Tuesday, February 2, 2010

14 Make a Notation of this Mailing Station

To put a wrap on Home Office month, I thought I would do a quicky post on sorting mail.  Yippee skippy right?  But really, honestly, and shamelessly, how many of you out there, dread getting the mail, and have pileups of papers around the house?  And how many of you heart how those pileups, keep piling up, and spreading, and become more attractive as they grow? (sarcasm is key here!)

It's a fact Jack!  Or Jill.  Mail pileup is a very common household problem, and I have a quick and easy solution (yes, down to just 4 easy peasy steps) to keep it under control.

Step 1:
Acquire a letter opener.  It saves your fingers from paper cuts.  Which are painful, and make you not want to go after very many envelopes.  I found ours (shown below), at either Target or Walmart for a few pennies.  Completely worth it!

Open your mail, RIGHT AWAY!  Don't grab your mail out of the mail box when you are driving away, it will most likely end up under a seat and get forgotten!  Only bring in your mail when you have two seconds to give it a peak.  

Step 2:
Recycle!  Recycle all envelopes and inserts, along with any "junk" mail and catalogs.  Only keep any correspondence and bills that require filing, paying, etc...  I find that these plastic Sterilite baskets are the perfect size for recycling paper, and easy to tuck away in different rooms throughout the homestead.
(If you are getting overwhelmed with the junk mail you are receiving, here is a great website with a lot of ways to cut it down and go green!)

Step 3:
Most likely you don't keep your filing cabinet/tote/etc... right where you are sorting your mail.  If you are lucky enough to have your filing system completely handy and accessible, then skip this step.  However, if you are like most of us and sort your mail in the hub of your home, create an "In" box for all opened mail.  You can now be done for the day.  Really, that's all you HAVE to do when you bring in the mail.  If you open your mail by your filing system, you may choose to just file it away instantly.  If not, you can even create an "In" box to revisit later as well.  It's all personal preference.

I am totally digging these "In" baskets found at Pottery Barn.  Not only do I use them for our mail, but they are great for housing current kid schoolwork/projects/etc...

Step 4:
About once a week, when I have a little more time to devote, I go through our "In" box.  I place any invitations in my planner and mark down dates and times.  I write out any bills (that I can't pay online), and place them in our "Out" box.  We just use this cute little tin basket to hold our outgoing mail.

I then use my filing tote (which is super portable so I can do this task anywhere I please) to file away all remaining paperwork.  I only keep what is necessary to refer back to.  Everything else gets recycled.  

Totally do-able right?  How many of you can do it in less steps than that, and if so, spill your secret beans because I would love to know how!  I am always up for simplifying life so I have more time for the ones IHeart!


  1. I'm amazed at the filing tote idea - I have so many files! I have them all in an old milk crate for the time being, but they've expanded so much that I'm going for a small 2-drawer filing cabinet. How do you keep things so condensed?

  2. Hi McK_Sarah,

    I also have a filing box that I use for some archived and other extremely important docs like birth certificates and car titles etc.... the tote is basically for any billing correspondence, insurance statements, etc... The tote works perfectly since we have gone paperless in so many areas of our life, that we really have cut down on the amount of paper we need to file and keep. Each year I empty the filing tote and place it in a paper box in our storage room to keep for a couple more years, just in case, however, in all honesty I have NEVER gone down to dig out an old paper. I guess it's just peace of mind. The most important thing is to analyze all the papers you do have any why and see if there is any way to reduce.

    Hope that helps some!


  3. Jen, How do we know how much financial info is important to keep? Statements, bills paid, etc? My filing cabinet is full....and I'm wondering what I can get rid of!

  4. Hi Kayla!

    What you need to keep is different for everyone, based on your personal situation. If you are keeping things for tax reasons, I would grab a paper box for each tax year, and keep in there only the things you need to keep for that year/purpose.

    Otherwise, I really recommend going paperless in any area you can. Most companies now offer online billing/payments, which immensely cuts down the amounts of papers that need to be filed. It also makes going back and seeing your records much easier than sorting through stacks and piles of papers.

    It is also important to think about "Why?" you keep the papers are you. Do you go back and review things frequently? Is there a way to utilize technology to cut down on papers {track expenses on a spreadsheet, view bank statements online, etc...}

    What are you keeping in your filing cabinet that it is bursting at the seems? Do you think you will ever need to go back and pull a utility bill from 4 years ago? I would guess no. It's all about assessing your situation and making decisions you are comfortable with. I recommend at least recycling anything older than two years.

    Hope that helps a little!


  5. great thoughts and ideas thanks

  6. I have been waiting for info like this for a long long time! Thank you so much! I am excited now. You see, my first husband thought that if he had blank checks that he had money and would just write them out left and right. I would go to the mail and get scary mail! My husband now is more than thrifty so I shouldn't be scared of the mail but somehow still am. This will help me so much! Thank you!

  7. What do you do about magazines and catalogs? They seem to create the biggest piles at our house!

    1. I just checked into this site after I was searching for help! But I am part artist and collecting things like these treasures are easy hoards for me too! Lol! I promise if you don't want them any more they are fab for making art collogues for teens and young bored kids! take them to schools or art craft places in community even Goodwill or Teen Challenge or even maybe Valley Big Bro & Sis..There's A Start! Oh Happy Day! ..Smiles.

  8. @anonymous,

    I hoard them, lol! :) Really, I recycle old copies that I no longer look at or read and the rest are either in my office or living room to be used as inspiration. I am hoping to create a giant binder with all of my favorite pages, it's on the list for 2012!


  9. This was my question (and my biggest downfall), as well. I get magazines or catalogs (particularly Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, Organized Living or West Elm) and I don't know what to do with them. Today I browsed through Crate & Barrel as soon as I got the mail & pulled out a page. Now that "inspiration page" is sitting on my kitchen counter. Ugh! What to do?
    By the way, I made my cleaning checklist last night and was so inspired (I suppose that's what it was?) that I cleaned places in my house I haven't cleaned in a long time today. Washed cushions & wiped off kitchen cabinet fronts. Thanks!

    1. My DH and I plan to build in the future. We have a 3ring binder with sheet protectors and dividers for each room/function of the house. When we come across a page of info/inspiration we want to consider later, we put it in the binder in the appropriate section. We had piles of books and brochures before, now just a binder on the bookshelf.

      This can be done quickly and easily for other dream/inspiration books. I got the idea from www.flylady.net and it has really helped on our clutter. Hope this helps someone!

    2. I know this is older, but in case anyone else comes across it - I found that a lot of the things I wanted to keep from magazines and catalogs weren't a full page, so keeping the whole page either meant keeping a lot of extra paper, or trying to organize a lot of little pieces and never being able to see everything.

      My solution was to get a blank notebook (sketchbooks work well - a little weight to the paper seems to give better support to the thin catalog or magazine page pieces) and cut out only the bit I wanted and then stick it on a page of the notebook with a glue stick. Then stick other things around until you fill up the page. (I actually subdivide a bit - if I'm collecting stuff for a home office redo, I might put all the desk lamp images I find on one or two pages, for example.)

      The interesting thing about this method is that you really quickly start to see patterns in what you're picking out, which can help you pinpoint what you're looking for. I actually started doing this in another notebook with fashion, makeup, and hairstyle images, and it really helped when I was trying to decide if I wanted to go dramatically shorter - I found I'd clipped the same hairstyle from about three different sources once I actually compared them! So obviously that was really speaking to me. (I ended up loving the haircut, too. :) )

      I also ended up having a section in the notebooks at the back where I stick information about specific PRODUCTS I might see and want to try, and then I can refer to that when I'm making a shopping list or want to do some research into the items. When I've either tried everything or ruled everything out so I know I'm not going to try it, since it's apart from stuff I might want to keep for longer term inspiration, I can just rip out those pages and throw them away.

      If you find yourself keeping larger items like brochures or articles also, I'm sure you could combine the two ideas - just glue your things to pages to put into the binder.

      Usually I like to browse the catalogs a bit before cutting them up - to help keep them organized in the meantime, I use a couple big fat hanging file folders (the ones that open up an inch or so?) and have two seasonal folders, since stuff like catalogs don't usually come every month. (So I'd have a 'fall' folder and then waiting in the wings a 'winter' folder.) If the next season stuff starts coming in and I haven't gone through the current stuff yet to remove anything I like and discard the rest, then I know I have to bump that task up my to do list. :)

      (I will add that I usually collect a bunch of cut out items in a manila folder and then have gluing sessions, rather than trying to cut-n-glue as I go. By breaking the tasks up I can usually get through a pile of catalogs and magazines in short order and just have a much smaller envelope of clippings to store until I have a chance to sit down the with notebook and the glue stick. :) )

  10. We are NOT super organized in most areas in our office but I have two things I can share that have worked besides trying to do as much as possible online. First, we keep two years of personal papers organized by month. All bills or important correspondence is in a month together based on when it came into the house/month of bill date.

    We have 24 files total....

    12 files: "Last Year Jan," "Last Year Feb'" and so on and then

    12 files for "Current Jan" through "Current Dec."

    I file any important bills or records in the current month. When I switch over to the new month. I take "Last Year Jan" or whatever month and shred it. I move the papers from the Current file into it's Last Year category and start filing my new papers in the Current Year's Month file (Gosh that sounds confusing but it is SO easy!) I don't have to make new files and I am always ensured my documents are shredded and secure. This has worked well.

    If I do need to look back I can easily find it in it's month (say the a/c repair that I know happened in about May... I find May and there it is to refer to.) We used to keep WAY too much paper work. We do keep 7 years of our actual tax forms on file and files on each child as well.

    Second thing I can share-- We have a "Living Well Binder" that has our living breathing budget. We have money trackers for every category in our budget. When our paycheck or any other money comes in. We sit down together and allocate money to each category.. Basically we always PAY IT FORWARD." We put the money (on paper, not in real envelopes) in the category BEFORE we spend it. This concept came for the America's Cheapest Family - Gets You Right on the Money book. Their system and plan saved us! I highly recommend it.

  11. i think it's also good to try to eliminate the source of the mail in the first place...ie switch to electronic forms when possible, especially when it comes to bills. although opting out of all the junk mail is almost impossible, best to just ditch it immediately, then you are only left with a couple letters here and there that require any attention.


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