Ahh, spring…warmer weather, longer nights, and…spring cleaning. Yep, Green Monsters: it’s time to get all cleared out and refreshed for the most peppy season of the year. First up, in many of our guides for green spring cleaning: what to do with all that old paper!

While many companies have taken great strides to reduce the amount of paperwork they send out to consumers, we probably all still receive some paper in the mail now and then. Add in the paper we use at home, old school papers, notebooks, reports, magazines, newspapers, notes from past meetings, tax documents, receipts of all kinds – and you may have yourself one heap of a paper pile (or, even worse, many piles somewhere in your house) that you’re not doing much with expect look at. According to Scientific American, “in the U.S., each person uses an average of 663 pounds of paper products each year. About 60 percent of paper gets recycled (the rest ends up in landfills or other trash-disposal areas).” In other words, we use a lot of paper – and we’re still throwing away way too much of it!

For the stuff that just sits in our houses, though: this sort of paper clutter can create a feeling of chaos for many of us. Even in an otherwise-organized home, holding on to papers you’re not using is a waste of space and can really stress you out! Don’t fret, though, Green Monsters, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a guide for all of you wanting to reduce your paper load, clear the clutter, and perhaps even repurpose a lot of it into really great stuff you’ll actually use!

Your first step to reducing your paper load? Make sure every company you receive bills or information from switches you to electronic billing/information if it’s available. This will immediately reduce the amount of paper you get in the mail.

Next, go through your paper piles and find the must-keeps, i.e. documentation you need to keep on hand for future use. For this paperwork, I’d recommend scanning it into electronic files if at all possible and using the hard copy for some re-purposing fun.

With all the remaining paper, consider any of the following ideas:

  • If paper is only written on or printed on one side, consider sticking the un-used side up right back into your own printer for instant re-purposed printing paper power (say that three times fast)!
  • Re-use paper, some tape, and some strategic folding to create light containers/covers of all sorts: think cd holders, origami boxes, tiny jewelry boxes, and schoolbook covers.
  • Glue together many sheets of paper until you have a thick piece and cut to create DIY drawer dividers.
  • All you fresh produce lovers out there: make a beautiful fruit bowl with old magazines. Or just use it for a key bowl, a junk bowl, or just decoration! It’s beautiful no matter what you use it for. If you’ve got a ton of magazines, make some of these for friends (and send me one while you’re at it – thanks!).
  • Shred your own paper at home and use it as part of Easter basket “grass” or to make a decorative ribbon atop wrapped gifts. Or, don’t shred the paper and use it to wrap gifts. This works especially well for old newspapers!
  • If you have pets, consider using shredded paper to your cat’s littler box to reduce the amount of litter you need to use. Or, make dog or cat beds by adding big mounds of shredded paper to old pillowcases and sewing the open end shut. For you pet lovers out there, also call up your local humane shelter to see if they may need your bags of shredded paper for similar reasons – they may be happy to take it off your hands.
  • Make a giant shredded paper bin near your home mailing station and use the shredded stuff to pad all your fragile mailed goods.
  • Have kids? Use old newspapers to cover your table for craft time.
  • Dinner party? Use old newspapers  to make a cool table covering.
  • Using cut-outs from newspapers, make a word collage for use on a frame for a great personalized gift.

These are just a start to the many ways you can re-purpose and give new life to all that paper currently lounging in your home. If all else fails, and you just need an immediate paper cleanse without the re-purposing, please don’t just throw away your stuff; recycle your old paperwork properly. If you need to shred, many shredding companies now offer mobile services where they will come to you, shred your stuff, and then recycle the remnants.

What are some of your favorite ways to give new life to old paper? Let us know in the comments!

Image source: Niklas Bildhauer / Wikimedia Commons