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Paper: Self-Loathing Is Out, Clutter-Clearing Is In

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Paper: Self-Loathing Is Out, Clutter-Clearing Is In

My living room has thrown up paper. There is a volcano in the middle of a table and the entire surrounding area is finding some form of order. I can’t get out until it’s done, I guess. - Shannon, a coaching client

Do you know that thing people say about it getting worse before it gets better? Well that certainly applies when clearing paper clutter, and I don’t know what it is about people and their paper but this program has me covered up in paper drama. They have documentation of birth, death, and all that falls in the middle, and not only their own paper but the papers belonging to their loved ones too. Sometimes even paper belonging to those who’ve made transition into the next (please, oh please, let it be paperless) phase of this experience.

We are covered up in paper… and not in the tie-it-up-with-a-pretty-bow way either.

Paper has to be one of the hardest kinds of clutter, at least in part, because it’s so easy to hide. You know what I mean, right? People are coming over for book study, so you look around and discover that stack of papers on the counter (or dining room table or coffee table) and you shove the papers in a bag or box, then  stash it in the office (or spare bedroom or coat closet or attic), vowing that you’ll deal with those papers properly just as soon as your guests leave. You don’t. Then next month, when the book study returns, you put another bag with the first, and another…

You know you’re in trouble when you walk past that secret stash a few months (or years) later and think, for just a split second, that a well-placed house fire would give you the fresh start you really need. I get it. I really do but it’s not good business to invite tragedy over for dinner, so let’s find another way for you to take back your life.

You are not alone, lots of people are covered up in paper. I think it’s easy to be overwhelmed these days. Paper flows in at a Niagara-like volume. The pace we (attempt to) keep is certainly more intense than ever before. And then we have the cursed hows of getting rid of it. Paper certainly needs its own exit strategy. Where can we recycle? How long do we need to keep these things? To shred or not to shred? Now that is the question.

By the way, did anyone ever teach you how to manage your paper? That’s what came up during our last group call. If the people who raised you didn’t include paper management on things-to-teach-the-wee-one game plan, then you may not actually know how to deal with all of the incoming papers, and that’s a very real challenge.

And if those people were afraid to release their papers, you probably are too. This is, of course, unless you are one of the rare apples that falls off the tree and rolls directly to the other end of the spectrum. In that case, you are probably reading this article just to see if it’s really that important to keep things like birth certificates, journals, and your child’s first painting. (It is, I promise.) Either way, the relationship that the people before us had with their stuff has a powerful influence on the relationship we have with ours.

We’re really looking for something in the middle here. I believe we call it moderation. I personally prefer the simplicity end of the moderation range but to each their own.

Continued: Self-loathing is NOT a functional system for managing paper.

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Read more: Feng Shui & Organizing, Home, Reduce, Recycle & Reuse, Self-Help, Spirit, , , , , , ,

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Christy Diane Farr

Christy Diane Farr is a catalyst. If that sounds like something you want more of in your life, visit 'The Greenhouse' at and join the Wildflower Evolution on Facebook.


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10:06PM PDT on Jul 1, 2012

i have so many stacks of paper that need to be gone through/thrown away...

2:19AM PST on Mar 7, 2012

I think Christy directed this article just to me. I am the one who put paper & magazines in a box and hid it while we had relatives here at Christmas, and a few other times too. I am also the one who has magazines that I bought with the intention to read, but as of yet, I haven't.

I think I need to use her mantra: "Either use it, or let it go."

10:37AM PST on Feb 14, 2012

Really helpful... like your categories of paper.

10:31AM PST on Feb 13, 2012

I can so relate to this article - because I have enough paper-drama going on myself!
I do clean it up and out - and it lasts for a few weeks or a couple of months - then it starts all over again. I hate all this unnecessary paper that finds its way into my mailbox. I wish we could opt out from mail - with the exception of personal mail.
I pay all of my bills on line and get statements per email - that's all I need!

Please sign my petition:

8:10AM PST on Feb 10, 2012

That reminds me...I shoved a back of paper recycling under my bed before Christmas. Ooops.

Thanks for the article!

5:32AM PST on Feb 10, 2012

This article was an important reminder to me to clean up my act. I do think she could have been more concise in her article, though. Many things were repeated and the practical advice didn't come quickly enough. It might be pointed out that people of an older generation are not used to keeping records electronically and are very paranoid about letting go of records, memories, etc. that are stored on paper. Thanks for the article and comments.

11:42PM PST on Feb 9, 2012

Clearing clutter is about taking responsibility and being determined to overcome procrastination. It's not at all about self-loathing.
And I should know !!

9:06PM PST on Feb 9, 2012

I absolutely deplore clutter and will NOT have it in my home. I just can not stand clutter everywhere. I am highly organized and have a place for any import documents etc...Because that is the purpose of not having clutter. It's the difference between discipline to put things in their rightful place or go crazy trying to find what it is you need in a shambles of clutter, Which BTW, usually leaves the clutter freak in constant mood of anxiety. I'm not into knick knacks at all either. My peices of art are bold and big rathewr than tiny and......Well, clutter!

6:25PM PST on Feb 9, 2012

I forgot to ask - there was mention of a system called GTD. Does anyone know what that is about, please?

6:24PM PST on Feb 9, 2012

I have a bit of a hoarder's instinct in me unfortunately, so I found both the article and other comments much like looking in a mirror! One thing I have found with electronic clutter, as Deborah D mentions, is a way to de-clutter safely.

I have a gmail account and their archives are kept off site. So anything I want to keep from the computer, I send to myself on my gmail address and archive it there. Every year, I go through and delete ones that are no longer appropriate. It helps me! Not sure if it useful for anyone else.

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