Organizing 101: Cutting the Paper Flow
By Sophia Noll
By now I’m sure you have just about gotten all of your filing under control. However you might feel like paper is coming in faster than you can find a home for it. And you would probably like to stop wrestling with the mounds of paper that have accumulated on your kitchen table so you can have a space for your coffee cup! So much paper inundates us daily. There’s junk mail, kid’s school papers, magazine subscriptions, catalogs, newspapers, pamphlets and the list goes on and on and before you know it the paper has taken on a life of its own and it’s smothering you!!! So you ask, “How can I reduce this incoming paper?” I’m glad you asked that question but before I give you some pointers here are a few statistics that I found while perusing the internet.
•The average American household receives unsolicited junk mail equal to 1.5 trees every year—more than 100 million trees for all U.S. households combined.
•In 5 days we produce enough Junk Mail to Reach the Moon!!!!
•Junk mail Produces 1 Billion Pounds of Landfill Each Year!
•Junk mail produces more C02 than 9 million cars.
•The average adult receives 41 pounds of junk mail each year.
•5.6 million tons of catalogs and other types of similar mail are thrown away every year in the U.S.
•On average, Americans spend 8 months opening junk mail in the course of their lives.
Now that last little tidbit should be enough to motivate us to get that “junk” out of our homes and lives for good! I will admit that taking action to stop unwanted mail and unnecessary incoming paper will take some investment of time in the beginning but it will save you time in the end and in honor of “Earth Day” this month it will help Mother Earth as well.
There are various options for decreasing the unwanted mail. Here are just a few:
• www.dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offmailinglist/ — Direct Marketing Association (DMA) You can request that your name be removed from all their member’s list. The service is good for five years.
• www.41pounds.org — “a nonprofit environmental organization based in Ferndale, Michigan. The name of the organization is taken from the estimated weight of ad mail each U.S. Citizen receives every year. For a fee of $41 (for five years) they’ll contact the direct mail companies and get you get off their lists. They’ll also send some pre-addressed postcards for you to send to the companies that require a signature to stop their service. They will also donate $15 to the charity of your choice.” Sounds like a win, win to me!
• www.ftc.gov/privacy/protect.shtm this is the Federal Trade Commission site which is very informative. It gives you sound advice and the contact info for the major credit bureaus so that you can “Opt Out” from pre-approved credit card offers with just one phone call (1-888-5OPTOUT) or you can do it in writing as well.
• www.catalogchoice.org is a free service to opt out of catalogs, phone books, coupons, credit card offers, circulars and more.
Let’s take a look at the items that we did invite into our homes—but like a guest who has overstayed their welcome … it’s time to send them packing! I’m referring to newspapers and magazine subscriptions. Some people who accumulate stacks of newspapers have great intentions and they truly believe they will get around to reading them one day. However a day old newspaper is old news! So “use it or lose it.” If you don’t have the time to read it cover to cover or you just skim over the headlines or only read the “Home and Garden” section, consider cancelling your subscription. If you do find yourself needing that paper fix then please pass it on to maybe your local coffee shop or restaurant on your way to work for others who might enjoy reading the paper. But remember … you don’t need the paper to get the latest news, it’s all over the Internet! You can even read parts of your local paper online for free and for a fee you can have full access to the paper.
Magazine subscriptions should be given a three-month rule. That is, if you have not had time to read them within three months, they should be recycled or given away. It’s also a clue that perhaps you should cancel the subscription and save yourself some money. You can be more selective by purchasing the occasional issue at the store. Cut out the articles that you want to read, place them in a file labeled “To Read,” and recycle the rest. Don’t forget your library subscribes to a plethora of magazines that you can look at as well.
How about the kid’s papers that come daily through the front door? I suggest to my clients that each child be assigned a basket somewhere in the kitchen (the floor is OK). These baskets are not for homework but for things like permission slips, sports forms, teacher’s notes, etc. Your job is to look in the basket each night and perform the necessary steps and place the papers back for the child to retrieve in the morning. Once you have posted the dates for activities you can recycle any leftover paper.
Quite often we get those charitable solicitations from causes that interest us. Instead of putting them in the “to read” pile where you might not see it for a while, place them in with your bills so that when you sit down to pay a bill you’ll be reminded to write the organization a check as well.
So, here’s the drill … take the steps mentioned above to cut down on incoming mail. Have a basket that is large enough to hold your daily incoming mail/papers. Have a recycle bin and waste basket right next to it and while standing over them sort the mail, magazines, school papers, etc. so that only the paper that you have decided to keep will find its way into your living space. Have a permanent place where the “real” mail always goes regardless of who brings it in. It can be a basket on the floor by the front door or a bin on your countertop. If there are several people in your family, have a smaller bin for each person. So stop piling and start purging! Hey you’ll even reduce your chances of getting paper cuts and best of all, your “Mother” will thank you! ;-))
lSophia (In Its Place) has been organizing people’s lives for the past ten years from Maine to Asheville. She specializes in Organization, Personal Assistant, Household Management, Staging Homes, Senior Downsizing, and Concierge Services. Sophia offers free consultations and can be contacted at 828-333-3045. Spring is a wonderful time to tackle those organizing jobs! Give yourself the gift of Organizing!!!