no more clutter logo no more clutter newsletter for February 2005

Taking the sting out of paperwork

I know how even thinking about paperwork is enough to send many of us into a spin. But don't despair, panic or stop reading. This month we're going to look at some simple, straightforward tips to help you deal with your paperwork and bring some order back into your life.

  • Take a deep breath and tell yourself that there really is no magic wand to make it all go away. You will have to deal both with the accumulated backlog and with future paperwork that comes your way.
  • Imagine a world where you can find your home insurance policy, your last credit card bill or the note for your kid's school trip within seconds. Keep this vision in mind.
  • Commit time to the project. Whether it's 10 minutes daily first thing in the morning or the whole of Sunday morning - write it in your diary and stick to it.
  • A common mistake is to treat any papers with the greatest respect. As one client said to me " I can't throw it out - it's information". I would challenge that - ten year old travel brochures belong in the recycling bin. Recipes pulled from magazines are only useful if you file them and can find them easily. My personal mantra with paper is to keep as little of it as possible. Information is readily available online these days so you don't need to keep every interesting travel article you come across.
  • I love American decluttering expert Cindy Glovinsky's idea of Very Important Thing (VITs) like your passport or a copy of your will. These are the backbone of your paper system and must be filed away safely.
  • Buy a filing tray to keep together everything that needs action - letters to answer, forms to fill and bills to pay. Don't clutter this up with reading - keep a separate pile for reading materials
  • Try and see paperwork like any other domestic job - imagine if you didn't do your laundry for months on end, what a state your home would be in. Paperwork is no different. If it is a task you find tedious, then put on some energising music and reward yourself at the end with a cappuccino or a long hot soak in the bath.
  • Accept that paperwork is the slowest part of decluttering. So it may take several weeks or months to catch up. Don't give up, you will sort it out by dealing with one piece of paper at a time.

If you are looking for more detailed help on how to sort out your paperwork or indeed your whole home, why not check out Sue's new book "no more clutter - how to clear your space and free your life" cover It's due to be published by Hodder Mobius in March 2005 but you can pre-order your copy now from Amazon. It's full of easy, practical tips on how to banish clutter from your life forever! Click the cover picture to find out more.

Sally Lever has kindly contributed her favourite 5 top tips on how to reduce the amount of unwanted paper in your life. Sally is a life coach, downshifter and sustainable living enthusiast.

  1. Register with the mailing preference service ( This will eliminate unwanted junk mail. It usually takes three months to fully come into effect.
  2. In the meantime, recycle junk mail, either through your kerbside recycling scheme, or via your local recycling centre paper bank. If you think the sender should take responsibility for recycling their unwanted mail then here’s another idea. Firstly, open each direct mail envelope. Often they contain a reply paid envelope inside which you can then use to stuff the rest of the contents into and mail back to the sender at their expense! In my experience, this usually has the effect of the sender removing your details from their direct mail database rather promptly!
  3. Pay your utility bills online or by direct debit.
  4. Use online banking. It’s another option which eliminates the need for bills and statements to be issued in paper form.
  5. Envelopes that are opened with care can be reused. Many charities produce envelope reuse labels for this purpose, so this is a way of supporting a favourite charity whilst recycling paper and reducing your costs.

January's competition result

Thank you to everyone who sent in their thoughts on how hoarding affects their self image.

Heather wins a copy of Karen Kingston's fantastic book " Clear your clutter with feng shui" for her honest assessment of the negative effects clutter has on her.

"My clutter problems are not so great as they used to be but I nevertheless recognise the panic that goes with throwing things away, particularly paperwork. You ask us to let you know how having a messy home/office affects our self image. Here goes:

  • As a child my mother despaired of me - in our house untidiness was "naughty"
  • I am ashamed if people realise that my smart exterior is not reflected in my home and office
  • I feel less capable of the work I do
  • I feel frustrated that I can't control my bad habits
  • I feel overwhelmed by all the projects I have on at any time
  • Depression will often follow a period when I haven't seen the surface of my desk for weeks"

I'm sure many of us recognise ourselves in Heather's comments. But just think how great you'll feel when you finally deal with the clutter and feel more in control of your time and life.

There's no competition this month but do keep sending your comments on the ups and downs of decluttering to

February tip

Balance the flow of things entering and leaving your house (here)

The Clutter Clinic

Kate asks

I love books but it's getting to the point now that they're all over the floors, in the garage and up the loft. Any ideas?

Sue answers:

I sympathise - as someone who loves reading I used to keep all the books I read until I too had a large collection. I decided to change my mindset some years ago - so these days when I finish reading a book I decide if I'm ever likely to read it again. If not I put it straight into the charity bag or put on one side to pass onto a friend or family member who would enjoy it. I believe that our attitude to books is still influenced strongly by previous generations who owned few books, but saw them as a valuable asset to be read again and again. So be discriminating and only keep books you love and will read again.

If you have any questions send them to Sue at

Sue Kay works with a wide range of clients to organise home offices, small businesses, declutter before a house move, prepare your spare room for a new baby and organise your wardrobe ready for the new season. If you're selling your home, she can help you present it clutter-free for the market to achieve a quick and profitable sale. For practical sympathetic help call Sue on 07974 076 675 or 020 8444 5149 or check out the website at


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