Organizing 101: How to Stop Mail from Piling Up
Do you find yourself collecting your mail from your mailbox and immediately piling it on the closest flat surface (table, kitchen counter) with the intention of going through the mail later?
It can be really easy for family members to mistake piles of unopened or half-opened mail as clutter or junk, increasing the odds that something important will either be ignored or tossed away before it was actioned.
Like other paper items we accumulate in our homes through our day to to day activities, the mail is something that is a persistent daily occurrence that can induce stress, anxiety and poor habits.
As a Professional Organizer, one of my main goals with clients is to simplify their lives. This is dependent on the individual needs of each client, and what aspects of their daily routine/habits (if they already exist) are causing them the most grief.
Believe it or not, even a simple task like collecting the mail has many different steps to it. It isn't until we think of these mundane tasks in a different way that we realize the number of decisions and time it takes to complete the task.
As a fun experiment, time yourself the next time you retrieve your mail to see how long it takes to complete the following steps from start to finish:
Retrieve the mail
Open each piece of mail received
Sort the mail into three piles;
Keep / Important
Keep / Action &
Junk / Recycle
File away the keep/important mail (likely with your other important documents)
Put the keep/action mail items in a designated spot (i.e. bills, renewals etc.)
Discard all junk/recycling items
Not every time you collect the mail will you need to complete all steps but getting into this routine, even for just a few pieces of mail, will increase productivity, track important items (i.e bills, renewals etc.), and feel accomplished, all of which equals less stress & anxiety.
Outlined below are some helpful tips & strategies so you can tackle the mail like a boss:
Retrieve and sort through the mail when you have time to complete all the steps.
So all the steps can be completed, schedule a time to retrieve, sort and file the mail weekly. This will encourage you to incorporate the workflow into your daily routine and form a habit that will last long-term.
If completing the full cycle from start to finish is too cumbersome, break the steps down into mini-tasks when the mail is retrieved.
For this approach, make sure you have a dedicated spot for the mail to stay temporarily (i.e. a basket by the front door) until you complete the rest of the steps in the cycle.
Immediately discard any junk mail so that it does not distract you from sorting the important pieces of mail.
Now that you've streamlined your mail collection workflow, the next thing to do is to keep track of the due dates for bills/renewals.
You can do this on a physical calendar, or creating alerts on your phone, whatever method works for you to remember important tasks.
Once the bill has been paid, or action completed, these items should either be filed away (if it is required to be kept) or shredded and recycle (if it does not need to be kept long term).
Technically this stage is separate from the mail collection phase, but is equally important to make sure important dates are not missed, payments are not overdue.
Now that you have some helpful tips for dealing with mail, I encourage you to try and incorporate this into your normal daily routine.
🤞🏻 Remember, organizing is a process. Learning new routines and strategies takes time, however, the more you repeat those processes the more likely it is that you will see long-lasting results!
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About the Author: Brittany Smith lives in Ottawa, Canada with her husband and feline furbaby Zoey. She is a Certified Professional Organizer, Owner, and Founder of Control the Chaos, a Professional Organizing business that provides personalized in-home, virtual and digital organizing services aimed at transforming anyone's chaos into calm.