything in one place gives you a much clearer picture of what you have to work with. It’s too easy to get started and then keep finding more bits here and there that mess up your flow.
Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to try to get through it all at once! In fact, I would really recommend tackling one small pile at a time. This approach helps to eliminate the excuse that you don’t have time to do it, and it increases your motivation as you see piles dwindle bit by bit.
Progress over perfection, friends, always progress over perfection.
Everything you’re going through should be able to be categorized in one of three ways:
The “other” category should be for those items you need to do something with before you throw them away, mainly digitizing via scanning or taking a picture.
(These 3 categories should be applied to any paper that comes into your home – don’t just delay the decision because that’s what creates the piles!)
Anything you keep needs to fit into a system of organization.
- Important – birth certificates, marriage licenses, etc.
- Sentimental – special artwork, letters, etc.
- Other – This will depend on your individual situation. For us, this category is almost non-existent because we try to digitize everything with our portable scanner or camera. I’m even going through and taking pictures of the pages in my journals so I don’t have this stack to store anymore.
Establish a Management System for Sentimental Papers
Binders can become your best friend for so many different categories of management around the house, not the least of which is the sentimental stuff.
Much of the time, keepsakes and sentimental papers are shoved in a box and not looked at unless you’re moving or something. I think binders are a better solution.
I especially love binders for paper and small sentimental items because you can add and edit pages easily with the clear sheet protectors. I’m working on compiling one of all the love letters and notes from when David & I were dating 🙂
A similar option is a SMASH book, which would be pretty cool.
Bins/Storage Boxes may not be practical for reviewing your memories, but they do provide a helpful boundary for what you choose to keep. When your box is full, it’s time to get rid of something if you want to add anything in.
Digital Gallery – See below.
Display – There is one thing that can be a bit of a “limbo” category, and that’s kids’ artwork. You don’t want to toss it right away, but most of it you probably won’t keep forever either. I think the key is to have a nice display system that is really easy to change out.
4 Ways to Display Kids’ Artwork Without Cluttering Up Your Fridge
When your little artists draw 10+ nice pictures some days like ours do, it’s imperative to have a practical system in place to manage that.
We used to use the good ol’ fridge method, but it was next to impossible to keep it looking neat and just got out of control so quickly.
Clothesline – We happen to have a long hallway, so we devised this clothesline-type system that works really well to showcase and change out artwork regularly. You could even do several stacked rows on a regular wall if you don’t have a long one.
Clipboards – Hanging cute clipboards is another fun way to display artwork that is easily changed out.
Frames – Attach wire to a picture frame and use clothespins to hang artwork for a more finished look. I’ve also seen people paint “frames” on a wall and permanently attach clothespins or other types of clips directly on the wall inside of each one for more of a gallery effect.
Digital Gallery – Most of the artwork that the kids spent time creating gets a picture taken of it, and that’s usually as simple as a quick snap with our phone, which automatically syncs with our NAS drive. From there, it can be added to the kids’ own private Instagram gallery, an online gallery such as Google Photos (unlimited storage!), or simply organized on your computer. You can also always get books printed up from the pictures at some point if you/they want to be able to look through their work in that way.
What other great tips or questions do you have about paper clutter?
We’d love to continue the conversation!