The Life Cycle of Paper

paper flying

By Amber Kostelny-Cussen |

Much like other things in life, paper has a life cycle. Paper has a specific job for a short period of time. When we treat paper as a family member or like an antique piece of furniture, it creates, besides a big stack of clutter, a problem with the organization of our home and office. So let’s take a look at the cycle in detail.

Paper arrives. It comes through the mail, through our printer, through backpacks, through purses and briefcases.  Paper doesn’t just magically appear all over the floor, counter top or table. We hit the print button. We subscribe to newspapers, catalogs, magazines and newsletters. We also decide where to place it, dump it, or organize it.

Paper stays. The main reason we accumulate excess paper is because a decision isn’t made at the time of its arrival. Make decisions. Decide to decide. What is absolutely essential to running this family, this business, or this office? Could you get the information again from another source if you needed to? Could it be found online or stored electronically? If I haven’t taken action by now, will I ever? If I need to research this again, will the research still be available to me?  Nine times out of 10, most paper can be pitched. There is not a magic answer to how long to keep paper.  You have to ask yourself the right questions to make the right decisions.

Paper leaves. If you think about it, there are not many examples of paper  we need to keep forever. Most paper has a deadline, expiration, and date  range to indicate if it needs saving.  The few examples of paper that would  stay forever would be a passport, birth certificate, adoption papers, marriage  certificate, death certificate, a deed to a home and any other long term legal  paperwork, such as a will.

The Challenge: Rid yourself of as much paper as possible.  Ditch the piles, throw out the old and dated. Consider saving things in organized files on the computer instead of hitting the print button.  Try putting a recycling bin by the door. Pitch as much paper as possible before you let any more in. Consider stopping your subscriptions. Instead of stuffing paper in your bag, briefcase or purse, toss it instead.  Don’t bring it home. Choose to say enough is enough. Stop the paper cycle from starting and you won’t have to organize it later.


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