Messy offices are rarely productive offices. Knowing proven ways to eliminate or altogether avoid pile-ups is therefore essential. Here are some of the most effective strategies you can use to maintain an organized office.

Think Before you Print

Any paper clutter that you can avoid creating today is clutter you don’t have to clean up tomorrow. Evaluate your current printing habits and reduce them wherever possible. In this digital age, there are fewer reasons than ever before to keep using hard copies. As they say, there’s an app for that. Use online collaborative work tools like Google Drive or Basecamp to create documents, and take more advantage of good old-fashioned email for memos. When you do have to use paper, take the time to avoid do-overs. Also, make sure that you have set the document up correctly before sending it to the printer or making a copy.

Duplexing: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

If you must print out new multi-page documents, make sure that your printer is set to automatically print on both sides of the paper. This could immediately reduce future clutter by half. Once you are done with single-page printouts, put them back by the printer tray to use the other side for the next one-pager, or you can bundle them up to use as scratch paper for handwritten notes. When it’s all used up, then into the recycle bin it goes, along with every other non-essential document from the pile.

Destroy Sensitive Items

Do you have documents lying around that contain personal information? Addresses? Account numbers? Trade secrets? There’s more than one reason not to have that stuff in a jumbled pile. Make sure that it’s not needed for later, and get it to a paper shredder. If it will be needed later, does it have to be a physical copy?

Embrace the Digital Age

Nobody achieves their dreams without working towards them. If you’re dreaming of a paperless office, then make it paperless. Encourage scanning in place of faxing. Scan everything that you might need for later, upload it to the cloud, then get rid of the physical copy. It’s easier than ever before to scan documents, too, because it can be done with a smartphone’s camera.

Physical Organizers: a Last Resort

For those few remaining documents that are still essential to have on hand as hard copies, a little bit of desktop furniture goes a long way. Just remember that this only works after you have already gotten rid of everything else. Keep an inbox, an outbox, and just enough reference storage in between. Destroy the rest before it has a chance to become paper clutter again.