How To Declutter Paper Piles When You Don’t Know What To Do

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Paper clutter does not have to be in your office to be considered clutter.  We pile up all sorts of paper around our  homes.  From magazines, to schoolwork, to mail circulars, and coupons.

When is enough, enough? When you can no longer find what you need?  How about when you can’t see your countertops any longer?

That is when it is time for this article…how to declutter paper piles! 

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How to Declutter Paper Piles

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How To Declutter Paper Piles

If you have a lot of paper piles, then I would suggest trying to sort through one pile at a time.  Once you get the idea of what to keep, trash, recycle, and shred, you will know how to declutter paper piles whenever they form.

If you are busy, then one pile a day should do it.

Start With These 4 Categories To Get Rid Of Your Paper Clutter


  • Recycle
  • Trash
  • File
  • Shred
how to declutter paper piles

Items To Toss Immediately When Decluttering Piles Of Paper

  • Junk mail
  • Expired coupons
  • Post-it notes
  • Old lists
  • Old magazines
  • Old newspapers
  • Scrap paper
  • Old catalogs
  • Old school material
  • Old job materials
  • Most retail receipts
  • Any document you can access online
  • Old idea pages for your home or life that you have already implemented
  • Business information of people you will never use again
  • Old recipes you don’t like
  • Old planners
  • Owners manuals you have never used
  • Used up notebooks

Try using these shallow bins close to your entryway or in your office so you can declutter papers right away!

Related Post: How This Erasable Notebook Will Stop Your Paper Overwhelm For Good

What To Recycle When Decluttering Paper

Any normal white printer type paper that you come across in your piles can be recycled.  Here is a list of paper that CANNOT be recycled:

  • Coated
  • Treated paper
  • Paper with food waste
  • Juice and cereal boxes
  • Paper cups
  • Paper towels
  • Paper or magazine laminated with plastic
  • Napkins
  • Wax paper
  • Facial tissues

What To Trash When Having A Paper Decluttering Session

Please throw away all of the paper mentioned above that cannot be recycled.

What To Do When Decluttering Important Documents

Some paper clutter can go straight to the trash, some should be recycled, and yet some paper you declutter actually needs to be shredded.

When you shred documents, you need to make sure you are using a shredder that has both a vertical and cross-cut shred feature. That way, your important personal information is turned into confetti that are virtually impossible to put back together.

You can find the shredder I use here.

Knowing how to declutter paper piles correctly has to do with knowing when to toss, and when to shred, so here is a list of things that you should consider shredding in order to keep your identity and personal accounts private:

  • Old id
  • medical bills over a year old
  • bank info over a year old
  • tax info that your tax lawyer says you can shred
  • any trash documents that contain personal information such as credit card applications
  • anything with your social security number on it
  • anything that may help people identify your security questions
  • Copies of birth certificates
  • Cancelled or voided checks
  • Credit reports
  • Carbon copies
  • ATM receipts
  • Legal guardian information
  • Anything with your signature, address, full name, phone number, 
  • Pay stubs
  • Anything with passwords or pins
  • Papers containing driver license numbers
  • Checking Account numbers
  • Any investment transaction paperwork
  • Utility bills
  • Transcripts
  • Anything with your email address
  • Expired identity cards of any kind, including ones for your children
  • Account numbers
  • Expired or cancelled credit cards
  • Prescription bottle stickers and package information

What To File After Decluttering Paper Piles

Once you have decluttered all of the paper piles in your home, you are going to have a pile of papers that you need to keep.  These papers should be filed for safekeeping and easy access in the future.

When you file these important documents, please use a fireproof and waterproof safe (like this one) in case of a natural disaster.

  • Medical Records for each family member
  • Insurance Documents for Home and auto
  • Insurance documents for medical
  • Receipts for large purchases and work on home and car
  • Pet documents, medical and adoption papers
  • Bills
  • Bank statements
  • Auto Documents
  • Mortgage Documents
  • Investment Documents
  • Home maintenance
  • Warranties Until Expired
  • Manuals If Needed

How Long To Keep Papers You Do Not Declutter

Some of the piles of paper clutter you have will not be discarded because there are some items you need to make sure you hold onto. These papers include tax documents, marriage certificates, and other important documents.

Here is a list of documents and how long to keep them:

how to declutter paper piles

Check out the IRS website for more information on circumstances that are not considered normal for keeping documentation

What Questions To Ask Yourself If You Get Stuck

  • Will I need this sometime in the future?
  • Can I find it online or do I need the paper copy?
  • How long do I need to keep this specific item?
  • Is it expired?

How To Declutter Magazines That You May Want To Keep

I love reading magazines.  They give me great ideas for my home and blog, they are easy to read, and they are also easy to put down whenever I need to.

The problem is, I always find pictures or juicy little tidbits of information that I want to keep.  So I started doing this instead of keeping the entire magazine.

One option is to take a picture of it with your phone.  You can always store that pic on your computer in a special folder that is for your magazines.

The other option, which is what I actually do, is to tear out the pages I want to keep or remember.  Then I file them in a file folder marked magazine ideas or inspiration.

Then recycle the rest of the magazine that you don’t want to keep.

How To Declutter all The Piles of Paper Coupons

Coupons are important to any mom who is trying to save a little money.  I don’t go overboard like some people, but I do use coupons religiously at the grocery store.  

Be sure to declutter your paper coupons once a month so you can sort out all of the coupons that have expired.  

Also, if you organize them with the ones  you need to use sooner than later in the front of the pile or organizer you use, then you will not miss out on any great deals because of expiration dates.

How To Declutter Paper Piles That Are Mail

Mail comes into our homes every day but Sunday.  A great way to declutter your mail is to immediately sort it when it comes into the house.

Throw anything that can be recycled into the recycle bin, throw the trash in the trash bin, and place all of the important items like bills into a specific place where you know they will get the reaction they require.

If you want to take it a step further, open all of the important mail before you put it down, recycle the envelopes, and  complete the actions that need to be completed…and you will be mail clutter free.

How To Declutter Sentimental Papers

Sentimental papers can consist of a child’s schoolwork or art work, old photographs from your youth, or documents from your ancestors.

All of these items hold sentimental value.

To learn more about how to declutter sentimental items, you can read How To Declutter Sentimental Items.

Paper Piles In conclusion:

Knowing exactly what you are going to do with paper as it enters your home is the best solution for keeping your paper clutter eradicated!

By creating spaces for your papers such as a place to sort mail, files to divide into, and having a shredder, recycling bin, and trash can available, you can be prepared.

And now you know how to declutter paper.

If you have any other ideas, I would love to hear them in the comments below!

Happy Decluttering!


P.S. – Don’t forget to pin this so you can find it again later!

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