Warranties, credit card offers, magazines, kids' spelling tests. They cover our dining room tables, countertops and home office desks -- not to mention the kitchen junk drawers.
Sometimes you can feel as if you are drowning in the stuff.
"Paper is the biggest problem everybody has," said home organization expert Deniece Schofield. "Everybody in the house generates it. And it never stops coming. It's something you have to be vigilant with."
It doesn't have to be that way, Schofield said.
"We're afraid to throw anything out. We're afraid as soon as we get rid of it, a man in a black suit is going to come through the front door demanding to see it," she said. "And 80 percent of the stuff we file, we'll never look at again."
The key is to get started.
Schofield said the first line of defense against paper taking over your home, besides a trash can or recycling bin, is a planning tool.
It can be a PDA, a binder, a spreadsheet -- whatever works for you
"When it's used correctly, it holds a lot of the information that comes to you so you can eliminate paper," she said.
For example, when you receive a wedding invitation, make a note of the date, time and place on your planner. Add a note a little earlier to pick up a gift. Then throw the invitation away.
When people have piles of paper, they tend to stack them, move them and stack them again. What they don't do is deal with them, Schofield said.
She suggests a family organizer in the form of a loose-leaf notebook divided into sections. Buy a three-ring hole puncher and a few tab dividers and get organized.
It can hold all the paper anybody in the family needs, from sports practice schedules to community calendars to menus for your favorite takeout restaurants.
"It helps the bulletin board and refrigerator from getting covered," she said. "I couldn't have raised my kids without that binder."
Give yourself a limit on the number of magazines, catalogues and newspapers you can keep in the house.
In her home, there is a large wooden box in the family room for periodicals. Once it's filled, it's time to clean it out.
If you want to hang on to a magazine, staple an index card to the upper corner with a note to remind yourself why you wanted to save it.
"Kids bring home their weight in paper every day," she said.
Display some of it for a little while. "That gives kids the pride of knowing, 'My parents think this is cool,' " she said.
Then you need to make decisions.
Some people save everything during the school year, and at the end pick out 15 or 20 things to save.
It's also important that parents are involved so they can save historical or meaningful pieces. Those might include handwriting on the first and last day of the school year, the first picture colored inside the lines, the first 100 on a spelling test or examples of creative writing.
They can go in boxes, scrapbooks, photo albums or art portfolios. Or you can take a picture of the artwork and save it on disc (especially helpful when it's a diorama or a piece of macaroni art).
"It's physically impossible to save everything," she said. "I'm old enough to know now that the kids don't care as much about it as you think they're going to."
When her children were growing up, Schofield had an "in" and "out" bin for each child. Papers would come right from the backpack into the "in" box. Once they were dealt with (signed, looked at, etc.), they went to the "out" bin.
First hint: Keep a shredder and trash can close by.
After that, she recommends containers including:
A financial "in" box, for any mail that has to do with money or payments.
A personal "in" box for each person in the household who receives mail. These are for any papers you have to take action on, forms to fill out, tickets to an upcoming concert, cards to send to friends, etc.
A reference file box, to hold stuff you've pulled off the Internet, magazine stories, craft patterns, stories you've ripped out of the newspaper, etc.
Buy a Binder
If making your own family binder sounds like too much work, this might be a good solution.
The Family Life Organizer by a company called Family Facts is a fully equipped binder with tabbed sections and ready-made forms for school, health, home and auto information.
Cost: $25, available at www.family-facts.com.