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I realize that it is January and due to your New Year’s Resolutions you might be most concerned about these Monsters.


 


But you should be concerned with this monster – the Paper Monster.

Why should you be concerned with this monster? Cause it is the start of a new year and the end of an old year – which means it is the start of tax season. Yep. I said it – tax season. I know we all want to stick our heads in the sand and not discuss it until, oh lets say March, but we should all deal with it now.

If you look around your house, I bet the most of the “clutter” you see is paper related. Piles of magazines, stacks of bills and bank statements, junk mail, warranties, product manuals, privacy statements, loan documents, schoolwork, pay stubs, flyers, schedules, take out menus … Overwhelmed yet? I know I am. My battle with the paper monster is one that I struggle with year after year.

To me, there are three reasons why I struggle with this little monster. First, so much paper comes into our lives every day – you can’t leave your house in the morning and not come home in the evening without bringing some sort of paper home with you. In addition, if anyone besides you lives in the house – that paper factor just is multiplied exponentially.

Second, there is a war out there – the war over protecting your identity. What can you throw away and how you should throw it away can be very hard to manage. I personally feel like I need to ensure that all sensitive documents that need to be destroyed should be destroyed by me. (Yes – I am a little obsessive about that.)

Third, there are certain financial documents that you have to keep. But which ones and for how long? It can be confusing for sure.

So I have spent some time breaking this all down and developed a personal battle plan to deal with my paper monster. Once I started working on this post, I realized it was turning into a novel so I am going to break my battle plan out over the next several days.

Part One: Reduce Incoming Paper
I have already signed up through the Mandatory Opt Out Option that all three credit bureaus are required to provide by the government. You can do the same by going to www.optoutprescreen.com and signing up to opt out for 5 years from all firm offers for credit and insurance, for forever, or to opt back in if you would decide that you want to. I did this last year January and it is so nice to not be bombarded by credit card offers every day.

I am also going to sign up for The Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Mail Preference Service. It lets you “opt out” of getting unsolicited mail from some national companies for five years for $1. They will delete your address from their file and it won’t be provided to direct mail customers. The best part is that you get to choose what you opt out of so if you want to get some things but not others, you can select that here www.dmachoice.org. Now this doesn’t mean that you won’t still get direct mail from companies that you already do business with, but if you really don’t want to get a catalogue or other mailings you can typically contact their customer service departments to get removed.

Another way I am planning to reduce the incoming paper from my life is that I am also signing up for electronic statements for all of my other regular bills. Did you know that one of the ways that people steal your identity is to complete a change of address form so they can get your bank statements and credit card bills? Or that people may just go through your mail to get these statements so they can get your account numbers. So just don’t have them sent to you through the mail. If you still want a copy for your records you can always print them off of the companies website. But otherwise, is there really any need for you to get these? My one exception to this rule is for bills that I might not get regularly – you don’t want to forget to pay something because the reminder for your statement went into your junk email box. (Yeah – that happened to me once. Not good!)


Now for all other incoming paper mail, that will be reviewed daily over the trashcan. Junk mail that does not need to be reviewed for potential identity issues will be tossed before it gets a chance to sit on the kitchen counter. Junk mail with personal information will be shredded that day. I love this lil guy from Staples. (I was not compensated in any way to say that - I just like him!)  You can toss the mail in – envelop and all and he will just eat that bad ol nasty credit card offer up.  (Note: You can “burn” it up if you decide to go on a shredding binge. Best to just hook him up and then shred as you get junk in. If you have a pile you need to work through, do like five letters then give it a break for 10-15 minutes and do some more.)



Everything that we keep I am putting in the following three places. One basket is for bills or financial statements – once they are paid they will be filed. The second basket is for things that we need to follow up on (appointment reminders, newsletters, etc.) and once a month I will review and purge anything that we don’t need anymore. The third is my magazine holder for magazines and catalogues. Every month I am going to clear it out. If there are articles or pictures I want to keep, I am starting a file folder system that I can slide info into to keep. For a great idea on how to start up your own idea file system – check out this post by Cathe at Just Something I Made.  I am going to flip through it every month as I add new content and if I find something I haven’t used in six months or don’t still like the original idea – out it goes!

Other sources for incoming paper? Well, there’s my purse and briefcase which I am going to start cleaning out every weekend just to keep it in order. We don’t have kids but I know managing that influx of paper has got to be a source of frustration. So I am looking for your ideas there. Do you have tips on how to reduce incoming paper? Do you have a home filing system set up?  What works and what doesn't?


P.S. Tomorrow I am going to go over some guidelines on what needs to be kept, for how long, and when you can get rid of it.

And since Sarah still has her party up - I am linking this post up too!  

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7 frugal friends said ...

Katie said... @ January 23, 2010 at 2:52 PM

I love it, great post. I first saw the title and I just got that book for my little girl for Christmas and I was drawn in! I need to work out a system for all my paper as well, it just gets thrown everywhere! Thanks for the information about opting out of mail, I need to do that!

Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest, I love your blog!

Jen @ After The Alter said... @ January 23, 2010 at 2:53 PM

I have tons and tons of paper laying around! It is definitely frustrating since I worry about throwing stuff away sometimes...lol
Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest!

Jayde said... @ January 23, 2010 at 3:08 PM

That's a very helpful post. I am very unorganized and yet this 'system' seems to be something simple enough that even I can follow it. :) Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest!

Unknown Mami said... @ January 24, 2010 at 4:27 PM

Thank you! I just went and did some "opting out".

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