Stop the Mail Madness

(I had intended to write about the pantry today, but since that’s going to be my personal challenge project this week, I’m saving it for next Monday. Then I can write from experience. I have been stocking up on stuff since it’s the beginning of the year and I had to hastily put it all away one day last week. It’s a scary mess in there.)

Instead, today I’m going to talk about the mail. Pesky junk mail. Magazines. Flyers. Bills. Occasionally a card. I don’t know about you, but the majority of my mail consists of junk and bills. Credit card offers for every member of my household. (I keep waiting for one of the cats to get one!) Magazine offers…because if I read one magazine, I must need to read every one the publisher puts out there. Cookbook offers. (Those are hard for me to resist. I love cookbooks!) Rarely do we get letters or cards in the mail these days. Email and texting have taken the “need” for those away. Sadness. 😦

Anyway, how do you deal with the daily influx of paper that gets delivered to your mailbox? Right away, that’s how. Seriously, you have to deal with it immediately and resist the urge to set it aside. If you do that, you’ll add to it tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that. Then it’s a huge pile that you don’t even want to think about. And bills go unpaid. (Bad.) Invitations go un-RSVP’d. (Bad.) You don’t send in the winning entry to the Publisher’s Clearing House contest and miss out on millions of dollars. (Yeah, right.)

What’s a person to do? Since I am writing these blogs from personal experience, I’ll tell you how we handle the mail here at my house. It works. We never have a pile of mail just sitting around. (If you already have one of those, I’ll tell you how to deal with it in just a minute.) The mail that comes in “lands” on the dresser in the hall when it is brought in by one of the kids. If my husband or I bring it in, we get right to the dealing with it part. Wherever it lands, it’s only there a very brief time. It gets sorted into “junk” or “read/keep.”

1. The junk mail gets taken out of the envelopes (they get recycled) and into the shredder. Immediately. No looking. No peeking. No accepting of credit card or payday loan offers. None.

2. The “real” mail gets looked over. If real mail turns out to be junk mail or requires no action, it, too, goes to the shredder. Immediately. What’s left is sorted into bills, magazines, or “need to respond/put on calendar.”

3. Bills get put in the place where bills go with the date it needs to be paid and/or mailed written in pencil on the top right corner where it will be covered by the stamp if mailed. (If I pay the bill online, it’s just my reminder of when to pay it.) The place where I keep my bills has stamps, envelopes, and address labels…everything that needs to be together is there. Keep it simple! By the way, it never hurts to put the due date for bills/payments on your calendar as well.

4. Magazines get divvied out to whichever family member they belong to.

5. If mail needs a response (RSVP, etc.), do it immediately. Check your calendar, add the event if necessary, make your RSVP, etc. If you can’t get to this immediately, paper clip the mail together and put a sticky note on it that tells you what needs to be done and when. Do NOT put it back into a pile. If for some reason I can’t get to whatever it is immediately, I sit the paper clipped stack on top of my computer keyboard. That way I’m sure to see it and take care of it as soon as possible. If you need to put a “must respond by” date (if you have to check with your spouse, rearrange an appointment, etc.) on the sticky note, do so.

All of this takes about 5 minutes…10 minutes max every day. Seriously. Once you start going through the mail as soon as it (or you) comes in your house, you can have the mail problem conquered right away. It’s really simple.

Now…if you already have a stack (or a pile or a box full) of mail looming in your house somewhere, let’s just take a deep breath and get it taken care of.

1. Sort the pile into four “types.” Depending on the size of your pile of mail, you might need or want something to sort them in. But the table top should be fine. Put the junk mail in one pile. (This will probably be the largest pile!) Put the bills in another pile. The third pile is for those things that need a response. And the fourth pile is for “real” mail (as I call it)…cards, letters and the like. It will probably be the smallest pile. Unless it’s your birthday. Then it might be a little bigger. 🙂

2. Take the junk mail and shred it. Yes, you need to shred it. It has your name and address on it. If you do not have a shredder, may I suggest you invest in one. Doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to work. If you don’t have a shredder, put the pile of junk mail in a box and go out and get one. (Unless you want to tear the mail up by hand or cut it up with scissors. If you do, enjoy.)

3. Take the bills out of the envelopes and check them for accuracy. If you find a bill with a discrepancy that needs to be addressed, go ahead and put it in the envelope with the due date on the outside, but add it to your “response needed” pile for now. Put all bills in one location. Put them in order of date to be paid with the earliest date in front. Check it every time you bring the mail in. If it is time for a bill to be paid, take it out of the bill spot and take care of it. Immediately. Write your check, put it in the envelope, add the stamp and address label, and sit it where it will be seen so that it goes into the mailbox the next day. We sit ours on our dresser in the hall propped up against the lamp. It goes into the mailbox in the morning.

NOTE: If you discover a “past due” bill in your pile, take care of it right away. Call the company and tell them what happened. Make a payment by phone or online if you need to. Just take care of it. 

4. If you have a stack of things that need response, put them in order of importance or urgency. If at all possible, sit down and respond right away. If not, determine a time you will do it and then do it. Like I said, if I don’t have time to respond when I sort the mail, I sit those things on my computer keyboard so they get taken care of when I sit down at the computer. If I have time to sit down at the computer, I have time to respond to the mail.

NOTE: If you have missed an event (wedding or baby shower, party, etc.) because it literally “got lost in the mail” (your mail, anyway), call and apologize or send a note. Let the person know that it wasn’t intentional and that you are working through your “mail problem.” 🙂

5. If you get good mail…cards, letters, etc…, you want to have time to read it. Those things go on the table beside the chair where I drink my coffee. You know by now that my reading and coffee go together. Almost always. 🙂 Take time to sit down and read the good mail. It might make your day!

In summary,

1. Deal with and sort the mail when it comes into your house.

2. Dealing with the mail immediately will help you avoid late payments and missed events. (Missed events can lead to hurt feelings.)

3. Respond when you need to respond.

4. Have a place for bills. Have a place for the good stuff. Have a place for magazines.

5. Dealing with the mail immediately will help you avoid having to do the big sorting thing again. And isn’t that the point?

I’m going to get started on my pantry now so I’ll have a good post for next Monday. I hope nothing heavy falls on my head!

Have a blessed Monday!


P.S. If you figure out a way to avoid the junk mail, let me know. Nothing I have done works. Stupid junk mail!