How to Organize the Mail

Not too long ago, there were rumors and hopes of a totally paperless society.  Well, we aren’t quite there yet (and I’m not completely convinced we will ever be).  And while there are so many “solutions” and “systems” for organizing the mail, the issue maintains its place as the number one challenge of households today.  But before I share my own simple steps for organizing the mail, I’d like to debunk some of the myths:

  • “If you ignore it, it will go away.”MYTH – Sure, we all have those moments when we hope it will all just mysteriously disappear leaving us with an uncluttered and bill-free life, but it won’t happen by magic.
  • “It is possible to only handle each piece only once.” – FACT – But honestly, this an unrealistic goal for most of us; a more attainable goal is to handle each piece as little as possible.
  • “If it doesn’t stay on the counter or on top of my desk, I’ll forget about it.” – MYTH – For most, but not for everyone; some of us are visual processors and need the paper and envelopes out in plain sight to cue them into a response.
  • “There is one solution that works in every situation.” – MYTH – The way you process information and your personality should drive your organizing system.

Okay, now that we have pointed out some of the problems.  Here are some simple steps that will get you on your way to controlling your mail:

  1. Consider using electronic bill pay and banking services.  These eliminate a lot of the extra paper that piles up.
  2. Set a routine for handling the mail. Ideally, this would be the same time each day.
  3. Create a mail processing area:
    • Shredding and/or recycling bin
    • Basket or binder for sorting the bills
  4. Sort through the mail at once:
    • Toss all junk mail first.
    • Open bills, statements and communication, tossing all outside envelopes and extra pages as you go.
    • Drop each piece into a file or basket: bills due, action required, to read,  and to file.

Remember, when developing a new habit or organizing routine, give yourself some time to see if it works.  It might take a few weeks for the new system to stick.  You can also check out these great articles for advice:

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