Thursday, July 28, 2016

Taming the Paper Monster

"Just move the papers to eat!"
is a common
phrase in our house.

"How am I going to tame this paper monster living in my home?" is a question I have been pondering for quite a while.  It always surprises me how much paper we accumulate in this house.  It also surprises me how quickly paper accumulates.  I can't seem to shake the giant paper piles that stack up on the dining room table.  My poor refrigerator looks like it could tip over from the weight of all the paper stuck to it!  And that is just the paper that can be seen.  I literally have boxes hidden in closest and in our basement of paper that I feel like I need to save. Things like old check books, billing statements from utility companies, and 20 years worth of tax forms!   Not to mention the rolls of wrapping paper, tissue, and gift bags that I buy on clearance or save to reuse.  Then there is the paper that is associated with the children.  I have boxes of school work, old IEPs, notes and reports from doctors visits, report cards, and tons of other papery things that I have saved from the children's lives. Ugggg, paper!  My eternal nemesis!

I decided the best way to tame (and defeat) the paper monster living in my home was a direct assault.  I pulled out the paper shredder, and some trash bags.  I started with the paper monster living in the bottom of my closet.  There lived three file boxes full of statements for bills long ago paid, carbon copies of checks long cashed, and ancient tax forms the Uncle Sam already accepted.  I started shredding away, and boy was it fun!  Take that PSHN bill from 2003, and that bank statement from 1999!  The time it took to shred all that paper felt worth it in the end when I had two trash bags full of shredded documents.  I did end up keeping some of the medical documents and two years worth of IEPs for Hannah and William just in case.  (The IEPs are just in case I need to fight for services in the future and need them for comparison or fuel for my argument...but that is another post for another time.)  

My poor refrigerator covered in paper.
Clean fridge breathing a sigh of relief.
Next up for was the battle for the refrigerator.   We use our refrigerator for more than just storing food; it is the command center of the house. I keep the master family calendar on it, notices from teachers, kids art work, coupons, and what ever else I am afraid I will forget.  The only problem is that very quickly all that paper becomes layers and layers of "important stuff" and the things I am supposed to remember are soon forgotten.  My first strike against the refrigerator paper monster was to clear it completely.  Everything, including the master calendar, was stripped off the refrigerator.  I categorized that paper, and decided what needed attention now, what could be tossed, and what could be attended to at a later date.  During this process I managed to recycle another good sized pile of paper.  The  only things that went back on the refrigerator were the master calendar, the magnets, and a small blank paper/pen holder that I keep in the kitchen.  Almost all of the notices were for events long gone.  The coupons went into the bills/shopping binder (also another post for another time). As a quick note, I made those cute chalk board magnetic clips; one for each child for school notices.

What I have written here doesn't fully describe the paper monster living in my home. I could write several pages about the topic!  I still have even more paper to vanquish- kids school papers, gift wrapping, and work related paper just to name a few.  I still have quite the battle on my hands but I am not giving up yet.  In my next post I hope to discuss my new strategies for handling paper so that the paper monster will be vanquished for good.  I would be happy to hear any tips you may have to offer me.  How do you keep the paper monster a bay in your home?


  1. We used to keep Megan's art work on the frig. and then when the digital world came out we started to take pictures of the picture and it would be forever kept. Yes we held it on the frig for a time but when the next few came out it was rotation time and that one got it's photo shot taken.

    1. Great tip on taking a photo of children's art work to keep it forever! Thanks Kathy!

  2. I have a rotating filing system that I thought was from the Getting Things Done system, but I can't quickly find it right now. The method is to have a filing drawer (mine is a desktop box) with folders labelled with every month, and folders labelled with every day. Anything you need to follow up on, like a bill or a concert ticket or a school field trip info sheet goes into the folder for the day (if it is in the current month), or the month (if it is beyond the current month) that it is needed. Each day you check the folder for that day, then file it to the back of the system. At the end of each month, you trasnfer the contents of the next month's folder into the various day folders as appropriate, and transfer that month to the back, so you can always rotate through your folders. I plan to write up a post on my own blog about this in the near future, but I wanted to give you the quick synopsis, in case it is helpful. It works very well when I am good about remembering to check it every day.

    You are doing great here, Heather. You have built up good momentum. Let it carry you through to your goal.

    1. Thanks so much! I'm not sure I'd be very good at checking the folders every day but I do like the idea of implementing a new system to help with the paper. I appreciate all your wonderful comments and encouragement!