Let's face it, one of the most common organizing challenges (to those of us who reside at an address) is mail. Surprisingly, in this day and age, paper mail is still a DAILY occurrence. If you don’t have a handle on it, it can easily take over your home. Useless, unwanted mail, combined with potentially important mail, can pile up in your entryway, kitchen, office-space, bedrooms and eventually, spill all over the floor. Coming home to piles of mail in your space is enough to make you want to run back the other way!
The reason this happens is because learning how to manage mail is a daunting, organizing task. With mail, you can't just visually organize it. You've got to read and touch EVERY document in order to pay, correspond, file or discard. If you've let it get out of control it can be pain-stakingly, time-consuming and become a much avoided task and in-turn a growing problem.
BUT... here is the good news. You CAN and WILL learn to manage your mail with a few basic tweaks in your daily routine. So, let's get right to it and get you back in control NOW!
- Overall, the NUMBER ONE TIP towards mail management is; cut down on the amount of paper coming into your home. Sign up for Paperless Billing with whatever companies you can. Many businesses even offer incentives to do this. Most banking websites offer e-bills where you can pay all your bills with a click of a button through your online account. Set up via your online banking account or contact your bank for further assistance.
- Reduce the amount of mail you receive by stopping the influx of JUNK MAIL. It is relentless. I swear if I am ever lost, the Pottery Barn catalog will find me first. Take a few moments to contact the customer service number on the back of the catalog and call them to tell them you no longer want to receive their catalogs. Believe me, everything is online now so you don’t need a paper catalog to look through if you want something. Cutting down on the amount of junk mail you receive will cut the amount of time you spend managing your mail. Less mail = more time.
- SET ASIDE TIME FOR MAIL SORTING. Most people sort through mail while walking in the door after work and often stop in the middle to deal with a kid, answer the phone or turn their attention to what's for dinner. Resist the urge to manage mail until you have the time and attention to give to this task. Take 10 minutes a day to go through your mail. I like to do this OVER THE RECYCLING BIN. I immediately sort the mail into categories and discard what I don’t need in the recycling bin. The rest should be opened then and there and put into their proper places. Ideally you should have one spot where you pay your bills. I have a desktop filing system so as I pay my bills (online) I can then file that bill away in it’s proper file. Other items that I can’t take care of immediately, I put them in my TO DO file which I check every few days or so.
- Have the right tools to discard of, recycle, or respond to your mail. Nothing fancy, but have the following at hand:
- Shredder - Anything with identifying information beyond your name and address should be shred and not tossed. Plan to shred every few weeks. Keep "to shred" items in a folder and when it fills up, shred away.
- Recycling Bin - Most mail can be recycled immediately (think: coupons, fliers, announcements, catalogs...).
- Filing System & Calendar - Keep track of dates you need to pay bills or for the mail you need to take action on in the future. File in proper marked folders when completed.
If you have A LOT to shred and can’t bear the idea of doing it all yourself, many places like Fed Ex and Kinko's offer shredding services. They charge by the pound (usually between 70-90 cents) but if you have a large amount of mail with your name on it, this is a great option. Spending $30. on 2 large trash bags filled with papers to be shredded is definitely worth not having to sit over a shredder for 2 hours.
Remember, it is never too late to start new habits. Getting control of the mail is a sure way to help you feel more organized, pay your bills on time and help you control who you get mail from. Plus, 10 minutes a day is nothing when rewarded with the feeling of having a handle over what’s coming into your home! Get online and set yourself up for success today!