We all want to be organized and productive, but sometimes the path is blocked—literally. Our homes and offices are full of clutter: documents, junk mail, things we bought five years ago and never use, and all the random “stuff” that seems to accumulate every day.
The problem isn’t only one of appearances. A growing body of research shows all that clutter is adding real stress to our lives. And that keeps us from focusing on the important things. Cleaning up the mess, reducing your paper footprint, and regaining peace of mind can seem like an impossible challenge, but you really can declutter your spaces and get out from under the mess. All it takes is a bit of Marie Kondo-style decision making, a bit of self-discipline, and Evernote.
Step 1: Go paperless. Digitize your documents and stop paper usage before it begins.
According to the University of Southern Indiana, Americans collectively use two billion trees’ worth of paper and other tree-based products per year. Globally, more than 400 billion metric tons of paper and cardboard are produced each year. You may have tons of paper scattered throughout your home, from vital records to junk mail and bills, which means that decluttering your paper documents can free up more space than you realized.
To reduce your paper clutter, sort through your documents and categorize them into things you need to keep, paper you should digitize, and paper you can recycle right away. Important documents such as birth certificates and family mementos are worth keeping, but you could probably part with your collection of takeout menus and business cards.
Recycle the items that you can get rid of right away. Store the paper you want to keep in a filing cabinet or special box and use your phone to scan the other documents into Evernote. Consider setting up dedicated notebooks or tags for each type of document (such as “receipts,” “user manuals,” or “correspondence”) so you can find them again fast. But remember that Evernote will also find text in images, so your system doesn’t have to be perfect. If you don’t need to keep the original copies, recycle them. Digitizing and going paperless is an easy way to clear up physical space.
To further reduce your paper usage, go paperless whenever possible. Sign up to receive and pay your bills electronically rather than by mail. Recycle any junk mail when it comes to your mailbox immediately and remove your name from junk mail lists if you can. Instead of relying on paper to-do lists and notes, keep Evernote handy on all your devices so you can type out these items on the fly.
Step 2: Go green. Emphasize composting and recycling in your home.
When you’re sorting through your home clutter, you may get the urge to toss everything into the trash and call it a day. But many items can cause harm to the environment, so discarding of what you don’t need should be done thoughtfully. Fortunately, there are sustainable methods that you can follow to reduce your clutter. Consider separating your items into recyclable, compostable, and donation piles. Items such as plastic and paper can go to the recycling bin, and you can add natural materials to your compost pile, like wood or fabric.
For items that are still in good condition, consider taking them to your local homeless shelter, thrift store, or nursing home. These options are preferable to sending your clutter to the dump, where they will probably sit in a landfill for centuries.
Once you’ve gotten into the habit of recycling, composting, or donating things you don’t need, there are steps you can take to ensure you’ll have less to discard in the first place. Think about cutting back on single-use items. Try using greener products with less packaging and fewer plastic components.
Step 3: Go minimal. Commit to using what you have now.
As millions of people have discovered from watching Marie Kondo’s Netflix series, more stuff does not always mean a happier life. Adopting a minimalist attitude can declutter our spaces, give us more time to focus, and even increase our happiness by changing the definition of personal satisfaction.
But don’t throw everything away. When you’re decluttering your home or office, you may find stockpiles of items you don’t need at that moment but will need in the future, such as office supplies, bottles of shampoo, or bars of soap. Keep those but refrain from purchasing any new products until you use up what you have. Of course, always recycle all possible packaging after you finish using these products. This will help you save on both money and resources.
With these tips, you can declutter your home, straighten up your desk, and enjoy a cleaner, more productive space. Remember to take it slow, think sustainably, and focus on reducing your waste, especially when it comes to paper usage. And be proud of your achievement. Because making a difference in your personal life can make a difference in the world, too.