Mail Organization: It Is Within Your Reach

Ever since I found out that my wife is pregnant (we’re having a girl and couldn’t be happier), I’ve found myself wanting to become more organized. From the kitchen to the garage, few areas of the house have escaped my organizing eye. A few weeks ago, while sitting down to pile of catalogs, circulars, magazines, newsletters, advertisements, bills, and personal notes, I knew that my previous organizing experience had prepared me for this moment…I must develop a foolproof method for handling our incoming mail.

I immediately realized that it wasn’t really about the process (so to speak), I just needed to develop better habits. Simply bringing the mail into the house and placing it on the counter (on top of the other mail) where it sat until the weekend wasn’t working. I decided to:

  • Pick up the mail every night on the way home from work. It didn’t matter how late, how dark, or how wet it was, I was to stop and pick-up the mail each and every night. This turned out to be a non-issue, I simply changed the way I went home so that I would pass the communal mailbox. Since the mailbox was now on my way home stopping wasn’t an inconvenience, it just made sense.
  • Sort the mail upon entering the house. I know myself and if I entered the bedroom, or slipped into my recliner, that mail would go the rest of the night unsorted. This too, was easy. After I said hello to our golden retriever, Mackenzie, I would stand over the trash can and dispose of the junk. Then I take the remaining mail and immediately file it into one of six folders (In, Pay, Act, File, Read, or Misc) which I keep on a counter near the kitchen.
  • Process the mail weekly. I was already doing this every Saturday and didn’t see any reason to change this habit. Since I had already sorted through the mail, processing took no time at all. I try to empty each folder at the end of the week but some pieces will remain (that bill you’re going to pay next week, for example). No matter, it doesn’t disrupt the system.

That’s it! It’s amazing what a few strategically placed habits (and file folders) can do. Now I just need to find a way to handle my voice mails, text messages, facebook messages, twitter responses… Here are a few additional thoughts/observations:

  • Opt out! The less mail coming in the less you’ll need to process. The credit bureaus allow you to opt-out of preapproved credit offers via OptOutPrescreen and the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) mail preference service, DMA Choice, lets you opt out of receiving unsolicited commercial mail from many national companies for up to five years.
  • Go online. Many of the bills you receive via snail mail could be delivered to your inbox. Contact your service providers to see what it would take to have your statements delivered online.

How do you organize and process your mail? Share your tips and/or junk mail eliminating tactics by leaving a comment below.

Chris Ray is Vice President, Marketing at MMI.