by Susan McCarthy
Years ago, in college, a couple of the professors would leave at the library reference desk, weekly packets of photocopied articles from professional journals. Instead of trying to read the articles in the library, I followed the actions of my classmates and photocopied these articles. The task could take an hour to do and by the end of the semester I had probably spent more money on these stacks of photocopies than I would have on a textbook.
Because I'd spent so much money of these pages, I felt it was important to keep them.
And, as someone who crochets, the Internet is a magical place filled with free patterns for the downloading. And printing. At one point, to organize all the crochet patterns I was certain I would one day craft, I went out and bought five two-inch three-ring binders along with boxes of page protectors, and spent several evenings setting patterns into the page protectors and sorting everything by type of project.
I was so organized. And, yet, I missed an important detail. I wasn’t going to make all these projects. In fact, I often went to the Internet to look for an item to make without even considering my oh-so-neat binders filled with hundreds of projects.
Did I learn my lesson? Nope. When I started taking professional development classes through the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals, I’d print out the handouts and put them in a labeled file folder.
I was wondering where to store these files while running off the handouts from a course on eliminating paper clutter. Really. I went back and downloaded the handouts and saved them on my computer and recycled the papers.
Papers can be useful but only if they are used.
Cut Off the Clutter at the Source
I remember years ago when, if you wanted a copy of information in a book or magazine, you either had to take notes or you could photocopy the pages you wanted. Nowadays, desktop printers are inexpensive, and so it’s easy to print off a recipe, craft pattern, or how-to article that you want to refer to later.
Chances are, though, that you print off more information than you have time to do anything with. When I talk about paper clutter, I most often refer to paper coming into your house, but you probably generate a good number of documents right at your desk.
Get Use from Magazines
Storing magazines in those holders made for this task can make you feel organized. All those back issues for inspiration and information. And if you enjoy randomly flipping through the pages of these magazines (and do so on a regular basis), then they are earning their space in your home.
However, if you’re like me, you realize that it’s nearly impossible to find a specific recipe or craft pattern or set of directions or information in a stack of magazines.
You can take the time to tear out the pages you are most interested in (make certain to get that last column that can get printed to the back of the magazine!), clip the pages together, and set everything in files.
However, before you do this, consider your goal – how will you use the information you are organizing? If you are collecting images of kitchens because you’ll be renovating in the next year, you have a purpose and a deadline. If you are collecting craft patterns, consider when you’ll make these projects.
Watch out for, “that’s such a cute idea,” if you don’t have a person and event to craft an item for. Maybe you’ll want to do it in the future; but chances are that you’ll find another project by then.
Declutter and Organize Reference Materials
Maintain Your File System
Like other types of documents, you want to keep what you’ll refer to in the future and you want it organized so you can find it when you want it. Although it can be a difficult decision to release information that you thought you’d use or use again, you’ll free up space in your home and release the emotional weight of things requesting that you act on them.
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Hi, I’m Susan
I’m the chief (and only) Organized Squirrel at A Less Cluttered Life. In these articles, I meld my nearly 30 years as a teacher with my new career as a professional organizer to show you how to clear your cluttered home and schedule to create the life you want.