All mail in your home, whether incoming or outgoing, needs to have a dedicated space. It shouldn’t live on your kitchen counter or strewn across your dining room. Ideally it will be located in a basket, bowl, box, or bag near your front door or wherever you usually process the mail- maybe the home office or kitchen. The important thing is to contain it in a basket, bowl, box or bag. It doesn’t have to be an expensive container – you can pick up your “mail” basket at the dollar store. Whichever location you decide to devote to mail processing, make sure you have a trashcan nearby so you can discard the items that are junk. Whenever you come home holding a pile of mail, you need to place all the mail in your hand in the dedicated holder for mail.
When you are ready to sort through the mail, you need to organize the mail into the following compartmentalized groups: magazines, junk mail, bills, and other. Here are some general rules for keeping your mail under control and sorting them intelligently:
- Magazines/catalogs/periodicals: If you are not actively shopping for something in particular, discard the catalogs. If you are looking for a specific item, search for the item you want, circle it in the catalog, and always discard the older catalogs in your collection. After all, you never need more than one issue of a vendor’s catalog – the most recent issue is more than enough. If you no longer want to receive a magazine or catalog, call the number on the back right away, provide your name & address, and request to be unsubscribed immediately. As far as magazines, think about where you like to read them. You might read your magazines in bed, in the bathroom, on the deck, or anywhere else. Bring all your magazines there and put them in their new home. Again, a dedicated basket or magazine holder is best. It’s always a good idea to avoid stacking papers, magazines, etc. on a flat surface. It’s much better, from a logistical organization standpoint, to get a magazine basket/holder to keep all your magazines there. Keep at most 3 issues of a magazine. You will most likely never have enough time to catch up on more than three issues.
- Junk mail: This includes credit card offers and any other unsolicited mail that contains all your personal information. Shred these once you receive them. Do not store them, do not open them – just shred them. Be sure to keep your shredder near your mail center. If you already have a shredder in your home office, then it is a logical idea to keep your mail in that space as well.
- Bills: This pile contains utility, mortgage, credit card and other bills. Always discard the envelope that the bill comes in – you will never need that again. If you pay bills electronically, you can also discard the included return envelopes as well. Now, put all the bills in a pile and bring them to your computer or home office and place them in a dedicated spot as you’re waiting to pay them.
- Other/Miscellaneous: This includes invitations, greeting cards, and requests for charity donations. Take all greeting cards and put them in a dedicated folder where you store greeting cards (if you like to hold onto them). Even better, to save space and avoid the temptation to hold onto everything, throw it away. Invitations need to be put in a high-visibility location, like a bulletin board in the office or on the side of the refrigerator, until you know whether you can attend. Once you know your availability on the day of the event, immediately RSVP so you can then discard the invitation. Any other mail should either be brought to the home office, along with the bills. At this point, the mail will be further processed and/or filed, stored on the refrigerator until completed, or completely discarded.
Mail processing can seem like a tedious and time-consuming chore. It can definitely take some practice to become a quick and efficient mail sorter. However, it is an important part of managing an organized home, because after all, with the deluge of mail coming into our homes on a daily basis, anything less than a well-oiled mail processing machine will result in mail overload.
Keep in mind that it is important to start sorting your mail when you are ready to commit to it. You do not want to start working on it and then have to stop and do something else. Maybe set aside 20 minutes twice a week to process mail. You may pick up your mail each day from the mailbox, store it in your mail holder at home, and then sort/process it every 3 or 4 days.
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