Going Paperless: Organize Paper Clutter Without a Scanner

I was going to bump this post on going paperless because it isn’t as pretty as some recent articles, but YOU had other plans. In our free Facebook group, there has been lots of chatter lately about organizing mail, bills, and home offices. Organizing paper is always a popular topic!

Going paper-less isn’t what you think. You’ll always have paper in your life. Even my colleagues who are paperless advocates admit that they still have some paper. Having LESS paper means that you’ll have less to organize and fewer piles of paper clutter. Even if you are an information-junkie (we know who we are), you can have less paper in your life with these few simple steps.

Don’t go buy a scanner or any other tech tool to do what you really want to do…cut down on paper clutter. Before you even think about investing in a new gadget, you can seriously reduce the amount of paper in your life.

Going PaperLess- Organize Paper Clutter Without a Scanner


TL;DR stands for Too Long; Didn’t Read. But you don’t have to read it! Check out my popular online course: Organizing Your Papers with SORT and Succeed. It’s 1 hour and 42 minutes of video instruction on handling email. I show you exactly how to do many of the steps below. I literally sort my own mail for you, so you can learn how to be more efficient with yours. Lessons are broken up into short 3-5-minute videos. If you need to make a change, this is where to start. Click the image to get started.

Organizing Your Paper online course

Now on to the tips…

Go PaperLess with Mail and Bills

  • First, look at the mail you aren’t opening today. Call your bank or go online to shut off those statements. Check to be sure the bank’s retention practices will meet your needs, and that you can access statements online if you need to. Yes, it’s a pain, but you only do it once, and you’ll reduce paper forever.
  • Turn on auto-payments for your bills. Many institutions will allow you to set a minimum payment amount each month. You can always pay more manually, but with a minimum auto-pay already scheduled, you’ll stop paying $35/month for late fees!
  • Track your bills by writing up a simple list of accounts being paid automatically (either by hand or on a spreadsheet), and check them off online the same day you get your paycheck. This adds one piece of paper to your life, but might be exactly what you need to keep it all straight.
  • Use email folders to file e-statements. Folders organize emails into groups for long-term storage, out of your inbox. Rules automate filing without you having to do it manually. An example rule is: when an email comes in from Home Depot, send it my “Home Improvement Ideas” folder. If you need help with learning to use folders (or tags in Gmail) and rules, search the internet for “how to set up email rules on {my email} service.”
  • Be generous, but be selective, too. Stay off the “sucker lists,” which are lists of people who are likely to donate to charitable appeals. Charity fund raising is big business! Those people who call you for donations usually aren’t volunteers; they are paid fund raisers, and getting your approval to send you a donation envelope is valuable data that starts the ball rolling to even more mail. The more organizations you donate to, the higher the chance that data mining companies will identify you as an easy target, selling your information to even more charities. Honor your nature to be generous by donating to fewer causes that are important to you, and that have good ratings. Stay off the lists that generate even more charity mail in your mailbox by being selective in your giving. Keep fewer charity appeals and find them faster when you are ready to donate with this charity appeal organizing system.
  • Medical offices can eliminate or reduce your medical paperwork, too. Using their PHRs (personal health records) and portals, they can email you copies of office visits, tests and prescriptions. File these on your computer instead of printing.
  • Toss your receipts immediately! Receipts are the biggest source of clutter for my paper-challenged clients. Clients have to look at them three or four times before they figure out why they kept them. We regularly find receipts from ten years ago!!! Grocery store receipts, mail order slips, gas receipts, fast food receipts, they’re all a problem. If you need it for taxes, file it immediately in a shoe box like the one in this featured image, marked 2021. That’s it. No filing needed, but those receipts are immediately off your table, counter, and out of you purse and car. (I teach you where to store and what to do with those receipt boxes in my course.)


Go PaperLess with Unsolicited Offers

  • Reduce the amount of credit accounts you have. Stick with one main all-purpose credit card and another one for backup. Don’t sign up for store credit accounts just to get short term offers. Cancel promotional cards as soon as you fulfill the promotion. The more cards and credit accounts you have, the more mail they will generate, and not just from the monthly billing statement. Every credit account also kicks off more mail from other companies because of the data mining that I mentioned above. One account doesn’t mean just one more envelope each month…it could mean dozens of envelopes!!! Remember what I’ve been telling you about Loss Aversion? Your brain will scream, “BUT WAIT! What if I NEED that credit account?” Don’t worry. If you are qualified, you’ll be able to re-open that account in the future. If you aren’t qualified, well, you probably don’t want the temptation of falling into debt. Fear of losing an account will keep you from canceling it, but if you can overcome that, you’ll be closer to your goal of having less paper in your life.
  • Get off of mailing lists. Contact the Direct Marketing Association and Catalog Choice to opt in or out of paper mailings.
  • Did you know you can turn off unsolicited credit card offers? Many of these are generated by companies data-mining your credit reports. Reduce these unsolicited offers by contacting each of the three main credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian), and requesting that they not allow your data to be accessed for the preapproved offers. The toll-free number for all the national credit reporting agencies is 1 888 5OPTOUT (1 888 567 8688).
  • Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the Consumer Credit Reporting Companies are permitted to include your name on lists used by creditors or insurers to make firm offers of credit or insurance that are not initiated by you (“Firm Offers”). The FCRA also provides consumers with the right to opt-out of these offers. If you choose to opt-in or opt-out, you can visit www.optoutprescreen.com to make your request online.” (excerpted from Experian.com)


Go PaperLess with Things to Read

  • Cancel your newspaper and magazines. This sounds drastic, but it’s a critical step. You can always start up your subscriptions if you want them later. Sign up for a digital subscription instead, and skim headlines on your phone. I know, I know, you LIKE getting a newspaper, but just TRY IT for a month or two. What have you got to lose…except all the clutter?
  • Learn to use your phone, tablet, and computer as an e-book reader. Download the Kindle, Nook, or Kobo app on each of these devices, and always have your current books with you.
  • Download your library’s e-book reader, too. Overdrive is the one I’m familiar with, but there may be others. Magazines are available on library-sponsored apps like Zinio.
  • Many of my clients have cabinets and boxes of really interesting articles that they wanted to read…someday. Rather than digitizing news and lifestyle articles, I recommend that you finally make some time to read them. You’ll find that many are outdated, or you’ve collected similar articles on the same topic over and over, and you probably won’t want to digitize any.


Go PaperLess with Kitchen Counter Clutter

  • Recycle most manuals for household items. Chances are you don’t need the manual for small items like toasters and coffee makers. You can access manuals you do need online at https://www.manualslib.com/ and http://www.manualsonline.com/. If you can’t find it there, you can usually find a manual for an older product at the manufacturer’s website.
  • Support your school’s, church’s and community’s efforts to go paperless. Learn how to use online forms and payment options like e-checks and Paypal.
  • Don’t collect fliers, brochures and free magazines, as you can can find current information online.
  • Scan business cards on your phone and enable your settings to send information right into your phone’s Contacts app. ScaBizCards and Evernote both can upload details directly to your contacts app. New associates will love knowing that they are instantly on your A-list of contacts.
  • Learn to take notes on your phone or computer instead of reaching for the Post-It Notes.
  • Immediately frame and hang art before it becomes clutter. This takes less than 30-seconds with my favorite Dynamic Frames. Here’s a video of me demonstrating how to use Dynamic Frames in real time. So easy! 


Go PaperLess with your Photos…Kind of

  • Photos, although they are flat and printed on paper, are not the same as bills, junk mail and household records. We in the photo organizing community still consider your original printed pictures your best backup. We recommend that even after you digitize your old photos and load them into your digital timeline, keep those old prints in archival storage boxes. Even better, print out your modern photos, either as individual prints or as fun photo books to hold in your hand and share.

It’s a very long article, but maybe it’s THE one that can change your relationship with paper.

There is no one else coming to clean off your paper mess in the middle of the night. You don’t have to make all the changes that I’ve outlined here, but if you choose one, two, or three changes to start with, you WILL see less paper in your home this time next year. If your head is swimming, or you just need someone to walk you through exactly how to handle mail and paper more efficiently, remember to check out my Organizing Your Papers with SORT and Succeed course.

Will you please comment below on which of these tips you’ll commit to trying this year? Or which one has already made the biggest difference for you?

Pin for Later:

Going PaperLess- Organize Paper Clutter Without a Scanner


See all of my January 2021 organizing articles in one place.