I've received a few emails and comments from folks who are struggling with paper clutter. As an example, here is a recent reader question:
"As a writer, don’t you have a lot of writing materials, like journals, that will need a place in your new home? Not to mention, paperwork for your business side? (Do you have much computer gear? Printer, etc.?) Has that all been accounted for in the storage spaces of your new home? This is the area I struggle with the most – paper clutter! I’d love to hear how you will be managing the paper trail in your new space!" -Victoria
Rather than writing separate emails and comments, I wanted to share my response here. So let's get started!
Right now I have a few pens, one journal, eight books, and hardly any paper in my life. Below are a few steps I've taken to pare down my paper trail.
Purging. When we started downsizing, we had a few filing cabinets full of paper, which included old college essays and bills. I slowly started going through our various filing cabinets and realized most of the stuff we were "saving" was unnecessary. We shredded a majority of our old documents and haven't looked back. Now 95% of my personal and business documents are in digital form.
Tracking. I track what comes into and out of my life by keeping an inventory of my belongings. Tacking has forced me to keep things in check. As a result, I no longer hold onto a lot of paper, like old college essays, bills, and journals.
Printing. Logan and I had a number of arguments about whether or not we should keep our printer. He "wanted the convenience to print out tickets, directions, or photos at home."
When we did the math it turned out that it was more cost effective to outsource our printing needs than to buy expensive ink cartridges. We finally donated the printer before we moved to Sacramento. We now write down directions and have our photos and tickets printed at a local shop.
Journals. I always carry a journal with me and a few pens because I'm constantly writing down thoughts for the book and blog. After I'm done with a journal, I look through the content and pull out pages that I want to keep. Then I shred the rest and start a new one. I love starting fresh because I'm forced to look at events and thoughts with a beginner's mind.
Books. In 2010, I wrote an essay on how to create a minimalist library for AOL. I noted, "Prior to downsizing my life, I had a huge personal library. It contained hundreds of books; some were new and others were old college texts that I'd been dragging around for years. I love books, but my massive library was weighing me down and taking up way too much space. So after a lot of thought and deliberation, I decided to donate the majority of my books to the local library. Now I have a little, minimalist library."
A catch-all box. We have a small clear plastic container, that's about the size of a shoe box, that we use for storing excess paper. We put stationary, postcards, business receipts, and checks in the box.
Last words. We have worked really hard to let go of belongings we no longer need, which includes books, paper, and other odds and ends. I'm not paper free and I'm not opposed to paper either.
For example, on Sunday I spent a few hours in a lovely Portland shop called Oblation Papers & Press looking at stationary, journals, embroidered paper and old printing presses. I love writing letters and in journals too. But I carefully chose the type of paper I buy and what I keep in my catch-all box.