Taming the Paper Tiger

“Clutter is the physical manifestation of unmade decisions fueled by procrastination”
― Christina Scalise, Organize Your Life and More

Is it just me, or does trying to go paperless seem to generate more and more paper? We all seem to be drowning in it.

I pay most of my bills on line. I receive many of my bills via email rather than snail mail. I no longer get a newspaper delivered. I subscribe to very few magazines (I’m down to only two). Still, there are piles of paper everywhere I look.

Part of the problem is junk mail—specifically credit card and life insurance offers—which I eventually throw away, but feel obligated to shred first. Then there are the catalogs. Can’t get rid of them before at least a little arm chair shopping, right?

All controllable if—and it’s a big IF—the mail and its subsequent clutter are dealt with when it arrives. That means daily. As in every day.

In my perfect world, I bring in the mail and immediately open it. I sort it into bills to pay, personal stuff such as invitations and cards, junk to toss into the recycling basket, junk to shred and then toss into the recycling basket and misdelivered mail to return. Magazines and catalogs go into the magazine rack to be read later. The recycle basket is on one side of the desk where the mail gets opened; the shredder to the right. The laptop is fired up and ready for the bills to get paid—or at least scheduled to get paid. Five minutes and the day’s paper is dealt with and gone.

In my real world, I bring in the mail, which wakes up the dog who immediately has to go outside. The mail gets dropped on the coffee table. Sometimes I get back to it right away. Most often, not. I’m easily distracted by shiny objects, phone calls and alerts from the smarter-than-me phone (hey, that candy’s not going to crush itself, you know!).

When I do get back to the mail, it’s usually when I’m sitting on the couch, trying to find room on the coffee table for takeout. So I sit there, open mail and nosh. While making my little piles of paper to recycle, etc., I find other piles, from other days, but I’m not always sure which pile is which, so I have to go through paper that I’ve gone through before. And let’s not even mention the shredder, which is in the basement, clogged. Meanwhile, the lo mein is getting cold.


Okay, it’s not really that bad. But it has been. I’m working on the system, on the regularity, on only handling paper once. And I hardly ever call for takeout anymore.



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