We’re halfway through Project Simplify! Feeling better yet? I’m excited about this week’s because it’s the cousin to my arch nemesis, paper clutter. Isn’t the note above hilarious? It’s from contributor Sarah Park‘s daughter. Perhaps she’s on to her.

This week, we’re focusing on closets, countertops, and drawers. Know that one spot in your house where everything is dumped? This week, you can clear it.

Or how about your coat closet where jackets are relegated to the floor because there’s no more hanging room? Now you can set aside time to weed through your collection and box some up for the thrift store.

Do yours kids have a craft station full of dried markers, like mine? Make a plan to cull through the defects and weed through the scrap paper pile.

Whatever’s giving you grief in your home in the department of closets, countertops, or drawers, this week it’s being tackled. Won’t it feel good to get this crossed off your list?

Paper: the beast that spawns

Paper tends to be cause for a lot of clutter in these specific areas, so here’s a few thoughts as you approach your hotspots this week.

Go paperless

Head online to your bill services and select the paperless option. You’ll receive an email when it’s time to pay, which can then obviously be done online. I don’t even know where my checkbook is anymore.

Opt out of junk mail

If you’re in the U.S., there isn’t one main government site to completely eradicate junk mail. Head here to be removed from Direct Mail’s “do not mail” list, though they can’t guarantee complete removal. At least it’s a start.

Head here if you’re in Canada. I’m not sure what’s available for those of you elsewhere, but if you know, please share in the comments below.

For any flier or notice related to an upcoming event, write down necessary info on your calendar, then toss the paper in the recycling bin.


Honestly, Pinterest has changed how and why I keep magazines. So many mags have their photos online, so if it’s a picture of a particular wall color, or if they have a recipe I’d like to try, I first search online. If it’s there, then I pin it.

If I truly love a magazine from cover to cover, I’ll keep it. I’m keeping all my issues of Cottage Living (may my favorite defunct shelter mag rest in peace).

But if I haven’t flipped through the magazine in about six months or so, I usually recycle or donate it.


This is a tricky one, because sometimes you need them, sometimes you don’t.

If they’re for a debit card purchase you know you’re not returning (or some other purchase that would otherwise show up online), toss it in the shred pile. You’ve got a digital record of that purchase, and you can use that to enter it in your budgeting record (we use Pear Budget).

If they’re for a cash purchase, grab the pen and label it with your budget category, then store it near your computer so you can add these to your budget record. After you record it, toss it in the shred box.

If you’re self-employed and the receipts are tax-deductible business expenses, store them somewhere logical and write down as much info on it you think you’ll need. (See below about a nifty receipt-handling tool you can week this week!)

Kids’ creations

There’s absolutely no way I can keep all my kids’ artwork, so some things just have to go. I love the advice to save three things from every age of each kid — one that shows handprint size, one that shows handwriting, and one drawing. Don’t ask me how to possibly decide which of those are the most save-worthy.

But I do love getting rid of stuff, so for me, unless it’s remarkably creative or unique, out it goes. I either stash it back in the scrap paper pile, to be drawn on the other side, I photograph it and store the digital file, it’s kept and reused as gift wrap, or — most commonly — it gets recycled.

I’m a fan of displaying kids’ artwork as unique and frugal home decor. I like framing it, displaying it on the fridge, and pinning artwork from a clothesline on the wall. I know other people take digital photos of artwork, too.

Tax info

I am not a CPA, so please, double-check with a professional who can talk with you if you have specific questions. But according to the IRS website, simple annual tax returns should be kept for a minimum of three years or a comfortable seven years.  If you’re not sure, then plan on keeping them for life. They’re usually a few short pages, and since it holds all your necessary financial information for that year, more than likely you won’t need to keep “extras,” like W2s or 1099s.

Instruction manuals and warranties

I like to scan these things. Quickly scan them, store them as PDF files on a simple CD or hard drive, and then toss the paper.

Even better, you can easily find instruction manuals online for many common electronics and appliances, rendering their storage at home rather pointless.

My plan

We have this lovely dresser in the dining room that serves as our craft station. I refurbished it last year, so it looks great on the outside. The inside, however, is horrendous.

I’m going to show those crayon stubs and dried markers no mercy, and I’m going to make it a lot easier for the kids to find the glue, pipe cleaners, and stencils.

I’m also going to clear one particular countertop in the kitchen that seems to attract paper like white on rice.

And then I’ll clear out our one closet, organize the ski stuff (man, that puffy winter gear takes up a lot of room), and make it a little less scary to open.

Your turn

One participant in this week’s Project Simplify will win a NeatDesk. Seriously! I’ve wanted one forever (we have their smaller NeatReceipts), and it’s already helped us streamline our receipts, notes, and contracts. Helpful, as we’re in the home buying process. I’ll show you how we use it on Friday.

This baby will seriously help you handle the paper clutter in your home. And I’m thrilled that one of you will win it!

Update: See my before and after photos from this week’s hotspot here.

What spots are you targeting this week?