Dear Clutter: It’s Over.

Some people live in the clouds. Those folks don’t have much of an issue with paper clutter because their clutter is all in bits and bytes hanging out on servers—photos, documents, books, everything. Then there are those of us who love the feel of turning actual pages and holding real photos.

Paper seems like such a little, thin thing, but it sure adds up!

For us, paper clutter is a problem. It’s a sneaky little problem that starts small with just a few sheets of paper and a couple of magazines, but then it can snowball into an episode of Hoarders.

Marie Kondo of Tidying Up fame says that her general rule for papers is to discard everything. If reading that makes you clutch your pearls and give out a little scream, then come over here and sit by me. Am I going to toss out all of my papers? No! Am I going to end up on Hoarders? Also no. So it’s up to us to find a solution that works.

De-cluttering has psychological and physical benefits.

Fewer allergens, better sleep, less anxiety and stress, more productivity and creativity, plus you get to find that old report from 6th grade that got you an A+! With that kind of motivation, we’d better keep going. You’re already doing the first step – you’re reading this newsletter online. Good job, you!

When you can reduce the paper that comes in through your door, you start taking control.

Paperless bills, using email and text contacts, and signing up for e-statements immediately reduce the paper in your recycle bin. That being said, when the paper does come in through your door, don’t just let it pile up. Sort it and deal with it immediately. Open any mail and either put it in the appropriate inbox or toss it in the recycle bin.

When I get a wedding invite, I like to set it on the table and look at it for however many weeks there are before the big event. But once the wedding is over, I’m left wondering what to do with it. It feels so cruel to toss the smiling couple into the bin, but do I really need to keep it forever? An alternative is to scan it and gaze lovingly at the happy couple again and again on my screen. This works for your kid’s art, your dental appointment reminder, and anything else that needs to be kept for a while. Delete it when you want or keep it forever and it’s no big deal. It isn’t taking up any counter space.

Little notes can be fun. Grocery lists, to-do lists, little reminders. They’re magical. Once you make one, they start to breed and multiply. You find yourself coming across them everywhere.

Either get into the habit of tossing papers out when they’ve served their purpose, or start making notes and lists on your phone or tablet.

If you don’t like either of those ideas, just get a little notepad and make it your one-stop place for all to-do lists and reminders. When it’s full, toss it and get a new one.

Got piles of files? Look at the one for your insurance. I bet it’s got the current information along with all the old, outdated policies for the last five years. When something like that comes in the door, make sure the old outdated papers go in the shredder. Being able to find what you need when you need it makes life so much easier when something happens and you really do need to look at your current policy.

Once you’ve slowed the flood of paper coming into the house, it’s time to deal with the bag of papers in the bottom of the guest room closet, the box of papers stuffed under the bed, and the stack of papers you jammed into the pantry real quick that time you had a surprise visitor. Gather them all together and get comfy on the living room floor. You’re gonna be here for a while – but not as long as you think.

I’m changing your name to Gomer Pyle, cuz you’re going to be sorting all those papers into piles that are going to make your clutter problem go-mer away! The Shredding pile, the Recycling file, and the just plain Tossing it in the Trash file. And that’s just for the stuff you’re getting rid of. There’s also the File it pile, the Give it Away pile, and the Put it Away pile.

Be ruthless. Get rid of anything and everything you don’t need or really, really want to keep.

Sentimental? For some of us, everything is sentimental. A canceled check to the electric company from 2012 can bring a tear to the eye, but do you really really want it in your house forever? I’m gonna guess the answer is no. Shred-it. Or if it really tugs at your heart, keep it forever by scanning it. Then you can still access it without it taking up space. I know it’s just a tiny piece of paper but look around at all the piles you’ve created, Gomer. They add up.

Maintain your clutter-free life with apps like Evernote and Trello or have a single place, like a Pending box, to keep all of your random papers until you’re ready to handle them. Whatever you choose, you can still love your papers. In fact, I want you to love your papers so much you make a regular weekly or monthly date…to take them out of the Pending box and deal with them so you can keep enjoying those stress-free benefits of life without clutter!

And if you want to wipe the clutter slate completely free and start fresh with your anti-cluttering habits in a nice new home, I can help with that.  I’m Stephen Burchard, The Desert Bowtie Realtor, taking the (k)nots out of real estate.