How to Deal with Paper Clutter

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There is a really quick way to deal with paper clutter. That is, to get rid of it. As in, ALL of it.

Paper clutter used to be my biggest problem, next to books and clothes, although not necessarily in that order. But I’ve devised a system for dealing with paper clutter and it’s quite simple, really. Get rid of paper as soon as you can. Keep it out of your home. Digitize it and then begone. Keep a filing system for only a handful, and declutter it twice a year. Paper can become really agonizing and stacks up quite quickly without us realizing it. Have you ever tried to shred ‘important documents’ before? If you have, then you’ll know.

I recommend the following:

Don’t take home flyers.

You know, the one they hand out at events or stick to your windshield? Or worse, the business cards one may pass along to you. I know it’s hard to do, but practice saying ‘no thank you’. For those sneakily slipped beneath my windshield wipers, I find a public trash can right away.

Unsubscribe to mail.

Mail can get a bit unruly. The trick is to limit the mailman’s load. Unsubscribe to all magazines, flyers, companies, etc. Even the non-paid subscriptions are a hassle. I’ve found that these companies somehow regain access to my address and weasel their way into my mail box. I just keep calling and telling them to put an end to it. Do you really need to look at more of the things they want you to buy?

Go Paperless.

Almost every company has a paperless option by now. When possible, we choose paperless. The reason being, these companies are usually the ones that send account information home. Bank accounts, electric bills, and mortgage updates – all paperless for us! The reward is two-fold; less chances of someone else getting access to your information, and less mail to sort through and shred.

Open mail right away, sort and discard.

The most common thing people do when they get the mail is put in a basket ‘for later’. Man, what an eyesore! We don’t even keep a basket. Mail that gets brought in is looked at and discarded ASAP. Those that have tasks associated with them (making a payment or appointment) are completed as soon as possible which kills two birds with one stone – it gets the job done and it clears the table of hideous mail. Voila!

Digitize, whenever possible.

This, I had a problem with for a long time. I was quite fond of paper, even though this post wouldn’t hint at it otherwise. My class notes I kept after college. Letters from friends in middle school were tucked away in a drawer. I have essays that I wrote once, diary entries meant just for me. All of that is now gone. I realized that the more I threw away, the easier it was to let go. For those I couldn’t bear to part with, I scanned and digitized. Since scanning takes work, I decided it would behoove me to be very selective, but also, to vow never again to collect as much paper as I did. Call it a lazy person’s curse, but I hardly wish to keep paper things anymore.

Keep the most important pages in a filing cabinet.

There are a few papers that you can’t digitize, then throw away. My degree, for example. My license. My naturalization papers and my passport. These we keep in a filing cabinet. My motto is: Out of sight, out of mind. This one is my favorite minimalist option, although CB2 has a number of options, too. Pro tip: Declutter twice a year to prevent stock piling. Perhaps what you once thought was necessary no longer feels that way after de-cluttering.

Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash

Small Space Living

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Tip 11: Finding Cable Solutions in Media Consoles

I am really adverse to adding furniture to our small space, especially if it entails taking up floor space. It pains me to clutter up a home, and for this reason I have been fighting the urge to add anything but a couch to our living room. So why did I buy a media console?

To be honest, the media console stemmed from my contempt regarding cables. I wrote prior about how I detest the sight of wires running along walls like snakes, connecting different gadgets throughout the home to each other so that they may work in harmony. It isn’t the tech itself that I despise. It’s the inability to make the tech look neat and tidy and clean.

Currently, we have an amp near the kitchen area that connects to a projector behind the couch that wires to two speakers and a record player, and somewhere in the vicinity sits a Switch console. Don’t ask me how they interplay with each other. The moral of my story is that the unsightly array of wires drives me crazy. And we came down to the solution of trading our five speaker system and amp with a sleeker, minimalist pair of Sonos 5 speakers (in white, of course), which can plug directly into the record player and the projector. Wire management is the name of the game here.

And with a media console, I would have the ability to hide both speakers behind sliding doors. I could connect them to the record player that sits atop, and run the wires out of holes around the back where a plug remains hidden. The Switch consoles and controls can also be tucked safely inside, and the only thing to hide is a single wire connecting the projector to one of the Sonos 5 speakers. Everything moves from the kitchen to the living space and it brings me such peace to know that, finally, the cables can be nearly invisible, even if it means at the expense of floor space.

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However, outfitting a home with media consoles that are sustainably sourced or ethically made is near impossible, barring the case that you know of a particular woodworker who would be willing to custom create you a shelving unit at an affordable price or that you do woodwork yourself. Thankfully, West Elm provides a few options that was aligned with a mid-century style. The particular one we bought was a narrow and short (48″) low profile console which was barely deep enough to house the speakers. All of the wood is FSC-certified and therefore sustainable sourced and the product is a fair trade product. Additionally, it is GREENGUARD gold certified.

There were only a few things I did not like about the console. First, it’s very narrow, so if you were considering hiding a few vinyls behind the sliding doors, then you’ll be out of luck. However, it holds coffee table books well. Secondly, the color was a bit darker than pictured, which isn’t too much of a bad thing. All furniture from West Elm comes with white glove service which is a mandatory additional fee, but the service was actually very good. Plus the delivery came two days from ordering, a few weeks in advance from when we would get the speakers.

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Speaking of the Sonos 5 speakers, we used a perk for being a healthca[;’pre worker during this time, as Sonos is offering a discount of 20% to all medical professionals and first responders. To learn more about potential COVID-19 perks for certain professionals, check out my post here. It could serve to be a very frugal opportunity until the end of 2020.

Ethical Furniture and Home Goods

I know that ethical and sustainable options are few and far between when it comes to home goods. While slow fashion is starting to garner attention, slow homes are lagging behind. Here, I list a few of my favorite go-to sources.

Furniture

Home Goods

Intentional Living: How to Curate a Minimalist Home

Growing up, I was always impressed by still-lifes and images of homes. Museum-like staging of historical dwellings on field trips and home-decor magazines alike had me imagining what my ideal house would look like. As an early twenty-something, I would peruse magazines and circle with a pen the items that I would love to own one day. Along the way, I collected trinkets here and there every time I visited Ikea, Crate and Barrel, and Target … until one day, I woke up to having too much stuff. I realized that instead of the clean, well-manicured homes that I looked up to as a teen, what I had was a very dirty rented room that held a hodge-podge of mismatched items and styles. I didn’t know who I was, which style was “me”, and I suffered many hours keeping things tidy.

These, of course, weren’t my biggest life problems – only a reflection of other aspects that bothered me about myself. After spending months (then, years after the first phase) of de-cluttering, I decided that I was not going to put in all that effort just so I can fill my space back to an over-whelming state, where I had to spend most of my free time organizing stuff, tidying up after trinkets that find their way out of their proper places like the toys from Toy Story.

Like with everything else, I decided to slow. it. down. Limit what I purchased and bought for my home, so that I could discover the whos, whats, whens, and whys of things. I wanted to be the curator of my own museum, and while homes aren’t meant to be museums themselves – they’re meant to be lived in and touched and loved and messed up, even – neither are they meant to be storage units holding symbols of our financial status. But as curator, I wanted to make sure that what I had was worth keeping.

The skill of curating doesn’t magically come from a bout of de-cluttering. In fact, I would go so far as to call it a completely separate ability that places more importance on our stewardship of what we allow in, rather than our selection of what we get rid of. You could be very good at de-cluttering without being good at maintaining your clutter. You need both skills to be able to create a minimalist space that allows for maximalist function.

With books up the wazoo about how to properly de-clutter a space, and movements that have people Marie-Kondoing their homes, I think what people still struggle with the most when creating a minimalist home is the inundation of stuffs through our doors – aka: the curation itself.

A curator for a museum needs to have a passion for the job, a knowledge about history and the arts, an eye for detail, patience and superior organizational skills. They research different pieces before deciding on one and manage the finances and lending needed to get the best piece for their space.

A curator of the home requires similar things, requiring knowledge of the self, patience, and the willingness to research options before a purchase.

Personally, I simplify the process down to three questions – which I ask of myself before I make a purchase. I ask them in the following order of importance:

Is it beautiful?

Beauty is my first question because I find that without beauty, I can easily fall out of love with something and lust after a nicer alternative. And while there are always nicer options, when you fall in love with the beauty within an everyday thing rather than the thing itself, no matter what happens to that thing or to you, you will have a sentimental connection with the piece that makes it hard to even look at another. Metaphors aside, I find that beautiful things hardly feel like clutter. A hand-made ceramic mug left sitting on the table with coffee drips dried from the lip is an artful piece on its own. A beautiful cardigan thrown over a chair looks almost staged when in reality, it was flung there forgotten after a more pressing life-matter beckoned. We are attracted to beautiful things, and of the three, sentiment is the strongest decision factor as to whether an item earns its keep. Because when something no longer becomes necessary or breaks and become dysfunctional, when it has lost its purpose and meaning, a person may still choose to keep it simply because it is beautiful.

Is it functional?

I like to think that what I own earn their keep. They do the hard work for me. They help me to not only live, but also to thrive. My things deserve my deepest gratitude for the sole reason that without them, my life would be a little less than. So it goes that my second question is to the functionality of a piece. Will it do it’s work? Is it practical? Will it hold against the tests of time? Things considered include the brand (is it reputable?), the material (I prefer iron, wood, ceramics, and linen), the maintenance (I don’t like delicate thinks that require looking after) and whether it does the job well (it must be efficient as well as easy).

Is it necessary?

This is the last question that I ask of myself, because sometimes, after you’ve determined that something is both beautiful and functional, you may also realize that you already own something else that does the same. And if two things fill the same void, then one of them will, eventually, have to go. An example that I have is tupperware. We love to cook. And we always run out of tupperware. But our tiny tupperware cabinet is 80% full with containers when all are available. I could choose to buy more containers so that we never run out, but I would hate to have a weekend where all are empty and spilling out of the tupperware cabinet. That is the exact definition of clutter! Not to mention the stress and waste of time spent on said weekend organizing tupperware into kitchen cabinets. So I refuse to buy more. Instead, I look for alternatives. I grab a casserole dish and put a lid on it. I store things in glass jars that we’ve kept instead of recycled.  Currently, on our kitchen island is a dutch oven holding everything bagels with the pot lid on to keep them from going stale. These and more, just so the home doesn’t accumulate things for the sake of having them. It’s a fun game I play. The less stuff you have, the more creative you can get.  What I’ve learned from this experiment is that in the moment, we may feel the need for something, but the moments often pass, the need – temporary. Most times, it is this final question that stops items from entering our home.

Surely, there is a long list of people who have Marie-Kondoed the ish out of their homes during quarantine. To you, I say congratulations. Before we all re-enter back into what once was, I wanted to share this tip on curating. Good judgement about what to consume can easily be clouded when we are stressed, which tends to happen at our usual pace of go-go-go. So before we return to “normal”, do recall that normal wasn’t working, and de-cluttering was more than a trend. This period has shed light on what was uncomfortable and what you felt was most important, so let’s hang on to that just a bit longer. And continue to take it slow.