You most likely were tempted to roll your eyes when you read the title of this post. I know when I first read about going completely paperless, I may have been tempted to laugh out loud. How absurd! How impossible!
How many of us look around our house and see paper…everywhere!? Bills to be paid, flyers, recipes, mail, grocery lists, receipts, etc. We try and put them in cute little boxes, industrial-looking filing cabinets, put in neat little stacks, or just shoved into drawers to “deal with later”. I am definitely guilty of this. Sometimes there are just so many papers that you just get overwhelmed and shove them in your closet. Paper always seems to build up and whenever you get rid of one piece, two more pop up somewhere else? Ring any bells?
This was my reality.
Whether you realize it or not, clutter can be a source of enormous stress. The presence of clutter is distracting and drains your energy, reduces your focus, and can result in irritability and depression.
Enter the book that changed my life and continues to motivate and challenge me. Many people are spreading the word about its extraordinary simplicity combined with tough love. You may have heard of it: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.
It differs from organizational books in that it does a complete purge of every single item in your house so that you never have to do it again. Her clients rarely revert back to clutter, as the joy of their new surroundings is so compelling they cannot go back their old ways. There is an important order in which you tackle your clutter, starting with the “easy” things that you won’t have as hard a time letting go of (versus the items that you are more emotionally involved with) and then use that positive reinforcement to work your way up to the harder things.
This post is about one of the harder things for me, which is paper. Mostly because it is everywhere and I will admit I often hold on to papers “just in case” I need them later. Instead of just bookmarking a recipe on my computer, I like printing them off so I can hold them in my hand and not lose them. It was not so long ago when I toted multiple tupperware storage containers with me whenever I moved to a new apartment, even though I hadn’t opened them for years (turns out they were full of old textbooks, report cards from as early as elementary school, old essays, and tons of “idea” magazines, to name a few).
According to Kondo’s instructions, when you are de-cluttering a category (and she breaks this down for you), you need to gather every. single. piece. in your whole house and sort through it all, one item at a time. If it doesn’t presently bring you joy, thank it for the purpose it served and GET RID OF IT. Live in the present, not the past! Only keep the items you MUST. When it comes to paper, essential items for us included: the last 10 years of taxes, my work-related nursing documents, important personal documents (like passports, health cards, banking forms, housing documents, etc). That’s it! All magazines, printouts, notes, old pay stubs, old auto insurance documents (of cars I no longer even own), swimming report cards (yep, I found those. Seriously.), and anything else that is not ESSENTIAL was shredded and tossed in our organics bin! What a glorious feeling!!!
When you are doing this, try to keep in mind the big picture:
What a Clutter-Free House Means for You:
- More Free Time. To do whatever you want! Finally read that book! No more guilt when you look around the house, chiding yourself for not tidying up.
- A Cleaner House. Clutter is like a dust and dirt-magnet! Who needs that? Also, when your surfaces are clear, it is super easy and quick to wipe them down. I had never realized how much time I spent tidying up in order to clean! How ridiculous! No wonder I barely got anything done in a day!
- A Calm Environment. As mentioned earlier, clutter is like noise; the more you have, the harder it is to concentrate and maintain a tension-free household.
- Valuing Things that Really Matter. Not only are you physically keeping only items that are essential, you are also setting an excellent example for your kids about not accumulating STUFF, but only choosing to bring home items that are really special and bring you joy!
- Less Time Looking for Things. When you get rid of clutter, you no longer have to spend time looking for things, because you will know exactly where they are!
So are you ready? Do you want to take the plunge and start living your life clutter-free? What helps you reduce or minimize clutter? What are the hardest areas for you in terms of de-cluttering?
One piece of paper at a time,