Living With Less Clutter, Part 1: Breaking the Paper Pile Curse

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declutter-part1-feature1My wife and I are winning the war against a household’s worth of accumulated mail and paperwork using the NeatConnect wireless scanner, smartphones, tablets, and an Evernote account that makes our information available when we need it. Our paperless plight has been so effortless that my wife regularly comments on how shocked she is that we’ve been able to stick with it. It seems that with the right tools we’ve become adept at going through the simplified paper-processing motions I like to call sort, scan, and throw with ease.

You see, we’ve tried going paperless in our household and failed four times over our ten years together. Each time I could tell that the system was not working within the first two weeks due to a number of tell-tale signs that the plan was doomed (described below). Before getting into those signs I’m happy to say that for the past four months I have been successful in my struggle against stray bills, receipts, and losing the mail I actually want to keep. The MVP in our war against well-meaning piles of paperwork has been a Neat Connect wireless scanner and its built-in option to export directly into my Evernote account (one of many export options). No computer to power up, no special software, and absolutely no hassle.

Nondescript Piles of Paper
If you’re anything like me you have a corner of your kitchen counter or dining room table that has half-opened mail sorted into the nondescript piles sorted by action; throw away, file-this-someplace-that’s-not-here, to-do-eventually, and junk. Within 24 hours the individual piles slowly merge back into a single heap of paperwork as toddlers crawl across the table, kids do their homework, and eventually the pile gets moved over to the far side of the table to make room for plates and cups when the evening meal is served.This means I’ve thrown away a lot of important mail, sensitive documents, report cards, and coupons we intended to use. We’ve tried moving the paper piles to less kid-accessible places, and this just resulted in creating a new pile of papers less likely to be handled. Parents of young children live in a world of best intentions. Finding the time to free up more file storage, come up with a physical filing system, and making sure only the really important stuff takes up physical space is a pretty big undertaking. We all know that the paper piles contain important things, secret things, and it might contain money, ask for money, or tempt me to spend money. The longer the pile sits and the bigger it grows the easier it is to accept that Schrödinger really just had a problem with unopened mail, not dead cats.

Tell-Tale Signs Your Paperless Plan Is Doomed

  • After going paperless you or your spouse start saving the occasional physical document in a “just-in-case” pile. This means you’re having trust issues somewhere within the system.
  • Familiar paper piles containing a week’s worth of unopened mail now piles up near the scanner. You’ve stopped sorting and started guessing what you need to keep and now you’re missing actionable tasks (like paying pesky bills on time or sending that RSVP to an event).
  • You begin to feel anxious about paperwork and then frustration when you actually need a document and can’t find it (even though you’re certain you scanned it). This comes down to a discussion about having the right tools or following a consistent process. Either way, this is a key reason you started this, right? Reduce clutter and get organized. If you still feel overwhelmed, it’s still not working for you and your family.

Keys to Breaking the Paper Pile Curse

  • Find a way to process the daily accumulation of paper and skip the piles altogether and either scan to save or throw in the trash.
  • Write down the actionable tasks and know that the associated documentation is scanned or unnecessary and in the paper shredder.
  • Trust in your storage system by using it for everything.

Check out Part 2 of Living With Less Clutter tomorrow, and find out how my wife and I went paperless in our household.

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4 thoughts on “Living With Less Clutter, Part 1: Breaking the Paper Pile Curse

  1. Interesting, I’ve been meaning to look into this.

    Why a separate place for filing? It looks like the NeatConnect comes with filing – why do you use Evernote?

  2. Definitely trying this! Since my daily routine changed I get home so late and I don’t like to walk to the mailbox at night. The mail/junk/paper ephemera pile is out of control! Do you think this method would work with the TurboScan app?

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