A professional organiser’s guide to decluttering paper

How many drawers or filing systems do you fill with papers you might need someday?

If you’re honest, how many of those papers will ever actually be useful?

To help keep your workspace clutter-free, we spoke to Denise Childs, owner of Systems for Order, a professional organising service for individuals and businesses.

As a starting point, Denise recommends being mindful of not accumulating the following four types of materials:

1. Business cards

Can you remember the person and why you’ve saved their card?

If not, bin it. In a recycle bin, of course.

If you think you will need the contact’s details:

• Go digital: enter the information in your phone or another contacts database, or

• Set up a business card file and take note of why you need their number.

2. Reference materials

There’s a fair chance you have a lot of unnecessary papers that fall into this category.

They might include:

• Training manuals or course material

• Conference notes

• Old phone books

• Brochures for products or venues

If the information is available online or there is a more recent version available, put it straight in the recycling bin.

Make this a yearly habit (at least).

3. Magazines

Remove old magazines that you no longer read

Part ways with magazine you no longer want to read.

It makes sense to keep up with industry news, but magazines and newspapers can rapidly take over your space.

Decide on a time limit for holding onto any magazines: perhaps one month.

If you haven’t read it in that time, either pass it onto someone who will or part with it.

If you find an article you want to save, scan and file it a digital format.

And remember, you can probably find the same content online too.

4. Emails

Important rule: Stop printing emails.

If you need to follow something up, set up paperless reminders with a calendar or productivity app.

Stop printing emails and declutter paper

Printed emails use paper unnecessarily

Go a step further and delete or file every email you don’t need immediately.

Keeping only the actionable emails in your inbox visible will help you stay focused on your to-do list.

Make paper decluttering a habit

Make a conscious effort to only bring papers into your office that provide value and always store them in a purposeful way.

Frequent decluttering will keep your office organised so you can focus on your work.