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The UK is carrying around 130 blue whales in paperweight, is it time to let go?

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The UK is carrying around 130 blue whales in paperweight, is it time to let go?

Are you a piler or a filer? New research carried out by Censuswide reveals that, collectively, the UK is suffocating under a whopping thirteen thousand tonnes* of excess paperweight, which is equivalent to 130 blue whales!

Our research discovered that a significant percentage of the population holds onto paper documents for those ‘just in case’ moments. The average Brit holds onto a paper document for a whole two and a half years after it comes through the post. And as the piles accumulate, it becomes harder to know whether to toss your paperwork, shred it, or file it away forever.

This concept of ‘paperweight’ is something Lorraine, mother of one from Barnsley can resonate with, as she agrees, “There is a literal paper weight associated with my filing. I feel burdened by the paperwork, it’s always there but I can never get on top of it.”

We might find ourselves in a future world where even passports and driving licenses are digitised; just a bunch of 1s and 0s we can use to travel the world! For now, we do need some documents ‘in the flesh’, and not being able to access them can end in tears. It is perhaps this fear of ‘what if I need it’ that means we end up holding on to far more than we actually need; utility bills, reminders from the GP, shopping receipts – the list goes on.

Could this mounting pile of papers somewhere in a corner of our home actually be doing us some harm, unbeknown to us? Is hoarding inherently problematic?

On the psychological weight of unfiled paperwork

There is something fascinating about the human tendency to hoard. While the majority of us aren’t about to be featured on ‘Hoarders’ any time soon, we’re all guilty of at some point in our lives holding on to things – old schoolbooks or clothes we no longer wear. Chartered Psychologist, Honey Lancaster-James, explains why we like to keep things instead of cutting ties.

"Embracing new ways of staying organised can be challenging at first, but it usually results in so many benefits that people wonder how they ever managed before."

“It is actually quite common for people to hold on to paper unnecessarily, I’ve done this a lot myself. Sometimes, it’s because something holds sentimental value, like a handwritten note for example. But all too often, it simply becomes a habit. People tend to habituate psychologically to doing things the way they’ve always done. Embracing new ways of staying organised can be challenging at first, but it usually results in so many benefits that people wonder how they ever managed before."

“Shedding the paper means embracing new filing and organisational tactics. But it also lifts a weight off your shoulders, often this is a very real feeling that people get when they rid themselves of hordes of paper-based clutter they’ve hung on to for too long.”

On the unexpected joys of shredding

Four in five people (82%) who we spoke to, say the simple act of decluttering has a positive impact on their mental health. In addition, 44% recounted feeling happier and 56% say they are more relaxed having organised their paperwork and completed some life admin.

There’s something so cathartic about chucking old papers into the recycling and feeling that weight lift! Why does throwing away things that we don’t need feel so good?

“There are surprising therapeutic benefits that come with the physical act of sorting, ordering, shredding, and filing, because these tasks can be quite mindful and rewarding. The absorbing nature of the task helps you to switch off from everything else that’s been going on, but also, finding that the build-up or ‘pre-filing anxiety’ is most likely completely unnecessary.

“It can bring a great sense of emotional and psychological relief to dump a huge pile of papers in the recycling bin, and knowing that you are free of it is empowering. In fact, often people report feeling as though they wish they’d done it far sooner, because the relief can be immense.”

For more about why shedding excess paperweight is good for your mental wellbeing, check out our here.

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