Thursday, November 29, 2007

How to deal with mail clutter

One of the things people most often ask me is how to deal with all the mail.

I know it's hectic; we go through the same thing. I noticed when we visited Australia that many people have signs on their letter boxes saying "no junk mail". Aussie readers - do those signs work? I'd love it if that would work in South Africa but somehow, I just don't think so :)

I do have some good news - you can take control of your mail with just a few quick and easy steps.

1. If you have a choice between getting an account in the mail or via email, choose email.

2. When you bring in the mail from your letterbox, walk directly to a wastepaper basket and open your mail over it.

this is my wicker wastepaper basket next to my entrance hall table

When I walk into our house every day, I throw away all the pamphlets, brochures, flyers, newspapers, credit card offers, etc. I then remove the actual letter and throw away the envelopes too.

A whole stack of paper reduced to just three pages - lovely :)

3. Decide on NEXT ACTIONS there and then.

I circle the payment date on any accounts and quickly sort in date order so that I can diarise these in my planner.

4. Then file.

I only (!) file once a week or every two weeks if there's not much and it literally takes me 5 minutes.

I go into a lot more detail about paper and paper clutter in my new book, 7 easy steps to organise your office, which you can get for just R150 (divide by 7 for US$).

Do you have any cool ideas on dealing with mail clutter?


bohgirl said...

So many great tips! I'm absolutely neurotic about mail, especially with the holidays and actually receiving fun stuff for a change! I have to get rid of all the junk first so I'm just looking at a small pile of things that need attention.

Now I just need to get that filing thing down ;)

Marcia said...

Ooh, I'm so glad you also like throwing all the junk out! You got it, Bohgirl - eliminate the overwhelm :)

ClutterControlFreak said...

I go one step further, Marcia, by not even bringing it into the house unsorted. After work, I go from my car to the mailbox to the big blue recycle bin on the side of my house. I open and sort the mail right there and only bring in those few lovely pages.

~Eva :)

Marcia said...

Oh, Eva, now you're warming my heart. This makes me so happy :)

Kay said...

We live in Australia and yes the 'No Junk Mail' signs do work ... most of the time.

The people paid to go around and dump a handful of junk mail from grocery, hardware etc stores follow them. However, people dropping the single 'I can iron your clothes' often don't listen and it does not apply to 'junk mail' that comes in the mail addressed specifically to you.

Once we put up the sign on our mail box, the junk mail decreased to less then our regular mail.


Multi-tasking Mommy said...

I'd say the best advice I've heard when it comes to paper clutter, or any clutter for that matter, is to only touch it once! It sounds much easier than it really is, but it works!

Mira said...

This seems like such an oversimplification to me, which is probably why I am always surrounded by stacks of mail.

First of all, I may be paranoid, but I am concerned about identity theft. Therefore, I don't recycle any paper that has my name on it or any other contact info without shredding it first. This is time consuming. I either have to shred it all (which eliminates finding my contact info, but takes some time and has to be done at the shredder) or I have to sort through it and find just the pages with my contact info and shred them.

Then there is the "what to do with it" issue. Some things I need to file, some need action taken, some I need to find time to read (which is not going to happen when I walk in with the mail), etc.

To make matters worse, I have found that when I DO file it, I can't find it again, unless it is something obvious.

Excuses, excuses, I know. I really do want to eliminate this problem in my life, and I wish I could find an approach that would work for me other than hiring a personal assistant.

Anonymous said...

Ok, this is for Mira's comment about identity theft. No excuse! Just open it at the shredder. It doesn't take THAT long, girl; not if you do it right then! And as for what to do with it, well, what mostly comes in the mail that is IMPORTANT are the bills. So shred the junk if you want, but at the same time, sort it, too: one pile of bills, and the other pile of "other". Put those bills into a basket or box (so they don't slide off a table or shelf) so you can pay them when you need to. It will be easier when they are not mixed in with the "other". And be honest, most of the "other" is also trash, even if it is interesting trash. Don't file anything but PAID bills if you need them to back up tax deductions. You can file insurance policies, check stubs from work, and that sort of important information, but the rest, well, if you put it all in a box (LARGE) so you can go thru it when you have a minute, you can look thru it, or might find if you put it away for a year that it'll all be obsolete/out of date (like all those coupons/offers which just tempt you to spend what you shouldn't) and much easier to throw out. I speak from experience, I was scared to throw personal info out, so I shred everything with my name. And it's best to get those bills out immediately and in a safe place, so that the next bill isn't a FINAL NOTICE type!