We’ve got way to go to reach the paperless future shown in The Jetsons and Star Trek. During the course of daily life, many of us are faced with a deluge of paper, all of which needs to be dealt with in some way. Many people I’ve worked with are drowning in stacks, piles, and desks full of paper, and want to gain control over the paper in their lives. If this rings true with you, read on for some tips on how to begin to turn off the “paper faucet.”
Many people get far more paper coming in than they want or know what to do with, so the first step in managing paper is to reduce the amount that comes in. Start with your mail. Junk mail, which is still filling up many mailboxes and creating tons of waste and clutter, can be stopped, or at least reduced. Get your name off of junk mailing lists by going to the Direct Marketing Association’s web site at http://www.dmaconsumers.org/consumerassistance.html. Call your credit card company and tell them not to share your name or your information with third parties. Do the same with your magazine subscriptions, utilities, and other organizations that send you mail. Try to refrain from signing up for contests and other freebies, as these types of promotions frequently share names with junk mailers. The goal is to try and have your name and information in as few databases as possible – the fewer companies that have your name, the less junk mail you’ll find in your mailbox.
Computers were supposed to solve the “paper problem” – or so we were led to believe. In reality, computers tend to generate far more paper than they conserve – the article you printed out, the emails you decided to make hard copies of, etc. I’ve found that many people that print out information from the internet and email do not really have a clear idea of why they are printing it out, other than that they are saving it “for later.” Nor do they have a specific place to put this printed information, so it tends to end up buried under a pile or hidden in a drawer “somewhere.” Here’s a handy guideline: print web pages or emails ONLY when you know exactly where and to who they are going – if you can’t answer those questions, then there’s no need to have a hard copy. Instead, create a system of bookmarks in your web browser, which will help you find the articles that you’d like to read or refer to later. You can create bookmarks by topic, by site, by date…whatever makes the most sense for your purposes. Likewise, as an alternative to printing out emails, create folders in your email program to store your old email messages, or offload them onto a CD or removable disk.
Trying just a couple of these simple ideas can dramatically reduce the amount of paper that you have to wrestle with. In time, your freely flowing “paper faucet” will be reduced to a trickle.
Joshua Zerkel, Professional Organizer