If you’ve saved catalogs so you could refer to them so any gifts you were purchasing this year, now is the time to gather them and toss them in recycling. Before you recycle them, consider if there are catalogs you no longer want to receive and contact those companies or use an app like PaperKarma to get your name removed from these mailing lists.
I once started to work with a woman who insisted that she needed to keep all receipts so that she could record them. Although she’d “fallen behind” on the task, she assured me that she’d do it and that it had nothing to do with the job I was helping her with (organizing her papers).
Unless the receipts have something to do with your taxes or are for pricey items or something you may return, if you have a stack of receipts that you thought you’d record to track your budget, toss the old ones and start with today’s receipts.
I’m not referring to the letters you send but the letters you may have received from others. Will you ever reread these letters? You don’t need to keep people’s year-in-review for personal reference.
Want to win a book? Today I'm giving away Regina Wong's Make Space: A Minimalist's Guide to the Good and the Extraordinary. To enter, leave your name in the comments. I'll pull the winner's name on 11/15/18.
You’re convinced that you’ll use all those scraps of gift wrap, but do you? Recycle the scraps from previous years and start fresh.
If today’s task doesn’t apply to you: Do you save scraps of paper to use for shopping lists and to-do lists? Do you have more than you'll ever use?
Okay, today’s task isn’t about decluttering so much as it is about gathering important papers to a single place, such as a fire-resistant locked box.
I remember once sorting through a stack of papers, creating files for a client. I found birth certificates and other important papers in the pile that needed someplace more secure than a file cabinet. Even when sorting through my father’s files, it was a struggle to find the titles to his vehicles.
Gather birth certificates, marriage certificates, social security cards, titles to vehicles, passports, wills, deeds, and other important papers to one place. These aren’t papers that you can scan into your computer and shred the originals; talk to your lawyer or financial advisor before eliminating any papers that prove who you are and what has occurred in your life.
Have you printed out recipes and craft project directions that you’ve never used (or perhaps even looked at since you printed the pages)? You may have these pages stored neatly in file folders or binders, but, remember, organized just makes something seem useful, even if it isn’t used.
If this task doesn’t apply to use: Sort through any papers that you’ve been keeping even though you never refer to them.
Do you keep the printed invitations from weddings, showers, bar mitzvahs, and other special events that you are invited to? Was the event significant to you? Would you forget about the event if you didn’t have the invitation to look at? If you know why it is something that you want to hold onto, then you’ve decided this item is special. However, sometimes, we just end up holding onto something without giving any thought as to why.
If this task doesn’t apply to you: Remove a knickknack that you don’t (or no longer) cherish.
Some people enjoy rereading their journals every so many years, some people reread them and tear out the pages with stories or insights they like. Others feel that they should reread their old journals because they want to see how they’ve grown as a person … but they can never motivate themselves to reread these pages.
Personally, I use my morning pages to write through what’s on my mind at that moment, but I never feel a need to review them … usually, when I fill a notebook, I start tearing out the pages and shredding the paper.
What do you do with old journals and diaries? If you have never given a thought to the stack of books you have piled on your closet floor, think about what you want to do with them and why you are making that decision. If you are keeping them, know why and what you hope to gain by holding onto them.
Remember, ‘could be useful’ isn’t the same thing as ‘is used.’ If you haven’t used these notes for a couple of years, consider that they may never find a use. Unless the notes are from primary research (the answers to questionnaires or surveys or notes from interviews), could you find the information online?
If this task doesn’t apply to you: Sort through your files or any stack of papers for ten-minutes.
While on vacation, do you pick up brochures of places to go and things to do? When you return home, do you hang onto these items? Or, maybe you pick up a brochure on a health topic at the doctor’s or dentist’s office that makes its way home with you. Some brochures come in your mail.
In most cases, a brochure doesn’t contain much information. Its goal is to get you to go someplace or ask a question or even go online and find out more. You don’t need to keep brochures. Instead, you could write down the topic on a list and accomplish much the same – it will jog your memory.
If this doesn’t apply to you: Clear loose papers from the surface or your desk or spend ten-minutes pulling unnecessary paper from your files.
Susan Caplan McCarthy
I'm Susan, a writer and teacher developing a second career as a Decluttering Coach.