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The Paper Chase Challenge

Are you a file-r or a pile-r? Wait! Don’t answer that!

Peek up from this article evvverrrr so slowly. Without turning your head, take a look in front of you. What’s there? Newspapers? Greeting cards on the mantle from your child’s birthday last month? Now turn your head a bit to the right, then the left. What’dya see? A stack of bills? Some opened – most not, teetering in a heap of coupon books, last week’s newspaper, a letter about the field trip your child took last month, and some handwritten notes. Oh look! There’s a phone number on this one – nope, no name, just a phone number.

Come on – let’s take a walk into the kitchen. That’s got to be the largest collection of refrigerator magnets I’ve ever seen! Are they all of the national parks? And that’s quite an assortment of business cards – and this one IS a magnet – with a 2012 calendar!

The bulletin board in the hallway is a great idea – maybe just a tad too many of the extra large heavy duty thumb tacks, but they seem to hold all those school papers pretty well! You mentioned your child’s art projects. Let’s take a look. Oh, very nice.

This week, I’ll walk you through ridding your house (and life) of paper products, from stray greeting cards to art projects and beyond.  The paper chase challenge is on.

Greeting Cards

Why is it that a newspaper with 40 pages weighing half a pound sells for $1.50 and most greeting cards cost $5.50? Uh-uh! Not in my house. I have a hard time paying a lot for a card and then tossing it into the waste stream after the event. Of course, like most people, I keep a few for sentimental reasons but throwing away a beautifully-made card is – well – difficult.

Instead of mailing a card, get creative with emailing one if the recipient also has email. Include a birthday image or a photo and write something that you’d actually say rather than a verse from the card industry that doesn’t quite fit. Or recycle used cards by cutting out the image on the front and use it to make another card; or your child can use them on school poster projects. Though I doubt I would ever do it, another way to reduce greeting card clutter is to buy edible greetings cards.

School art projects are a good way to save on card purchases and reduce clutter. Fold them in half with the drawing facing out and write on the inside. Or, take a photo of the project, print and paste it as the cover of a handmade card. And this brings me to the topic of …

School Paperwork and Projects

Everyone’s an artist and we really treasure every creation. A good way to keep it organized is to have one bulletin board for a child’s artwork and friends’ phone numbers (yes, they will be on handwritten notes) and this rule: All projects or papers must be seen (no tacking multiple pieces of paper) and if the board is full, something must be eliminated to add another. At the end of the school year, those that remain will likely be the best, so take a photograph before discarding them.

If you can’t bring yourself to throw anything away, save it in bins (one for each child) and go through it at the end of the school year. It’ll be easier to discard items when the sentiment has worn.


Consider online versions instead of print. If you have a fireplace or wood stove, newspapers can be rolled and placed into paper towel tubes and used like kindling. Advertisements on waxy paper should be discarded (with your recycling) rather than burned. And better yet, consider a “newspaper fast” for a month to see if you will really miss it.

Next week: the paper chase challenge continues with bills, important papers, books, magazines, coupons, printed paper, and business cards, and more.