Paper clutter grows like weeds

Getting into the Weeds With Your Paper Clutter

Karen Caccavo Paperwork Organizing

“Clutter” is one of those words that gets tossed around (guilty as charged!); but what exactly is it?

A gardening friend recently told me:  Do you know what a weed is?  It’s a plant you don’t like that’s growing where you don’t want it.

As a financial organizer, I’ve transplanted this definition from the garden to the house.

After all, clutter is paper (mail, bills, reading material, etc.) that you don’t want, or at least you don’t want it where it is currently planted!

How Does it Look to You?

When I first started Personal Money ManagerSM, someone who had attended one of my talks hired me for a single organizing session.  He said he thought his apartment was cluttered, and that he wanted my assistance with it.

When I arrived, he pointed to the large glass coffee table in the middle of the living room. “Do you think this is cluttered?” he asked.  It was (mostly) covered with magazines, but they were arranged in piles.  Honestly, it looked much better than I expected.

“What do YOU think?” I asked him.  He wasn’t sure.

So, we tried an experiment.  One by one, I removed the piles from the table, first leaving four piles, then three, then two, then one, then none.  Each time, I asked him to stand back and see what he thought.  At what point did the table cross over from being “cluttered” to “not cluttered” in HIS eyes?

Two piles on the table seemed right to him.  To maintain that goal, we sorted the magazines leaving him two neat piles of only the most interesting and most recent publications—the ones he was most likely to actually read.  We recycled the others.

Digging Deeper (into the weeds)

With 10 plus years’ experience organizing clients’ paperwork, I still use this “how does it look” test to help clients decide for themselves what is clutter and, more importantly, what’s their comfort level with clutter.  But I also have developed questions to help clients dig deeper to simplify, de-clutter, and de-stress their home environments.

Here are some of the questions for the cluttered coffee table:

  • Do you read these magazines? (Let’s review what you have and cancel the subscriptions you no longer want.)
  • Have you read these particular ones already? If so, is there a better place to keep the ones you want to re-read?  Or is it time to recycle them or pass them on to others?
  • Where do you do your reading? Why keep reading material front and center in your living room if you read in your bedroom or bathroom?
  • Would you like to free up your coffee table for another use? Like coffee, for example?

Interested in getting “into the weeds” with your clutter?  Have you tried the “how does it look” test?  Could asking and answering these deeper questions help?  How about another set of hands and eyes to help you achieve your decluttering goals?  If this sounds intriguing, please contact me.  And for more suggestions for decluttering, please visit my other blog articles on this topic.