Decluttering: How Do You Tame the Paper Tiger?

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Decluttering: How Do You Tame the Paper Tiger?

Postposted on Thu Jan 02, 2014 9:56 pm

I have a few more days off before I return to work, so I am decluttering my house. I think for most people the biggest clutter problem is paperwork. It invades our lives from all angles, arriving in the mail, from work, from friends, from family members, from the doctor, baker, and candlestick maker too...

It is now 2014. My biggest personal printing expense is replacing dried out inkjet cartridges because I never print anything. Yet I can't believe how much paperwork I STILL have and/or is STILL generated on my behalf just because I'm walking the Earth and breathing its air! Some days I feel like I need a bullwhip to tame this tiger, but in actuality I'm not really doing a bad job...

Improvements I have made over the years:

* most of my bills now come paperless. I don't keep banking information or canceled checks for very long.

* Periodicals: I have drastically cut back on my hardcopy magazine buying. The most important ones to me come via my iPad store or Nook/Kindle. Also, I just changed my 6-day per week newspaper subscription to "online with 1 weekly hardcopy". I must be one of the last holdouts in the US who still reads a physical newspaper, but I've been accessing it online most days for the last three years, so now was the time to cut back on the paper itself.

* My mortgage statement finally comes paperless now. This was the last paper bill holdout and electronic delivery just wasn't available until sometime in 2013.

* Anytime I buy a new device or appliance, I look for the owner's manuals and user guides online. If I find them in PDF format, I'll download and stick them in my Dropbox folder for later use on a computer or my iPad.

* I "opt out" from junk mailings whenever and wherever possible.

* During 2013, I reduced my "book library" wallspace needs by about 50%. My goal is to be able to one day fit all of my books into the "facing space" of a cabinet or bookshelf no more than 4' X 4' or at most, 6' X 6' feet. This is a big challenge for an avid reader such as myself, but it may one day be possible because most of my new purchases in the last three years have been eBooks and because many of my old books are technical in nature and eventually get swapped out as times change, technologies improve, and software gets updated. Other than high school yearbooks and a couple boxes of graphic novels, I hold no bound volumes of heirloom or sentimental value. Thankfully, my parents got rid of the old Funk & Wagnal Encyclopedia set that helped me get through high school in fine form!

Here are some the things that I can't seem to improve upon:

* Doctor receipts, insurance invoices, and "this is not a bill" notices.
* Car repair receipts and invoices.
* ATM and gas station slips (I always opt to print these but almost never need to review them, and end up shredding them within a couple months.
* Cruft that just comes unsolicited in spite of my best efforts to limit them.
* Certifications and "official" paperwork. Not much I can do about these.
* Most devices come with paper manuals, which I can't seem to let go of, even though I do the PDF/Dropbox thingie noted above.

The paperwork that I do get/receive is increasingly becoming difficult to categorize and decide how to preserve. Five years ago I thought about scanning stuff, but then what to do with the originals? Can't really feel good about shredding them, so the only thing to do is keep them...and that requires storage space. So why bother scanning them then?

So for the time being, I think I will still need to keep a couple of file cabinets, just to keep the paper tiger from becoming a fire hazard.

What are your clutter frustrations?
Is the paper tiger really fierce in your family?
Have you discovered anything really helpful?
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Re: Decluttering: How Do You Tame the Paper Tiger?

Postposted on Thu Jan 02, 2014 11:03 pm

Seems like you're doing everything reasonable as far as keeping paper down goes. Whatever you do, file things so they're easy to find. The stuff you keep is only worth keeping because you may need to reference something in an emergency, and when that happens, you won't want to have to sit down and sort out stuff from two cabinets.
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Re: Decluttering: How Do You Tame the Paper Tiger?

Postposted on Fri Jan 03, 2014 1:51 am

Good points, especially with regards to insurance information which may be lost in a complete disaster. Car insurance info is all online and wouldn't be impacted by a total loss of my house, car, and belongings. Home insurance maybe not so much. Something to double check on; thanks!

I take backups with Macrium Reflect, but I don't really have a secure offsite storage facility, so I probably need to invest in a cloud backup program for things like my password lockbox file. Even though I can access my passwords from two PCs, an iPad and iPhone, and the lockbox is backed up at least weekly, there is always a small possibility that all four devices and my onsite hard drives could be lost in a bad enough catastrophe.
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Re: Decluttering: How Do You Tame the Paper Tiger?

Postposted on Fri Jan 03, 2014 8:32 am

Semi-related: My paper shredder seems to have kicked the bucket. It was a gift that I asked for and a decently industrial one with cross cuts and handled CD's, credit cards, whatever rather well. The strange thing is that the slot for CC, CDs, and what not still works so as far as I can tell there must be a sensor issue with the main slot but after taking it apart I don't see where. I probably should just switch to paperless for everything...
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Re: Decluttering: How Do You Tame the Paper Tiger?

Postposted on Fri Jan 03, 2014 10:05 am

As for Car repair receipts, I know on my Honda I have a log in for it and can see past repairs (includes all the information; who did the service, when, where, and cost) and upcoming service schedule. All of which link directly to CarFax for when I go sell or trade in the vehicle. Maybe you could look to see if there is something like this for your make of car.

Ninja edit: You can opt out of pre approved credit mailers here: www.optoutprescreen.com
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Re: Decluttering: How Do You Tame the Paper Tiger?

Postposted on Fri Jan 03, 2014 2:05 pm

My car doesn't offer that feature, but it sounds convenient.

I've not heard of that particular opt-out site...
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Re: Decluttering: How Do You Tame the Paper Tiger?

Postposted on Fri Jan 03, 2014 2:10 pm

steelcity_ballin wrote:Semi-related: My paper shredder seems to have kicked the bucket. It was a gift that I asked for and a decently industrial one with cross cuts and handled CD's, credit cards, whatever rather well. The strange thing is that the slot for CC, CDs, and what not still works so as far as I can tell there must be a sensor issue with the main slot but after taking it apart I don't see where. I probably should just switch to paperless for everything...


Yep, while I was shredding junk mail yesterday, mine started making bad noises and I heard some cracking sounds. I think one of the junk mailers had some non-paper material in it, such as the plastic or metal key that some used car dealer sends in their advert campaign. The object cleared the cutters, but now the shredder sounds "tired". I have about two more boxes of obsolete paper to shred. I'll shop for a new one that can destroy CDs and DVDs, but I hope this one will at least make it through the work remaining today and tomorrow.

Edit: It's too bad shredders aren't made to be serviced and sharpened. I like this unit and would rather repair than shop for a new one. It does shred credit cards, which comes in handy. CDs and DVDs can still be snapped in half, which usually causes them to shatter.
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Re: Decluttering: How Do You Tame the Paper Tiger?

Postposted on Fri Jan 03, 2014 2:37 pm

I had to replace my shredder recently, while dealing with a bunch of old tax records I no longer needed. I just went and got whatever was on sale at Staples.
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Re: Decluttering: How Do You Tame the Paper Tiger?

Postposted on Fri Jan 03, 2014 2:43 pm

just brew it! wrote:I had to replace my shredder recently, while dealing with a bunch of old tax records I no longer needed. I just went and got whatever was on sale at Staples.

I just drag my stuff to the office and heave it in the SecureShred bins. Truck comes by once/week and shreds the contents of the bins into the back of the truck. Last I heard it ended up, after some processing, as blown-in insulation.
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Re: Decluttering: How Do You Tame the Paper Tiger?

Postposted on Fri Jan 03, 2014 2:54 pm

I could do this too Ned; in our office we have secure-shred bins by some brand-name or other too. But I am doing a "deeper" decluttering right now (I decided to shred more recent material) and much more paper is involved than usual.

I would love to recycle, but my recycle pickup does not accept shreddings. They say shreddings have too much foreign material in them (plastic envelope windows, keys from car dealers), so shreddings must go out with the regular trash.

Also, I just got off the phone with Fellowes' support. A nice fella there helped guide me to lube my machine. Cooking or Olive oil is all that's needed, just pour it across the throat of the machine and run it in reverse. He says that the two most common ways Fellowes' shredders get destroyed is by those very same car dealership adverts with metal keys that I mentioned, and another advert that includes a US nickel. Before you shred, you should open the mailers to make sure there are no foreign objects inside.
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Re: Decluttering: How Do You Tame the Paper Tiger?

Postposted on Fri Jan 03, 2014 3:03 pm

BIF wrote:I would love to recycle, but my recycle pickup does not accept shreddings. They say shreddings have too much foreign material in them (plastic envelope windows, keys from car dealers), so shreddings must go out with the regular trash.

Interesting... I had wondered about the plastic windows, since technically they are not paper. I don't shred the envelopes though; I only shred the contents. Envelopes just go into the recycling bin intact.

I also try to remove any staples or other foreign material (plastic, etc.) before shredding. I just pack the shreddings into brown paper bags or cardboard boxes (good use for Newegg boxes and beer cases that have gotten too beat up to use for storing homebrew) and put them out with the rest of the recycling. I guess our recycler is more lenient than yours.

I suppose if they ever stop taking shreddings I will just put them out in the regular trash. I hate to fill up the landfill with the stuff, but we pay a flat rate per month for trash and curbside recycling pickup so if they won't take them in the recycling it's their problem...

Or I guess I could burn them.
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Re: Decluttering: How Do You Tame the Paper Tiger?

Postposted on Fri Jan 03, 2014 3:10 pm

Another vote for www.optoutprescreen.com

Go here for more information: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0148-prescreened-credit-and-insurance-offers

Thanks to this, I haven't had any credit card offers mailed to me since sometime in the 1990's.
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Re: Decluttering: How Do You Tame the Paper Tiger?

Postposted on Fri Jan 03, 2014 4:39 pm

just brew it! wrote:
BIF wrote:I would love to recycle, but my recycle pickup does not accept shreddings. They say shreddings have too much foreign material in them (plastic envelope windows, keys from car dealers), so shreddings must go out with the regular trash.

Interesting... I had wondered about the plastic windows, since technically they are not paper. I don't shred the envelopes though; I only shred the contents. Envelopes just go into the recycling bin intact.

I also try to remove any staples or other foreign material (plastic, etc.) before shredding. I just pack the shreddings into brown paper bags or cardboard boxes (good use for Newegg boxes and beer cases that have gotten too beat up to use for storing homebrew) and put them out with the rest of the recycling. I guess our recycler is more lenient than yours...


I've lived in places where *any* paper shreddings were allowed for recycling, even if they DID have the plastic windows, and even if they were made with enameled paper or cardstock. All that stuff can be separated mechanically. Or chemically. Or it doesn't matter...it all depends on the product being made. Also, my county does accept the windowed envelopes and enameled cardstock in the "regular" paper recycling. They just don't want shreddings in the recycle bins. And now my shreddings will have olive oil in them because I will oil my shredder more regularly... :wink:

My Fellowes shredder eats staples and credit cards very easily, and is even advertised to do that. Never a problem with any of those. It just gets indigestion when fed car keys. And probably nickels too! :lol:
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Re: Decluttering: How Do You Tame the Paper Tiger?

Postposted on Fri Jan 03, 2014 4:58 pm

So now back to things like receipts to be kept.

We talked about car repair receipts. As mentioned in a prior post, my nearly ten-year-old car doesn't have such a feature as to allow electronic recordkeeping, although my next vehicle might. But my practice has been to keep all receipts and invoices in an unorganized file folder for as long as I have the car, and this will probably continue for as long as I drive a car. The file folder (or two) is mostly in reverse chronological order, but I consider it a "heap", haha!

If I sell the car to a private buyer, I'll let him or her look at the receipts if desired, but I won't give them up due to too much personal information in them. Since I like to keep cars 8 to 12 years at a time, there's a lot of paperwork, much of it being clutter itself. Who cares to keep records on the two or three tire rotations and oil changes I did in 2005 when those tires are not even on the car anymore? Often the only thing with any warranty left would be the last set of tires, brake job, or water pump replacement. Scanning and redacting a thick file folder with 10+ years of repair info is just not gonna happen, and most buyers of an older car only care to know that service was done regularly and maybe to have some warranty records of recent work (assuming they are transferable to a new owner).

If I sell the car to a new car dealership or Carmax, they usually aren't interested in the repair and service records anyway, so they can all go straight to the shredder. Then I relabel the file folder and start over.

The flaw here is that even with all this care, there are times when I still can't find something, and THAT is very annoying.

But yesterday, I did come across my last tire invoice. 2010, a set of Falkens with an 80,000 mile warranty. Their tread is getting down to replacement level and they only have 33,000 miles on them, so I'm going to have to see about a warranty claim. Maybe I can get some money off the next set, which is likely to be my last set for this car.
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