Incoming! Systems for Managing Mail and Newspapers

People's efforts to become and stay organized often first break down with the incoming avalanche of daily mail and newspapers. Without a system for handling mail or newspapers, these items get piled on the nearest surface or floor. Lost or misplaced mail often creates financial (late fees, fines) and legal problems. Losing control of mail and newspapers generally leads to difficulty managing other belongings as well, often causing increasing disorganization.

To effectively and efficiently manage mail and newspapers you need a system to sort mail and newspapers and make keeping track of and managing them easy; this requires:

1. sorting rules for various types of material, such as “All junk mail goes in the trash,” “All newspapers go in a box” (after recycling the sections you do not read), and (most important) “All financial documents go in the Finance tray.”

2. specific places for the various types of incoming paper you regularly receive:

* a tray or bin for bills, bank or credit card statements, and other Financial mail

* a place for mail that requires Action (such as reply or keep until a particular date)

* a place to File mail that needs to be kept with folders for different types of documents that make actually finding items you need possible

* places for other categories needed, such as Reading, Projects (or bins for particular projects, such as Painting), Catalogs (for those few worth saving)

* a box or bin for unread newspapers, and if you really must keep clippings, then a place and system for filing them (and a system for throwing them out on a regular basis if they have not been used) and a limit for how long any unread newspaper can be kept (a week should probably be the limit – beyond that you are just creating more pressure on yourself). When the box or bin fills with unread papers, all those on the bottom should be thrown out – you will never be able (or want to or need to) catch them up. If you are not willing to sort them weekly, you probably shouldn’t keep any. (Stacking trays, readily available from office supply stores, are helpful for creating sorting categories.)

3. A consistent process for sorting mail and newspapers; the first sort should happen before you walk away from the mailbox: eliminate junk mail. The second sort is to put new mail into your categories: Finances, Action, Projects, etc. which should happen as soon as possible after you walk into your home. Put down the things in your hands, take off your coat and hat, and sort your mail. Leaving sorting until later increases the likelihood that you will not get it done.

4. Spend 10 to 15 minutes each day on keeping up with mail – reading, replying, etc. – to keep your life working smoothly. Plan a weekly date with yourself to go through financial mail and pay bills, balance your checkbook, update your budget, or any other financial tasks, and file documents that need to be kept.

I would be delighted to help anyone who asks to figure out what additional categories might be needed for keeping incoming paper organized.

© Gloria Valoris, 2013

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