Those Pesky Papers

I’m trying to cut down on the amount of paper I’m hoarding, but for the important documents I have to have around I use an accordion folder to organize them. My dad has always used one to keep his financial information all in one place for tax time, so I got the idea from him.

However, my folder was getting bloated and as a result the rubber band holding it closed stretched out and it was barely holding together. I took this as a cue to clean it out.

The first few sections are about school: general information, financial aid, and residence life. As this is my last year in university housing, I got rid of all of the handbooks and brochures, saving only my housing contract and roommate agreement; this eliminated the need for an extra folder for these documents. I tossed all of the brochures and campus maps I got at visits and orientation, saving only my acceptance letter. I kept all financial aid documents except for the instructional literature, which I can access on the school’s website if I need them.

Next is general financial information. I had five sections: general account information, income, receipts, credit, and insurance. The first four ended up being merged. Over my winter break I took out all income information from 2012 and left it home with my dad for tax purposes. I threw out most of the receipts except for items like my printer, which have a warranty, and placed those in an envelope to keep them together without the need for a separate section. I only have two credit accounts, so those ended up being paper clipped together. I kept the separate section for insurance since I have quite a few documents in it.

Next was my health information, in a folder labeled “Rx”. I had kept every educational document about each of my prescriptions even if I already had the same information. I threw out all but the most recent documentation, and got rid of the information on prescriptions I no longer take. This saved a significant amount of space.

After “Rx” is a section with product manuals, which didn’t require any work as all I have in there is two manuals for my printer and my graphics tablet.

Next I have volunteer information on various organizations in my city. I tossed all the flyers for organizations I don’t plan on volunteering for, and threw out any extra brochures that just replicated information that I could find on the internet. Since I had been hoarding a lot of brochures from volunteer fairs, this saved a ton of space.

In the front slot, before the first section, I place all the miscellaneous items that can’t be placed in a section; for example, it includes my voter registration card and a couple of extra envelopes if I need them for small papers in the future.

For the future I’m looking into more paperless solutions, such as scanning documents and storing them digitally.


Cleaning Out My Inbox: The Process

I mentioned previously that I trashed over 20,000 emails I had been hoarding in my inbox. I should clarify that this is only one of my email accounts; my primary Gmail. I use Sparrow to read my email on my Mac but to start purging, I quit Sparrow and went straight to Gmail on the web to utilize its smart search features.

In order to find emails I didn’t need, I used various search keywords:

  • “in:inbox” to search inbox only; this skips the archive, spam and trash
  • “newsletter”, “unsubscribe” for those newsletters I was hoarding
  • “confirm email”, “activate account” for emails with confirmation links
  • “forum”, “happy birthday” for forum notifications and birthday greetings
  • “disk usage”, “from:cpanel” for automated cPanel/WHM emails
  • “new comment”, “please moderate” for automated WordPress emails
  • “from:noreply”, “from:no-reply” to find numerous automated emails

When I started this process I browsed through my mail and made a list of email addresses that these newsletters came from, and when the list got long I searched through and deleted them. This ensured I got every single one; however, the downside to this is that a few subscriptions I had switched the email they were sending from multiple times and I had to find every email that they used. I should have started the keyword search first as it would have eliminated the problem.

After I exhausted every keyword I could think of, I was down to only a few thousand emails. This was small enough to go back to the beginning and manually delete or archive emails as necessary. I’m not done cleaning; I hope to archive or delete everything that isn’t a personal conversation with a human being, leaving my inbox nice and clean.

Once I am satisfied with my email accounts, I plan to move on to the clutter stored on my computer. My first targets will be iPhoto and my local web server. I have too many duplicate photos and old websites that are unnecessary to keep.

It’s A Start

For the past two days I’ve been cleaning out email newsletters and unsubscribing to those I don’t actually read. Somehow I had accumulated around 25,000 emails since 2007. My trash currently contains over 20,000 with less than 1000 left in my inbox, and 6000 archived. I’m only going to save important account information like passwords, invoices, and receipts, and personal conversations. As for email newsletters, I don’t really see the point in them now. I can keep up to date with social media.

I’ve also gone through a ton of web apps that I don’t use and deleted my accounts where I could. The following services no longer have my information: 500px,,, DandyID, Geeklist,, Heroku,, Miso,, Raptr,, Shelfari, Svpply, Wishlistr, Wunderkit, Wunderlist, and Zerply.

I think this is a great start to my project.