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The paper is going to eat us!!

718 Views 6 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  PoetryMom
I can't get a grip on the paper clutter in our house. I have tried different organization systems, but everything seems to have some sort of flaw that puts us back to square one.

We have papers coming in the house from school, mail, DH work, magazine subscriptions, including trade magazines for DH and myself. I have gotten better about filing paperwork immediately after paying bills, but I have backed up filing from when I was not doing so. Things got really out of hand when DD1 was born, since I went back to work full-time after only a 6 week leave (treacherous and traumatic). I have tried to attack the backed up filing, but I never seem to have the time to get it all caught up (especially after the birth of DD2). I have drawers of paper memories (pictures, certificates from DS school and others) that need to be organized. I used to scrapbook (and would love to go back to it), but the mess is just discouraging.

Although, I stopped all magazine subscriptions except a select favorite (Mothering being one of them), I still have problems with back issues. I don't want to get rid of them until I've cut out interesting articles and recipes, but I don't seem to have the time to get to them before they become an unsightly pile by the fireplace (how do you spell fire hazzard?)

My kitchen desk is always an absolute mess, because it is too small to hold everything it has to hold, but the things that are on the desk are things that I don't feel I can always run upstairs to put away. I got a tray to hold the bills when they come in, but it overflows because I also put things there that I may not have time to address immediately, but need to be addressed within the next week or two. I also have folders for daycare papers and what I call "Child Info" (stuff from the MD office, informational brochures, playgroup phone #'s, etc.). I also keep on the desk a recipe book for baby food and other items that I want to be able to grab quickly. It's very convenient, but they also crowd the desk.

I also have issues with DD1's artwork (and soon DD2 I'm sure). I have put up clothes lines made of twine on a wall in the kitchen to display her creations, but what do we do with those that don't make it up? What to keep and what to toss? I have dedicated a drawer in an art chest for finished and unfinished work, but this too has become full and it's now time to purge.

Help!!! I need a system that works for a working mother of 3 (I have one off in college and a 5 year-old and 1-year-old at home). I also need a way to attack the backed up messes
: and a way to spend less time dealing with paper!!!

Does anybody have any suggestions? What do other people do?

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Paper is more challenging than other areas. We are inundated in today's world!!!

Some things to try:

Switch what you can to electronic notification instead of paper. DD's school just started allowing this and I LOVE IT!!!

Call every organization that sends you junk mail and get off their mailing list. I do this every few months...pick a day and get the mail and call all the companies from that pile. Our incoming mail has DRAMATICALLY decreased over time!!! (BTW, we were already listed on the nationwide stuff for reducing junk mail. That was a good first step. Calling the remaining companies has been a HUGE reduction.)

Evaluate WHY you are keeping all the paper. Is there another way to get the same information? Do you actually USE the information? Ever? I am honestly finding we were keeping more stuff than necessary, which takes a lot more time to "manage".

Lastly, I have had the most success since I made paperwork and finances a priority in my weekly schedule. I simply spend 15-60 minutes every single Tuesday on these types of tasks. I schedule it in my "tasks" in my email program (called Entourage, which is similar to Outlook, we have Macs), so that it comes up with a reminder every Monday evening.
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My system, which mostly works (I get backed up if I skip a couple of days):

Right by the front door I have a small bookcase with:
~a milkcrate for recycling---unwanted mail immediately goes in there
~a box for bills and paperwork that must be dealt with within a week
~2 file boxes---one for medical stuff (insurance claims, prescriptions, my son's diabetes records) and one for house/kids stuff (take-out menus & coupons, kid extra-curriculur activities & flyers, phone trees, etc).
~a basket of mail stuff--stamps, envelopes, checkbook, calculator, etc
~on the wall above the bookcase are 2 strips of ribbon with clothespins. I hang things like cards, coupons, gift cards, schedules, kids' id cards, event flyers/invites there so I can see them every time I walk out the door and grab what's needed.

I don't get the mail from the box until I have at least 5 min to go through it. I don't read junk mail---it goes right into the recycling. Immediate action stuff goes in the box and I put aside Sunday nights/Monday mornings to go through that and the stuff hanging from the ribbon.

For kids artwork, I'm brutal. I do have a couple of places in the house to hang it (from ribbons, with clothespins---easy to hang, easy to change) but the vast majority of it ends up in the recycling. The kids have to be ok with that---i've explained things to them, set up galleries in their own room and given them storage space in the basement. The two young ones, especially, are quite prolific with their art work. My 7 year old produces easily upwards of 30 pieces of art a week---most on the backs of recycled prints dp brings home from work. There is no way we could keep it all. I do try and funnel some of their work into things that can be reused---wrapping paper, scrapbooks, greeting cards, etc. But the bottom line is that most of it cannot stay in the house.

I do still struggle. My mother, for instance, saves articles and such for me and brings them to my house by the bag. It makes me crazy. And I'm overrun with books and magazines---we get two weekly mags and I do read them but not in their entirety so I tend to keep them around and then I end up with a big pile of them on that bookcase. I'm thinking about trying to remember to set aside a weekend afternoon once a month to go through the mags or maybe I should take them into work every other week. For your backlog, maybe you could set aside an afternoon, brew a pot of tea/coffee, put on some music and go through them. You could cut out the articles you want to read and file them ina small file box by category. Or put them in page protectors and into a binder by category (I've got a binder for home decor inspiration pics/articles from magazines---it's really helpful).
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Thank you ladies. I haven't been on MDC for a few days, because I've been decluttering the house. DH and I took DD's Spring Break off to clean up the house inside and out (me in, he out). I appreciate the suggestions. I set my alarm clock very early one day, made a cup of tea and used the quiet morning time to go through my magazine back issues. I didn't get it all done, but the fireplace is no longer a fire hazzard (as a matter of fact, it's almost inviting). Another morning I went through the many folders and binders on the kitchen desk and purged and consolidated. I was amazed at how much paper I was keeping simply because I no longer knew it was there. Suddenly, the desk does not appear too small at all. It's just overworked!

I like the idea of setting aside regular time to address the paper. I seem to set things aside to deal with later, and then I never get to them. Eventually, I forget about them - hence the pileup.

I think I will also start using DD's artwork to make cards and wrapping paper. She will see the value in her work, and I won't have to throw all of it away.

I still have a long way to go, but I made a decent start this week. I don't feel as overwhelmed by it all. I guess I'll just keep chugging along. Again, thanks for the comments.

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Sounds great, Mama!!! WTG!
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You might find peter Walsh's book "It's all too much" helpful. It addresses pretty much your exact situation.

Originally Posted by Delicateflower View Post
You might find peter Walsh's book "It's all too much" helpful. It addresses pretty much your exact situation.
Thank you, I'll give it a look (after I'm finished with the desk of course

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