Do you at times find large piles of mail begin to accumulate on your kitchen table? Or on top of your desk, or even the stairs? Email seems to be the way that the world is going and yet it feels like we are getting even more junk mail than ever. Unfortunately paper junk mail doesn’t disappear quite as easily as email. You can’t just click a button and make it go away. (Though there is hope for that in the future.) Luckily, there are ways to make the process a lot easier, it just takes a little bit of extra time to set it up.
• First always have just one person in the household processing the mail. When you have more than one person this is when it gets difficult to keep track of who did what. Now on to the actual set up.
• Wherever the mail usually falls, find a way to put a container there to catch all the mail and keep it together. Make sure this container is pretty small. This way you will be forced to go through your mail more often, instead of just letting it all pile up. I would suggest making the place where you process your mail be close to this drop area. It will make it that much easier to get the next step done.
• Put a trash can, recycling bin, and or a shredder near the area were you most naturally process your mail. This way you can quickly get rid of all the junk mail you don’t need. Here comes the really fun part…now you have to sort what’s left. Your pile should look much smaller and more manageable.
• Now separate what’s left into categories of mail you get most often. I have found that for most people this is usually divided in to four areas: Bills, Action, Read, and File.
So your bills will go in the Bill category. Anything that is not a bill, but requires you to take a further action will fall into your Action category. This can be things like needing to cancel a certain service, or wanting to call a certain number. Then for the Read category, it will be whatever you know you will want to read through. This will include your catalogs and magazines. I would also suggest if you know that you are not going to ever read that magazine it may be time to end that subscription. Then address anything that needs to be filed away. This would be something like your bank statements, if you still get them in paper form or an important document.
• A simple way to remember this system is the anagram BARFT (Bills, Action, Read, File, Trash.) I know it really isn’t an appealing name… but at least it’s not hard to forget. The best way to set you up for success with this system is to keep up with it. Set a weekly date on your calendar where you can give yourself 10 to 20 minutes to go through it all. You will be surprised at how fast you will adjust to it. Now that you have an amazing “in” system, it’s time to pair it with an equally amazing “out” system.
• All your “out” system needs is everything that your mail needs to get out of your world. This would include things like envelopes and stamps. If you send a lot of checks out you might also want to have your checkbook in this area as well. Your mail setup should now be something that you can show off to your friends.
Just keep in mind, no system is perfect without the right habits and routines put in place.
Image: cohdra/ www.morguefile.com