If you struggle with a countertop or table being constantly overrun with paper and mail clutter, this is a must-read!
Our kitchen island is the heart of our house – for both family to gather and STUFF to gather.
It’s also one of the key spots that I have to keep clear to avoid a volcano of messiness from oozing out to the rest of the house.
My makeup vanity can be a disaster with no negative effects beyond that area, but once the island gets cluttered, suddenly dishes stay in the sink longer, dog hair stays on the floor longer, and anything coming into the house gets added to the pile.
Which then grows beyond the island to the dining room table and any other open flat surface.
Sound dramatic? I only wish I was exaggerating.
The good news is that once you figure out the hot spots in your house, you can fix them!
Incoming mail & paper clutter was one of our biggest challenges on the island. From what I’ve read, we’re far from the only ones that struggle with this.
I’m kicking myself for not taking the few minutes it took to fix the problem sooner.
Actually, we did try to problem solve along the way.
One method had a positive impact until it became a problem of its own. I put a box in a cabinet to collect everything that needed to be shredded. The first time it got full, I took it to a non-profit shredding center.
But then I got a bit freaked out by the idea of that – how long does the stuff sit unshredded? What precautions are in place to make sure no one walks off with our documents?
So we kept filling up the box, but never emptied it. I can’t believe the cabinet door even closes anymore…
Dealing with the things to be shredded was only part of the problem.
To fix our mail clutter situation once and for all, I listed out the categories of all incoming papers we had. Don’t skip this part!
Since every house is different, you’ll want to make your own list, but here’s mine to get you started.
- Straight to the Trash/Recycling Bin
- Straight to the Shredder
- Straight to be Filed
- Bills to Pay
- RSVP/Action Needed
- Invites/Info on things we’ve RSVPd for but need to keep until the event
- Coupons/Sales Flyers we may use
The magazines were a bit of a side issue. They usually didn’t stay on the counter TOO long, but instead would end up someplace different every time. I never knew which ones I had read!
Enough about problems, let’s move onto the fast solutions.
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The immediate trash/recyclables are my favorite category (if I block out that someone wasted a tree). Most days it never even gets set down, I put it right into the recycling.
The shredder situation was resolved when I finally spent the money on our own decent shredder. I picked up a micro-cut shredder at WalMart that seems like it’s somewhere between this one and this one on Amazon.
I made a spot for the shredder in the office. Now things we don’t need (that have personal info on them) can get shredded as soon as the mail comes in the house. After trash and shredding, the pile I have left to deal with is much smaller.
Conveniently, the shredder is right below our wall-mounted file organizer (IKEA). That means any papers we need to save longer-term can get filed while the shredder is chomping away.
Filing immediately will be fast because it’s 1-2 things a day a most.
Why oh why did we ever NOT just file things without them sitting around for months first? As an alternative, you can use a scanning system for this step and then shred the original. We just haven’t gone paperless yet.
Catalogs and magazines were next on the list. And by catalogs, I’m only talking about the ones I REALLY want to look at for inspiration. Others may get a quick flip-through right away and then hit the recycling bin.
Last fall, I swapped the old console table in the entry with this bar cart. The lower shelf is the perfect spot for incoming magazines/catalogs that I want to look at! I found this faux leather bin at Target that has a perfect vintage-look to hang out next to the auditorium seats.
You can use any bin or basket that works for your house, as long as you have one dedicated spot. I’m excited to have all the new issues together to grab when I need a little break.
The last 4 things on my paper clutter list were always the ones that hung out on the counter the longest. That darn stuff that you either need to take action on, or have a legitimate need to save temporarily.
My solution was finding two wall-mounted containers to put next to the garage door. One for things that require something from me, and one for things I might need again soon.
The left-side gold envelope hangs onto store coupons I might use, things I might need to reference again (like invites after we’ve RSVPed), and weekly sales flyers for the grocery store we regularly use.
The right-side is only for things that need some kind of action. Right now, there is a safety recall for Corey’s car, a card I need to mail, and a bill I need to pay. If there is some kind of financial statement we need to review together before filing, it goes here as well.
The key to making this work is setting a reminder to go through BOTH wall-mounted containers once a week. It’ll give you a chance to DO everything in your Action Needed bin, and weed-out anything expired in your 2nd bin.
If gold isn’t your thing, I found some clear wall pockets on Amazon that would be great for this too.
Don’t get stuck on the exact products I use, just the categories of things that linger around your house and how you can make it easier to handle them.
Make sure you’ve divided up each day’s mail to the right place before bed every night. If possible, do it right when the mail comes through the door. It takes 2 or 3 minutes max IF we stay on top of it daily.
Now that we have FINALLY dealt with all the different kinds of paper that end up on the island, I’m pretty excited to start the long-overdue process of shredding everything in that scary cabinet.
I feel a shredding session with a glass of wine and Gilmore Girls coming on.
Let me know if you think any of these ideas will help your mail clutter situation in the comments below!
Next up, check out my two methods for decluttering EVERYTHING – the quick microwave method, and the takes longer but tastes better oven method!