At times, I've had different ways of dealing with them, like having a basket to put paper in. But, that would just end up to be another stack of papers, just located in a basket. That's a step above the counter but it's still not a great solution.
I bought this little paper organizer about six months ago and it has really cleaned up my stacks of papers. You might remember this from Clutter Control: Kid's Schoolwork and Art. Another good option is an accordion style organizer. You can tailor the dividers for whatever fits your needs. I have the dividers labeled:
Haley Schoolwork and Art
Important School Papers
Bills to Pay
Weekly Menu Plans
This needs to be in a location where you go through mail and backpacks. I have it in my laundry room, which would be my command center. It is located right off my kitchen, so I go through Haley's folder and the mail each day on my counter. Then I immediately put the papers into their home, which is also the recycle bin a lot of times.
If you do this on a daily basis, then you won't have the stacks of papers that build up and can become a daunting task.
I go through the organizer as needed, but at least once a month. I actually don't pay the bills. So, I put those in this orange basket located on Matt's dresser along with any mail that is for him. This way Matt has any mail specific to him in a place where he can easily access it.
We also have a file cabinet and I will take another post to go over that with you. I hope this simple solution helps clear off your counters or desk!