minimizing paper clutter
Minimalist Lifestyle,  Minimize Your Home Series,  RV Living

Minimizing Paper Clutter without Losing Your Mind | Minimize Your Home

Paper clutter is the WORST kind of clutter

I have a problem.

It’s a “What-if-I-need-this?” problem.  Also an “I-will-definitely-want-this” problem.

As an aspiring minimalist, this is no good.

But the worst of it.  The worst of ALL of it…


paper clutter

Nothing stresses me out more than paper clutter.

And it seems no matter how much I organize, file, clean up, etc., there’s always more. More bills, more junk mail, more coupons, more kid artwork.

For months this clutter has hung over my head as I’ve been asking myself- “how are we minimizing paper clutter for when we move into the RV?”


The problem with minimizing paper clutter

The problem with minimizing paper clutter is that you are constantly getting more.

Also, laziness.

As in, I’m too lazy to shred my sensitive documents, too lazy to file my important documents, and definitely too lazy to scan and organize paper clutter into digital clutter.  Can I get an AMEN?!


I know I am not alone in this because I watch Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.  Which makes me feel like I am already winning at minimalism because, well, compared to Christmas-lady and guy-who-saved-everything-he-wrote-since-kindergarten, I am definitely winning.  And then.


THEN I share a video of my paper piles in my Instagram story.  I get a DM from someone that says, “WOW!  I’ve been stressed about paper clutter too, but yours is WAY WORSE than mine!”

paper clutter mess

Yup.  True story.  No hard feelings, cuz it was pretty bad.

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The good news

The good news is it didn’t actually take me that long to go through all the paper.  I had just watched the Tidying Up episode with the guy-who-saved-everything-he-wrote-since-kindergarten so I was feeling pretty good about myself and I had some direction for minimizing my paper clutter.


Here’s the 10-Step Process, according to Kon-Mari (modified for real life by yours truly):


Step One:  Get online and switch ALL of your accounts to paperless.  Even your insurance.  I am STILL getting mail from Farmer’s and it is SO MUCH PAPER for Pete’s sake!  I keep telling them to STOP MAILING ME ALL THE THINGS, but they keep telling me nonsense like legal blah blah and I haven’t signed the paperless whatever…


Step Two:  Get all your paper clutter and bring it to one location.  For me, this also meant emptying all my file cabinets and boxes onto the table because there won’t be any file cabinets in the RV.  Not one.


Step Three:  Cry a little at the sight of all the paper.  Say a prayer for all the trees that lost their lives so you could have paper.  Drink a glass of wine.


Step Four:  Donate your shredder to Goodwill because the amount of shredding you have to do will kill it (or you) anyway.  Spare the shredder- donate it.  Then designate a shredding box for sensitive documents.


Step Five:  Sort all of the paper.  This is the actual minimizing part of dealing with paper clutter.  This goes much faster than you might think because most of it is trash.   Yes, really.  Bank statements, bills-it can all go in the shredding box.  All of this information exists online.  Choose a small locking file box (emphasis on SMALL), or even a fireproof one if you are extra savvy.  Only put items in there that you TRULY need the original of and a scanned copy won’t do.  Examples:  birth certificates, social security cards, and legal documents.  Make a pile for the things you want to save, but can keep a digital copy of.  This one is up to you.  But before you save something, ask yourself:  if I scan this, am I going to look at my scanned copy when I need it or am I just going to search google for it AGAIN?

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Keep Going…

Step Six:  Take a nap.  You deserve it.


Step Seven:  Scan the documents.  This can be a huge pain if aren’t doing it right.  Scanning from your printer is slooooow and boring.  Instead, get yourself an awesome portable scanner like the Doxie Q.  This thing is awesome.  It’s cordless, connects to WiFi, scans super fast, and you can upload straight to the cloud using your phone.  Yes, please!  This is a must if you are a digital nomad or aspiring to be one, like me.


Step Eight:  Find a community shredding event or take your box of shredding to a shredding facility (that’s a lot of shredding in one sentence).  DO NOT KEEP THE SHREDDING BOX!  At least once a year our town has a shredding event where you can drop off 2 boxes of shredding for free.  There are also facilities that will do your shredding for you for a fee.  Trust me, your time is worth using this service.  Do not sit with your tiny home shredder feeding it 15 pages at a time while praying the 25 you put in doesn’t jam it (cuz it will.  Then you will be cursing me as you are cutting your fingers trying to un-jam your shredder.  No one needs that kind of stress in their life.) 


Step Nine:  AGGRESSIVELY guard against paper clutter.  Keep a shredding box in your closet (because let’s be honest- you are far too lazy to shred each item as it comes in).  Continue to make sure that all of your accounts are paperless.  Use a scanner and a small file box for things you need to keep.


Step Ten:  Maintain your clutter-free life by being honest and realistic.  If you like to save coupons for “next time” or “just in case”, then find a place to keep them and check said place before making your purchases.  If you do this yet habitually find yourself throwing away expired coupons… just throw them away to begin with and save yourself the hassle and the clutter.


Paper is a Part of Life

Paper is a part of life (sorry trees!).  But there are many ways that you can cut down on your paper usage in general.  For example, use apps on your phone and computer to store all those great downloads you get on the internet or the recipes you tried and want to go back to.  I love Evernote for this purpose, but there are many you can choose from.   Here are some other ideas for minimizing paper clutter:

  1. Keep your journal on the computer or online.  If you MUST hand write instead of type (me!) keep ONE journal and fill it up before getting a new one.  DO NOT have 5 journals each with a few pages filled in (guilty!)
  2. Use an E-Reader like Nook or Kindle.  I have both.  For reading books, I really prefer an e-reader to a tablet.  I am far too distractable to read books on my phone or tablet- but you can do that too!
  3. If you have kids that LOVE to draw like mine, give them each a box that they are allowed to keep their creations in.  When it gets full, it’s time to say goodbye to some things.  Stress the fun in creating while deemphasizing the creation.
  4. Photos deserve a whole post all on their own.  Most of our photos are now digital (thank goodness!) but the sheer number of them can be overwhelming and make it hard to find the photos from that one time…  We love using Chatbooks to print our favorite photos because it is so dang easy (practically automatic!).  Use THIS LINK to get $10 off your first order (books start at $10).  I know, I know, this creates MORE paper in your home BUT this paper truly sparks joy.


Your Turn!

How do you minimize paper clutter?   I want to hear your tips- leave them in the comments!

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  • Jennie @ The Housewife Modern

    I completely empathize! We’re military and move every few years and I wince every time I look at the entire bottom row of my bookcase, which is paperwork. Some I can’t get rid of (hello, husband’s Corvette paperwork), but some I can. I was thinking of tossing the old bank statements since they’re all online anyways. I think, after reading this, I’m going to. I always want to keep them “just in case”…but the bank will always have them!

  • Jenny

    Yeah, but what business paperwork and supporting paperwork? There are file cabinets full of files that need a home or need to go. Yikes!

    • Jenny

      Yes! This is the toughest! We had to really decide what was needed and what could go in the shred box. Legal stuff we kept. Copies of invoices we pitched because it all exists online. I had to downsize a therapy practice worth of client files and mostly went digital since everything has to be kept for 7 years. Digitize whatever you can and try to reduce the amount of physical storage you have! Good luck!

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