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The Paper Plight:?Curbing the endless clutter

September 12, 2013
Joyce Schenk , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

Lately, I've been battling a seemingly-unstoppable assault on our living space.

No, it's not termites, mice or even those pesky mosquitos. It's paper!

In an effort to keep the important stuff under control, we regularly feed two bulging file cabinets all the papers dealing with family matters. And each member of our family trio has a portable file box dedicated to personal paperwork.

In addition, we have an ample number of magazine racks and waste baskets scattered throughout the house, waiting to welcome pieces of the endless clutter that comes through our door on a daily basis.

But in spite of our best efforts, these various receptacles manage to deal with only a small portion of the influx. There's a constant need to control the onslaught of newspapers, junk mail, coupons, fliers, notices, reports and countless other bits and pieces that intrude on our lives.

Recently, I realized we were in danger of being buried under it all. That's when I turned to that vast source of information, the internet, for ideas on how to tame this paper monster.

As you might guess, I found dozens of sites giving advice on the subject. Apparently, there are many other folks out here in the paper-lined ditches faced with the same problems.

One authority seemed to be speaking directly to me. His advice dealt with lifelong weakness.

He asked, "Do you groan when a new magazine comes in, or do you eagerly snatch it and read it from cover to cover?"

Your response, he pointed out, will show how much you really enjoy a particular publication.The clutter-buster suggested that if incoming magazines simply get put on a stack of others you intend to read someday, you might be better off buying an issue from time to time rather than trying to keep up with a subscription.

Other tips I came across seemed equally on target.

One paper-taming guru addressed a trait many of us share: a paranoid dedication to holding on to "important" papers. He said, "Eighty percent of the paper saved is never needed again. And, chances are, if you do need it, it can be recreated from another source."

That spoke to the chronic paper saver in me. We've all been told there are certain things we must keep for a set number of years, "just in case." And, since we keep forgetting what we should save and what can be pitched, we hang on to everything....forever. Fortunately, resources like AARP have lists available itemizing exactly what to keep and what to toss.

I found out how far reaching this crazy paper saving compulsion can go when a friend told me of her recent experience in cleaning out her father's house after his death at age 87. She was amazed to find items ranging from his papers from high school to business correspondence dating back to the 1940s and greeting cards he received for his 50th birthday.

Her story gave new urgency to one of the paper clutter tips I read: "When in doubt, throw it out."

In the end, the most to-the-point advice I found for taming this paper monster was a phrase so simple I made it into a sign for my desk. From now on, it will be my mantra. You may want to give it a try, too.

Ready? Repeat after me:

"The Wastebasket Is Your Friend!"



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