I’m often asked for tips for taming paper clutter, and there are many ways to manage paper once it comes in, but my biggest tip for taming paper clutter is to eliminate it at the source. In other words, the less paper you can keep from entering your home in the first place, the better.
Here are a few tips on eliminating paper clutter before it appears:
- Use online or paperless billing. I was a reluctant convert to paperless billing, because I was afraid that I would lose track of bills that did not arrive in the mail. However, I’ve come around to the idea that paperless billing helps me eliminate a lot of paper I would otherwise have to tame. If you are worried that you might miss bills that go to a spam folder or that get lost among many other messages, you could create a separate email account for your bills, as long as you’ll monitor it regularly. Certain banks also offer paperless billing through their websites or apps and will send reminders when bills are due.
- Use email receipts when they are offered. More and more retailers are offering email receipts at the register, rather than a paper receipt. When possible, if you opt for the emailed receipt, you will not end up with a stack of receipts to tackle at the end of the year or at tax time. Of course, it is also an option not to take a receipt at all, but if you prefer to have your receipts to match up with your statements or for tax purposes, email receipts help reduce paper clutter. If you set up an email account for your online bills, you could use the same email account for online receipts. One nice feature I’ve noticed is that the retailers that use the same email receipt system will often automatically have your email address in their records, saving you the hassle of typing it in.
- Opt out of as many mailings as possible. If you would like to cut down on the number of credit offers, catalogs, magazine offers, and other offers you receive through the mail, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) can help. For $2.00, you can sign up for DMAChoice, which allows you to control the direct offers you receive by mail in those categories for a 10-year period. You can choose either to eliminate all categories, select categories, or specific companies within each category. Taking control of your mail in this way — before it ever reaches you — is better than having to spend time sorting and discarding it (or, worse yet, letting it pile up.
- Sort and discard mail before you bring it inside. Particularly if you live in an apartment building, chances are that you pick up your mail some distance from your home. If so, or if you have access to a garbage bin near your mailbox, it might help to sort your mail before you return to your home. That’s a great way to rid yourself of flyers, catalogs, and other mailings that you would only discard once you brought them inside. This is not quite the same as eliminating these papers “at the source,” but the result is the same: the papers do not make it inside of your home to pile up or to force you to decide what to do with them.
What about you? Do you have any tips or tricks for eliminating paper clutter at the source?