How to Control Paper Clutter

Man Throwing Papers in the Air as There is Too Much Paper Clutter.

How to Control your Paper Clutter

When my children were young, I was absolutely amazed at the amount of clutter that grew everywhere in my home.

Not only were their toys and books scattered about but another culprit, PAPER! All kinds of paper too. Newspapers, ads, coupons, flyers, magazines, junk mail, good mail, bills and pages printed from the internet.

I was always saving coupons and putting them in a pile for “later”. Well, later never seemed to come around as the coupons always seemed to expire before I had a chance to use them…and then the new coupons would get stacked on top and mixed in.

I also saved magazines. The recipes, home and garden ideas, fashion and other things that caught my eye collected in a shelf until I forgot why I was saving the magazine!

I was almost afraid to get rid of my piles of paper because I might need it (some day). Finally, after looking at stacks and piles lying around, I realized that clutter was controlling me.

If this sounds like you, don’t stress.

Many people, including myself, have created new habits by following these helpful tips that will help you control the piles of clutter around your home and tame the paper tiger.

Are you ready then? Let’s clean up the paper clutter!

Taking Control of your Paper Piles

Paper clutter falls into a different category than general household clutter which is created by kids, pets, adults, and lack of time.

An effective and time-saving habit to start is to look at the paper once and determine if it is: Junk, Action, or Non-Action. The more times you stack it, then move it, then pile it up again, the more of your time is wasted.


If it’s junk, touch it once and then throw it away now! This may sound easy, but I know of people that open their mail and then leave junk mail and the envelopes in the same stack as important bills.


If it requires an action (reply, unpaid bill, etc.), put it in a “to-do” file on your desk.


If it’s valuable (for taxes, medical records, etc.,) and needs to be retained but requires no specific action, place it in an appropriate file right away.

Organizing Mail

With all the coupon books, bills and sweepstakes notifications that you receive, it’s no wonder you have a pile of paper that is ready to fall over at any minute!

Think about it: how many times do you have to go through the piles to find the important bill at the bottom? There is a better way:

If you receive your mail at the post office:

  • Go through your mail before you walk out the door.
  • Get rid of Junk Mail: Unless you are seriously interested in that ad for computer hardware or a digital camera, throw the flyer away in the recycle bin can that is thoughtfully provided by the USPS. Do the same with circulars, slick ads, pamphlets, catalogs and all junk mail.
  • Open all envelopes and separate junk from bills.
  • Throw the junk mail and all opened envelopes in the recycle bin.
  • Now the only pieces of mail you should be taking home are important correspondence, bills, and other information that is vital to your interests.

If you receive your mail at home:

  1. Find an empty counter
  2. Have a recycle bin and/or shredder handy

Separate your mail into three categories:

  1. Junk: Goes directly into the recycle. I like to shred all credit card offers because they have my name and address on it. In the past, someone filled one out using my information….so now I shred!
  2. Action: Bills and other things that need to be taken care of or replied to go in this temporary pile.
  3. Non-Action: Receipts or other documents that need to be filed can be placed in this stack.

Now that your mail is initially sorted, take the paper into your home office, or wherever you organize your documents.

  1. File the non-action items you need to save in appropriately labeled folders
  2. Place the action items in a prominent place (I put them in from of my keyboard) so that you take care of these things and won’t forget about them.

Organizing Coupons

For some of us, coupons are not junk mail.

They are useful and can save your hard earned cash if you are organized and actually use them. To do this, you can either purchase a coupon organizer from the dollar store or an online retailer. Personally, I don’t like spending money on something that is supposed to save me money so I made my own.

Here is what you do:

  1. Take a letter size envelope and fold the flap in. I use an envelope because it easily fits in my purse.
  2. Use note cards as separators and label: Meats, Frozen foods, Condiments, Cleaning supplies, Paper goods, Pizza, Snacks etc.
  3. Place coupons in the appropriate section.
  4. Put closest expiration date in front of each section.
  5. Keep coupon folder handy, in your purse or car so you will have them when you need them.

You can organize your coupon’s categories alphabetically, according to where they are located in your store or any way that makes the most sense to you.

Before heading out, I create a shopping list and place a “C” by the items I have a coupon for. It helps me decide what brand I want to purchase and helps me stay organized. I don’t mind the extra work because that fifty cents savings can be better spent in the future!

Great Job!

There are many ways you can organize, but without a system you will always have piles of pesky, pointless paper clutter!

So don’t let your clutter control you. Take the first step and get organized, that way you can get rid of your paper piles for good!