The mail and the ensuing mail organization. It is a task I absolutely despised at one time. (Not gonna lie, I still don’t enjoy it.)
I would go to work all day, processing medical claims and mail for other people, and then I would come home to continue processing it for my family. I always felt behind, and I avoided it like the plague.
I’m embarrassed to say it, but I would even be late on bills because I hated to sit down and process them. I would just add them all to the same pile and promise I would get to it “soon”.
The digital age helped cut down on some of the mailings, but I still had a problem. After missing yet another due date and missing another event, I finally decided it was time to get my mail organization under control.
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Can we say Pinterest fail?
If you search the web for mail organization solutions, lots of cutesy DIY Pinterest ideas pop up. I mean, these ideas are awesome. However, there is one problem, I would have to either go buy the expensive organization materials or I would have to build something amazing.
I was not very excited to do either, as I didn’t have time to process my current mail. I certainly didn’t want to make the time to build something from Pinterest to try and solve my mail organization problem.
So, I decided to get back to one of my core three principles for achieving a simpler life. I had to stop the inflow.
After stopping the inflow, I still needed a mail organization system to manage the actual mail that made the cut to come into our mailbox. That was the part I dreaded. For those of you who know me, organizing is not my thing. Getting rid of stuff is my thing.
Now, I get organizing your paper clutter is the new thing. They say to get a shredder and a scanner. Scan in your documents and store them on a cloud or external hard drive. There is just one problem, I have a problem even getting my current paper clutter filed.
I am definitely NOT going to take the time to scan and digitally file papers. Maybe one day, but I’m being realistic with myself right now. I mean, I use my computer every day, but I for some reason, I cannot embrace the digital world for all my paper filing.
Stop the inflow of mail clutter
My absolute favorite way to control mail clutter and other paper clutter is to stop the inflow. If you don’t have paper and mail entering your home, you don’t have to figure out how mail organization.
Take these three steps to stop the inflow of mail clutter (save your sanity and the environment!):
1 – Stop junk mail
Stop junk mail by going to dmachoice.org. They now charge a small fee of $2. Let me tell you, IT IS WORTH IT!!!
I know, it is crazy to pay people to stop sending you stuff you don’t want. I wasn’t a true believer initially. It takes 90 days for many of the mailings to be processed, so the inflow slows down gradually.
Start now. You won’t regret it. The feeling of calm you get when you check your mailbox, and there are only one or two items there, that you expected, it totally worth it!
2 – End credit card solicitations
Start paying attention to how many credit card solicitations you receive every day. It is insane!
If I am shopping for a credit card, I do research on my own. I don’t get a mailer and think, “Hey, I should sign up for this!”
Go to OptOutPrescreen.com. You will probably have to enter your social security number, but that’s because they are talking to all the big credit companies. It works. My husband did not do it…yet. We only get credit card solicitations for him.
3 – Opt-out of other mailers as you receive them
If you get a piece of junk mail or a promotional mailer and don’t want
It is an absolute pain to do. I would do one per week because it took time, but it works! Seriously, we barely get any mail now.
If you have the option, go paperless, especially with your utility companies.
Most of us don’t read the bills in great detail anyway. Now, when I get an email from the utility company, I quickly look at our usage and hit delete. They store all that info, so if I really do need it at a later time, I can go back and look at it.
Go paperless with your bank too. Statements are usually stored online for free through the bank, so you don’t have to save those fat envelopes every month.
Set up a recycling solution
I process all our mail in the kitchen. We have a recycle bin under the kitchen sink, out of sight. Immediately upon walking into the house, any junk mail should go into your recycle bin.
- If it is the grocery store flyer, I store one week’s worth in a hidden drawer. One in and one out to recycling.
- Coupons I keep go into a folder, which is hidden in a drawer. Again, I practice the one in and one out rule. Usually, I end up saving the same coupons from the same stores. So, I exchange the new ones for the old, expired ones.
- Go ahead and store away any magazines where magazines are stored. If you don’t have a storage solution for magazines, create one! Everything should have a place. When storing the magazines, pull out any old magazines and recycle them.
Create a mail processing solution
This is the part where are those cutesy Pinterest projects often come in for mail organization, but I am so not motivated to execute. I am simple, and I like it that way!
The five-minute rule
If you can handle the mail in under five-minutes, go ahead and attack it!
By dividing and conquering your efforts every day, you won’t have to spend all Saturday morning trying to get through all your mail. Now, I’m being realistic. I don’t always have five minutes, or I’m just not in the mood. Moving on to the next step.
File your to-do mail
For me, I bought one of those cheap, paper two-pocket folders. Any mail that has survived the inflow restrictions or the recycle bin gets processed. If it doesn’t get processed immediately, it goes into my cheap paper folder. If you want to get fancy, buy a cute two pocket folder that makes you excited to do the mail!
Once a week, when I feel like it, because my schedule never seems to be the same, I sit down with my computer and my wallet. I then knock out any bills, school paper forms, etc. If it is a school form, it goes in a bookbag when I am done. If a paid bill, it gets recycled.
I guess I have trust in a company’s ability to save my bills and payments. Maybe that is naïve, but I got sick of keeping up with all their paperwork for them. If something is contested, I go back and look at my bank account or ask them to provide a statement. I don’t recall ever having any issues with this system.
I store this file folder in an extra silverware drawer in our kitchen since I like to process our mail at the kitchen table. I like it being out of sight, so the kitchen countertops are clear!
How to file your remaining paper clutter
For any papers that survived the past few steps and still need to be kept, I file them away. You have a host of options, but here are my best solutions:
1 – Use a filing cabinet
Filing cabinets are not always sexy and pretty. However, they are super useful. You don’t need a huge one, just one or two drawers. If you want, give your filing cabinet a make-over! You can also buy super cute hanging file dividers and tabs to make filing your paperwork a little less painful.
Things I usually save are:
- Manuals for big items with the receipt stapled to it.
- Insurance policies and extra card copies (These are all digital now, but I used to work in insurance, and I am the weirdo that actually reads through a policy.)
- Tax documents
That’s really all about it. See, no scanning needed. There really isn’t that much left.
2 – Use a filing folder
When we were living in a smaller apartment, we used an expandable filing folder system for any mail organization. Really, now that our mail inflow is so low, we could probably go back to this. We pretty much only use our filing cabinet for my husband’s work paperwork now.
These expandable filing folders are great! You can take them with you easily, and they can make filing easier because you can bring them to the kitchen table while you are processing mail. They are fairly small when compared to a filing cabinet, so they also force you to do clean-outs on expired or no longer relevant paper clutter ever so often.
Super simple mail organization
There you have it. No fancy systems here for managing your mail clutter and mail organization and no buying cute little organizing baskets to store the piles of mail clutter. I like to stop paper clutter from ever entering my home, and then I like to manage the mail clutter simply with a pretty folder and a simple filing system.
If you want a fancier system, I was looking for family command center inspiration. Here are my ten favorite family command centers. There are some cute ideas there when you have a lot going on.