A Hygge-lism How To
One of the key components of hygge-lism is bringing the outside in when it comes to design. Having a forest residing on your desk, counters and in your cabinets in the form of paper doesn’t count though.
Balancing the necessary and the excess when it comes to paper clutter can be a daunting task, and the hardest part is getting to a place where a routine and process can be put in place as many of us are starting from a disadvantage and more paper clutter arrives every day.
So in order to do this properly, you have to start from “the now”, and the common current situation is dire.
Grant Yourself Amnesty
When starting out, it is important to capture the entirety of the undertaking in one fell swoop rather than starting the process over and over again with each space.
Take the time to gather all your paper clutter into one working space, fill bags, baskets, tubs, whatever you need to gather all of your clutter together. No judgements made. This way you will be able to sit down and focus a block of time to the project without having to run around and risk getting distracted by countless other tasks.
Gather Your Tools
I don’t typically recommend purchasing…well…anything, but this is a rare case where a few small items are recommended to not only get paper clutter under control, but to keep it under control. If you know someone that has these items and they are willing to let you borrow them on a weekly or monthly basis, then perhaps you could go that route as well.
Household Paper Shredder – A basic paper shredded will prove to be an invaluable investment and will likely be an everyday use item until you can pair down your paper clutter intake significantly. These have become relatively cheap for a solid, reliable, worthwhile paper shredder – I recommend something such as this – 8-sheet cross-cut paper and credit card home office shredder.
Home Office Document Scanner and/or Adobe Scan: PDF & Business Card Scanner App. – A home office document scanner is an excellent way to convert any and all important documents to electronic files for storage. This is a reliable, tried and true method, and it won’t break the bank to get a reliable scanner.
A more updated, even cheaper method nowadays though, involves your smartphone and a quick download of the Adobe Scan App pictured to the right. This process takes a little bit more know how, but is instantly available.
If you prefer the tried and true method of a home office scanner, I recommend one such as this – Epson Workforce ES-50 Portable Sheet-fed Document Scanner.
External Hard Drive and/or Cloud Based Storage Program – I recommend a two-fold storage method here, but one or the other would suffice if need be. Computer and laptop life cycles have gotten shorter and shorter, and their reliability on a day to day basis is questionable. Without regular data back-ups, anything stored directly on their hard drives is tentative at best.
An external hard drive is reliable, and requires very little maintenance if any to assure that it will work perfectly whenever you need it. I recommend a decent quality hard drive such as this – Seagate Portable 1TB External Hard Drive. 1 TB of storage for documents is more than you will use in a lifetime, but it is better safe than sorry, and you could also double this hard drives function by storing photos and memorable home videos on it as well.
Cloud based storage is a perfect way to store important documents, it removes the risk of hardware failure and natural disaster such as a house fire or flood. It also makes the documents available at anytime from anywhere, but…that security will come at a monthly or yearly fee, usually low, but a fee none the less. There is also the risk of the program going out of business or getting hacked. So a proven reliable company such as Evernote – pictured to the right is where my recommendation falls.
You are all set up, now comes the fun part…
Sort, Sort, Sort
Whether you have 2 minutes, 10 minutes or 2 hours, sit down in your designated area and begin to sort your stacks of paper clutter. Feel free to incorporate as many categories as you wish; receipts; medical bills; loan paperwork; insurance documents; tax records; birth certificates and social security cards; bank invoices; sentimental items like children’s artwork etc.
If you come across any obvious trash items, like junk mail, leftover paper scrap from coupon cutting or torn open envelopes, then shred them immediately. I promise you, this will be a satisfying feeling and you will grow to love the sound of the paper shredder.
Put aside small blocks of time as often as you can to work your way through your collection. If more paper finds its way into your house while you are sorting, which it inevitably will, sort it and add it to the appropriate pile as soon as it arrives.
Once your amnesty pile is fully sorted and the obvious junk has been shredded you are ready for the next step.
Attack One Category at a Time
Here is where you will really start to see a difference. It may have felt like you were going backwards, all of the paper clutter that you had tucked away, was suddenly on display and your designated area was an overwhelming mess. Well not for much longer.
I will reference some specific items and categories, if there are any particular items you would like discussed, feel free to bring them up in the comments.
Receipts – For items with warranties, keep these for the life of the warranty by scanning a copy of the receipt and then shred them. If the receipt is for a work/taxes related item, scan it and shred it. For all other items, only hold onto the receipts until you know you won’t be returning the items, then shred them.
Tax Documents – You are required to keep the last 7 years of tax records for Audit purposes. Anything older than that can be shredded immediately. Scan in the remaining years then shred away, and look forward to hitting that delete key once every year after tax season.
Vehicle/House Records – These should be kept until the car/boat/motorcycle etc. is sold and the loans if any for these items are paid off. Scan then shred. House records such as mortgage documents and home improvement receipts should be kept until the house is sold, the loan is paid off and you have done your taxes for the year that you sold the house. Scan then shred. Yearly insurance policies and cards on these items, only the current years should be kept, shred all previous years.
Bank Statements – Anything more than one month is excess. You could scan these in, but I recommend you keep your last statement, switch to paperless statements with your bank, wait a month then shred that one too. If you are a stickler for paper statements, keep the latest statement in a one drawer file cabinet and then shred it upon receipt of each new statement.
Credit Card Bills – Shred immediately once a payment is made, then switch to paperless billing. There is no need to keep a history of these, so even if you prefer paper statements; receive the bill; pay the bill; shred the bill.
Investment Records – If you invest and I hope that you do, these are treated much like tax records. Keep them for seven years past the closing of the account. Scan then shred.
Lease Paperwork – Keep until the end of the lease, and the return of the deposit if applicable. Scan then shred.
Paychecks / Earnings Statements – Keep these for 1 year, until you receive your W-2 for the tax year. Scan then shred.
Keep Forever Items
For items that you need forever, I recommend a three-fold approach. Scan and save these documents on your external hard drive as well as in your cloud storage, then keep the physical item in a fireproof safe in your house or a safe deposit box at a bank. Here is a list of common keep forever items:
Birth Certificates / Death Certificates
Driver’s licenses – Scan these, but don’t lock them in a safe, carry them with you…I shouldn’t have to tell you this.
Marriage Certificates / Divorce Certificates
Life Insurance Policies
Retirement / Pension Records
Social Security Cards
Last Will and Testaments
Academic Records / Diplomas
Items with sentimental value such as your child’s first art project or homemade mothers / fathers day cards are very meaningful items. Feel free to keep them if you like. You could also take a picture of them and have them added to a digital picture frame or screen saver rotation. You will likely find that seeing a photo of the item is just as sentimental as having the physical item itself, if that’s the case you may be able to let go of the item after all.
Photographs are fantastic, and in this digital age photos of any and everything is readily available. Scan copies of your most important photos for storage, add them to your digital picture frames and screensavers and place them safely in your fireproof safe or organize them into albums.
With all this done, you have successfully taken control of your paper clutter. Now you have to instill a process to maintain. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss part 2 of this post where I will spell out methods to keep your paper clutter in check.