Paper Decluttering – 10 Ways To Keep It Under Control

By Pamela Wong

Pamela is a Trained Professional Organizer based in Oakville, Ontario and is the owner of Zen N Organized. She helps homeowners and small business owners transform their homes and home offices into organized spaces. She has a practical, non-judgemental approach to organizing. Her objective is to create functional and harmonious spaces for her clients.


Are you getting buried under piles of paper? 

These days, incoming paper seems to be never-ending. We all have bills, junk mail, school paper, bank statements, tax-related documents, and the list goes on. If we don’t keep up with reviewing these documents, organizing and getting rid of what we don’t need, it can start affecting other parts of our lives: Taxes are not filed accurately due to missing receipts and documents; Bills are not paid on time resulting in late fees and penalties. These missed deadlines can result in lost opportunities and income. 

If the increase in paper clutter around your home is causing you stress and anxiety, then follow these 10 simple tips to tame the paper tiger at home:

1. Don’t let junk mail into your house.  Period.

Junk mail and flyers go directly to the recycle bin, before entering your home.  This eliminates unwanted mail on your kitchen counter or front entrance.

Try putting a sign telling your mail carrier not to leave flyers or junk mail. Better yet, contact Canada Post to stop junk mail delivery to your home altogether!

2. Set a space limit

Set a maximum space for your pile of paper.  It may be the corner of your kitchen counter or a tray on your desk.  When the pile is overflowing, it is time for you to deal with it.  No exceptions!

3. Use a family calendar

Whether it is a digital version or one on the fridge, using a family calendar will save you time.

Two key things: 

  • Use only one family calendar and assign a different colour for each family member.
  • Add the event on the calendar as soon as you can.

This is especially useful when planning events and get-togethers.  With everything in one place, you don’t have to check different places and contact everyone personally, to find out if Johnny’s doctor appointment is conflicting with his friend’s birthday party.

4. Use Notes app on your phone

Create grocery list and “errand list” right on your phone. No need to fuss around with loose pieces of paper.  Share the note with family members if needed. 

Delete the note when finished. Digital clutter can be just as bad as physical so make sure to get rid of notes you don’t need anymore…And with no paper to worry about it’s also good for the environment.  Win-win!

5. Coupons

Put the coupons in your purse right away.  Better yet, use coupon apps like Flipp to help decrease the paper clutter in your purse.

6. Paperless billing

Almost every company offers paperless billing and payment.  Set reminders on your phone or computer so you never miss another payment again.

Creating folders for different types of electronic paperwork can also make it easier to find past bills and receipts in your inboxes. Just like the notes, regularly clear your inbox and folders to keep your digital filing under control.

7. Set up a system

The key is to keep it simple. Have an “action” tray and a “file” tray.  Act, file (or recycle/shred). Repeat.

By keeping it simple, you also make it easier to maintain. Build a routine by spending 5 minutes per week on these trays and soon it will become second nature.

8. School paper and artwork

For many families, this category is one of the most problematic.

An easy solution is to assign one box per child.  Allow them to put anything they treasured into this box. If the item is too big to fit in it, take a picture of the item and put the picture in the box.

At the end of the year, go through the box with your child to see what is no longer cherished. As the novelty wears off over the years, there will be less and less items in the box.

9. Stay on top of it

To be successful, you must stay on top of it.  Delegate a specific time per week and get the bills paid, documents filed and shredded. If you stay proactive you will feel the stress melt off.

10. Set an example

Show your children how to sort their own papers (schoolwork, artwork, pictures and important documents).  Teach them where to keep them and how long to keep them.  You will be amazed how much they can help you!

Gain some zen back in your life by taking control of the paper monster. It is never too late.


  1. Janet Barclay on August 16, 2021 at 11:36 am

    I had to get rid of my desk trays because I get so little paper anymore that it never got full enough to prompt me to deal with it, so stuff would sit there for months simply because I couldn’t decide what to do with it. Not having a temporary spot for it forced me to decide whether it I should act on it (and when), file it (and where) or get rid of it.

    • Pamela Wong on October 23, 2021 at 8:46 pm

      That’s wonderful, Janet! Sounds like you’ve found the solution that fits your needs. There is no one size fits all solution when it comes to organizing. Finding a customized solution is what I offer to my clients.

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