Taking on Mt. Papier















I have considered home-schooling my children just so that we would not have to deal with the absolute mounds of paper that come through the door every day. Add that to bills, forms, catalogues and procreating paper I seem to generate all by my little self (with some help from my doting husband), together with my tendency to be sentimental (read: my gut wrenching urge to preserve every picture, love-note , card and scribble for posterity), and those little mole-hills become mountains literally overnight.

It can be daunting. Even for experienced climbers. You may need oxygen, not so much due to the altitude as the hyperventilating that ensues when you contemplate dealing with it all. So you operate in a state of denial, pretend not to see it, and it grows, and grows into a foreboding and craggy heap, just waiting to become a landslide which would surely bury any pets or small child unlucky to be in the path of it's avalanche.

So what do you do when your office/kitchen/dining room table/couch is buried in paper clutter and your heart and will to conquer it is failing you?
This is what you do, chickadee:
1. Get yourself a sturdy shopping bag. Paper, plastic, canvas, anything will do so long as it is nice and strong.

2. Sweep all the papers into the bag. Do not separate the insurance forms from the old preschool calendar. THIS IS NOT THE TIME FOR SORTING.
Stop that! Stop that right now!

3. Admire the lovely clean and clear space. Ahhhh nice. Spin in your office chair, run your hand across your smooth desk. Invite the family to eat at the dining table. Now then, don't you feel stronger and more authoritative already? Who is the boss? YOU are the boss! Say it! Say it louder!

4. Sit down to watch your favourite show on TV. Next to you will be your paper filled bag. To your other side will be your recycling receptacle and or your shredder. If you have a portable filing system, it will be cuddled up somewhere close too. Grab some chocolate. May as well make this a party.

5. Take out ONE (1) piece of paper at a time. More then likely it will be trash, so trash it. Try to be ruthless, ask yourself:

  • would I save this in a fire?
  • If I were moving, would I like to move this piece of paper?
  • Can I take a photo of this piece of paper instead of keeping it (this is a nice option for large pieces of artwork)
Here are the Rules:
Do not take out the next piece of paper until that one is dealt with
. You can have only one piece of paper out of the bag at a time! Once it is out of the bag you must do something with it. You may only touch each piece of paper once. If that means that you have go to the bathroom still clutching that Target receipt, so be it. Let that be your motivation to get rid of it already.

If you get sick of dealing with the paper, stop, put the bag neatly in a place you will be likely to see it and take it up again the next time Grey's is on.

Now don't be freaking out over the fact that it is just sitting there not being dealt with. It was just as mixed up and un-dealt with all teetering in the pile on your desk. Now at least you have a calm and uncluttered environment, so that you can focus and be the boss. The good news is that if you don't get back to your paper bag any time soon and a frantic search through it's contents does not ensue for weeks and weeks, then chances are nothing in there was that important and if you are feeling particularly ruthless one day you can just close your eyes and toss it all. I promise you that the world will not end. (if you have an inkling there is a Social security card or your child's first footprint in there somewhere, I would not recommend this approach, otherwise I would.)

The thing about the paper monster is that once it starts gaining momentum, it magnetically attracts all sorts of other junk to it, and before you know it, you have a huge mess on your hands. It must be tamed. Happily the opposite is also true-if you start with the paper, contain it, and show it is who is boss you will have the strength to deal with any other mess and really, it will be a piece of cake. Go get it girl! With you and your shopping bag side-kick, paper does not stand a chance.







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Images courtesy:
www.sterlingbio.com/suretrial_overview.htm
www.oneofakindshow.com/blog/?p=16
paper monster
www.catchingfireflies.com

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58 comments:

Holly said...

Good idea! Maybe I'd feel less guilty about watching tv if I was also doing something productive.

It Feels Like Chaos said...

This is so funny and useful! I have used a similar approach although I don't do it as often as I should!

Mom2mykids said...

This is a great idea! I did this fairly religiously for a while but have slacked off. Now I have VTs coming tomorrow afternoon and a PILE of paper in the computer area! Guess I will be getting that sack out soon!

Person(also known as Mommy) said...

I don't know if homeschooling would diminish paper piles....at least, not if my house is any indication :)

Liz said...

Great idea, I do a similar thing. Thanks for sharing!

mub said...

Maybe I can convince my husband to go through his paperwork if he only has to do one piece at a time. I've tried but there's a bit of a language barrier and I don't always know what's important *L* I don't want to throw away his priceless documents.

Kirby3131 said...

This is my way of dealing with paper, although I have to say - I rarely get to the sorting part. lol I don't have kids, so all of the precious keeper stuff are my own doodles, footprints and receipts. haha

Have a Great Day!
Kristin

Laurel @ Ducks in a Row said...

Paper piles are my enemy. Everyone complains that I throw things away too quickly, but don't complain about having a clutter free home!

Jendeis said...

I needed this pep talk. My house is completely out of control. Thank you for helping me to take charge. :)

MB said...

Thanks, I needed this! I would love to see the top of our desk and dining room table again. I am going to do this today!

I am the boss!

Rebecca said...

I started laughing when you said, "Sit down and watch your favorite show on TV." But then you actually DID get to the task at hand! Nice work combining humor with the real advice. I enjoyed it.

Hoosier Homemade said...

Oh, man I really need this!
Thanks for the help!
~Liz

AmyK said...

I was toying with the idea of attacking the paper monster today... Problem for me is that I've already gotten rid of everything I can--the rest is tax papers, paystubs, report cards, and crap like that. I mean "papers" like that. I may just toss it in a bag for now, though, haha.
Great idea. I'll remember that for next time I've got mounds of junk papers mixed into the pile!

Suz said...

Thanks for the inspiration... problem is, most of my paper is coupons.. too many single coupons that just seem to float around. I have a stack of coupons and a stack of misc... guess I need to tackle the stack of misc first and then go after the coupons.

Thanks for the permission to grab the chocolate and make it a party :)

Amy said...

Great idea! Gee, I thought I was being productive by reading blogs on my DH's laptop while I watched tv. Your plan sounds much more useful!

My WFMW tip today is about keeping track of post ideas... no paper needed! :)

Heather@justdoingmybest said...

Great post and great idea! The pics were hilarious and very fitting, btw. Off get my bag for the papers. :)

Melissa D said...

So simple, and yet so awesome! I always get stuck on the pile part, where I have to have a bunch of piles before I start dealing with the papers. Love this!!

Mom2fur said...

I've learned from a TV show about organization that there are only 3 things that need to be done with papers. You just have to remember "FAT." (Or "AFT," if you prefer.) It stands for File-Act-Toss. And I'd say better than 60% of paperwork is a toss! You know, like those stupid extras they put in your bills that no one ever looks at, and the outside envelopes.
So when you pull out one at a time,think of FAT and ask yourself if you need to file it, act on it(like an overdue bill, LOL) or toss it.
I also do something similar with non-paper 'stuff.' I throw it all in a laundery basket and tackle it a little at a time. You are so right to say that having the mess contained in one spot makes a difference!

Under the Florida Sun said...

Great post! Loved it!!
Too funny.. but so true for most of us!

Aunt LoLo said...

You are, as always, an inspiration and a delight, my dear. ;-)

IT'S WEDNESDAY, THEREFORE THE WEEK IS HALF OVER!! Can I get a WOOT??!

~Sara said...

LOL! This is great.

Leo's mom said...

This is a great idea, I do something similar, but you take it up a few notches that I need to try. Thanks! Neat blog!

Your Frugal Friend, Niki said...

LOL

I am lovin the paper monster pic!

My hubby needs to do this in the worse way..I'll be sending him this link.

:)

wherelifebecomesart said...

What a great idea. My problem is I have about 4 of those reusable shopping bags full of papers. I never tried the "take only one thing out and do something with it" though. Also, I guess if I've had them for as long as I have, I can probably trash most all of it, hmm?
Thanks for the pointers.
Oh, and I LOVE the picture of the "paper monster"!

Ruth Saves $ said...

Fantastic post, and just what I need! Thank you for sharing.

akhmmm said...

I have done this before but I haven't actually mad the step of going through it as you do. Usually I wind up dumping it on the bed and dealing with it that way but I like your method better.

Thanks, I'll give this a try tonight.

Elaine

Relishing Life said...

I love your criteria: "would I save this in a fire?"!!! This is just what I needed! I am horrid about saving papers!

sunnymama said...

Great post. This is really helpful to me as I have a massive paper problem. Thanks!

Ashley said...

lol great tips! I do better with putting it all in piles though and then sorting through it. Otherwise, I just put the bag in the closet and leave it!

shopannies said...

just that clean neat space may be all that we need to give us the inspiration thanks for the tips

Kallie said...

couldn'ta said it better myself. really, i COULDN'T have.

nyn said...

I absolutely love this idea. You are so smart. Thanks for always sharing such good info. :)

Missy said...

What a great idea! I do homeschool and we still have mountains of paper.

Amy said...

Such a good idea. I need to get more portable file systems so I can carry them to the TV area.

And I ditto the above poster--homeschooling creates a ton of paperwork anyway.

Libby said...

My mom did something very similar to this once. Her filing cinsisted of (me quickly running to the store and buying) those stacking filers, the recycle bin, and one basket. The basket was very much like your "take a picture" idea but instead she took these things and PAID ME (!!!) to scan them.
It works wonders. Glad your house is clutter free.

Yaya said...

Great tips! You're a hoot!

Serendipity said...

Great idea! I am already well versed in shifting piles of paper into bags. Not so good at the next steps though!

Elizabeth a.k.a. Type A Mommy said...

This is some seriously good advice! After the holidays, I will definitely give this a shot!

Creative Junkie said...

This is what my husband does, except that he skips the step where you examine each piece of paper, one by one. Instead, he just dumps the entire thing into the trash and then 2 weeks later, I'm running around like insanity, searching for the mortgage coupon.

Blia said...

We do this too, only with cardboard boxes. I think paper bags will make it easier to remember to come back to the mess though. Thanks for posting! Have a great SITS Day!

Laura said...

Wow great minds think alike. I do this to get rid of my paper, although I do it before it takes over. I can't stand clutter!!

Working Mommy said...

What great advice!!! I apologize for my hubs getting all in your face (he does that sometimes) in the form of a paper monster...I TOLD him to stay in his cage...but men, they never listen!

~WM

Lynn said...

Yeah we are going to start homeschooling this summer and I'm scared of the paperwork I'm sure I'll be drowning in. I am a big believer in the bag dump. It's nice to find others like myself! :o)

My best, Lynn

Kmama said...

So once you put the papers in the bag, you're supposed to go back through them? I thought you were supposed to put it under your bed and discover it months, maybe even years, later. No?!?! I've been doing it wrong??

Kerri said...

Okay, that's TOO FUNNY. I'm actually staring at piles of papers. UG. I try VERY hard to handle stuff ONE time. Get the mail, take care of each piece, you know the drill. It just never seems to last. {sigh}
Happy SiTS day again!
Kerri

MamaOtwins+1 said...

I love the paper monster! That is hilarious. I'm a big fan of clean off the desk directly into the recycling bin. Then its all gone and I don't ever have to think of it again.

Danielle said...

Happy SITSDAY!!!!
I employ this method also when cleaning,, all stuff gets put in a bin in the closet and we go thru it when sitting next to the shredder.. for ease of purging.

I do not understand how others clean without a garbage bag in their hands... its clear to me, purge purge purge.. but for some reason other people like to be meticulous.

like for example my friend who arranged the magnets on her fridge before removing the seriously old produce from the fridge that was causing the whole kitchen to reek...

stink remains,, magnets in place??
:)

Miranda said...

I really, really like this approach! TY!


Happy FB day!

Sandi said...

What a great idea. I hide papers in boxes, shopping bags, etc. I'm going to just use shopping bags exclusively and tackle it one page at time.

Marie said...

Great idea. Now...how to get hubby to read this?

Joy said...

I am SO loving your system!

Congrats on your SITS day!

Vivianne said...

Hilariously Fantastic idea! I have tons,tons, tons and tons of paper. It freaks me out. AND THEY AHVE LEARNED TO WALK! Thanks for the motivation!

Kara said...

Love this idea! I'm tired of my paper pile staring at me from the kitchen counter and mocking me. Time to take charge. Thanks!!!

Happy SITS Day!

Caroline said...

Too cute! Great idea!

Marie said...

I have to force myself to do this on occasion or I run the risk of losing the top of my desk. ;) I thought the world was going "paperless", ha!

Fallon said...

Wow, I know EXACTLY what you're talking about and that is a REALLY good idea. Of course, I'll need to purchase a paper shredder, but I imagine a trash can will work just as well until I own one. Thanks for the tip ;)

Ma What's 4 dinner said...

Oh my god, I do this! I really do! Everytime I'm having some type of company I do this! I shove everything into bags and put it in the garage. Then I let it sit. If I don't need something in that bag in over a month...I toss it. I'm sure I've thrown away important stuff but I figure if I don't know it then I'll just live in ignorant bliss!

Great post...

Alex aka Ma, What's For Dinner?
www.MaWhats4Dinner.com

Jenn Erickson said...

Amen SITSta! I've felt the same way about the amount of paper that comes home from my daughters' schools. We live in a pretty eco-conscious area, but somehow the schools are still the biggest paper wasters. I really appreciate your no-nonsense solution to dealing with those prolific piles ~ it's smart, practical, and has just a dash o' Mary Poppinslike zip! You've inspired me to tackle my Vesuvius after the week's holiday activities come to a close.