How to Organize Your Mail

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Are you drowning in postal mail at home or in the office?

Do you want some strategies to help you organize postal mail and keep things under control?

As much as we use technology in today’s world, it’s probably safe to say that postal mail isn’t going away any time soon.

Postal mail is always entering our lives in the form of household bills, personal correspondence, professional paperwork, small packages, large parcels, and everything in between.

If you haven’t yet set up a system to deal with the daily onslaught of mail, then you know how challenging it can be to deal with incoming mail.

The good news is that once you set up a mail processing system for yourself, things will become streamlined, almost instantly!

In this post, I offer several tips on how to organize mail.

Taking the time to get your mail processing system set up can make a huge difference when it comes to the running of your household.

Once you get the hang of things, processing your mail will become like second nature, and just another routine daily task.

How to handle mail

Mail constantly enters our lives almost every single day. So how are you supposed to deal with it all?

Postal mail should be processed on a routine basis as soon as possible. You’ll want to identify, sort, and duly process mail as it enters your mailbox. The entire process shouldn’t take more than a handful of minutes.

Here are some steps mail processing steps you can follow:

Quickly sort mail into categories.

Quick sorting mail will give you a bird’s eye view of your correspondence. This step allows you to physically and visually process what’s important and urgent, versus less important and urgent items. Take a moment to sort your mail into these categories on a table or countertop:

  • Bills
  • Personal correspondence
  • Professional correspondence
  • Magazine, catalogs, coupons, circulars, or other promotional items
  • Junk mail

Do not open any envelopes, parcels, or packages just yet. You’re simply separating the wheat from the chaff. Yes, you may be tempted to leaf through your favorite lifestyle magazine or open up a card from a friend, but do your best to restrain yourself.

Immediately shred or recycle junk mail.

Treat junk mail as junk mail from the start. Remove any identifiable personal information, such as your name and address, and shred materials accordingly in a paper shredder. You can then recycle other items in general paper recycling. Looking to prevent junk mail from entering your home in the first place? Check out my tips on reducing junk mail later in this post.

Set aside magazines and catalogs for future reading.

Next, you’ll want to gather any and all magazines and catalogs and set them aside for reading at your leisure. If you should happen to come across a publication that doesn’t interest you, remove and shred the address label, and recycle the paper magazine or catalog.

Attend to bills and other correspondence.

Now that you’ve separated the wheat from the chaff, it’s time to review bills other correspondence. Each item requires a similar, yet slightly different processing approach.

Here’s how to process bills, statements, invoices, and other timely items:

1. Open an envelope, parcel, or package. Review the bill, statement, or invoice to identify the due date. Gather the statement, payment stub information, and mailing envelope if needed, and paper clip everything together at the top. Set aside.

2. Repeat for other envelopes. Repeat step one for as many other items as necessary in your daily mail delivery.

3. Recycle unnecessary items. Recycle any mailing envelopes from bills, as well as any extraneous offers that are not of interest to you.

4. Organize bills. Organize any and all bills by their due date. This will ensure you’ll pay items in a timely fashion.

5. Pay bills as necessary. You can pay bills and correspondence right away or schedule a regular time during the week to process these items. It doesn’t matter when you so choose to do the task, so long as you keep your word to yourself and process it without fail when you say you will. Once you’ve paid the bill online, via check, phone, or in-person, you’ll want to mark it as paid and set it aside for filing (see next section).

Here’s how to process other correspondence:

1. Open an envelope, parcel, or package. Review the item in question and identify whether it’s something you need to keep for your records, take action on, or follow up with. Set aside

2. Repeat for other envelopes. Repeat step one for as many other items as necessary in your daily mail delivery.

3. Recycle unnecessary items. Recycle any mailing envelopes, packages, boxes, bundles, filler materials and the like so they are not taking up space in your home.

4. Organize items by due date. Organize items by their due date or level or urgency. Again, this will ensure you’ll process items in a timely manner.

5. Deal with correspondence as necessary. You can deal with correspondence right away or schedule a regular time during the week to process these items. As a reminder, it doesn’t matter when you so choose to do the task, so long as you keep your word to yourself and process it without fail when you say you will. As soon as you’ve dealt with the item in question, you’ll want to set it aside for filing.

Create a mail filing system

Having a mail filing system in place will allow you keep your processed postal mail neat and organized. A mail filing system doesn’t need to be complicated in order for it to be effective.

At the very least you’ll want to make sure you have the following filling sections in place:

Processed items to be filed.

Think bills that you’ve already paid or any finished or completed correspondence or transactions. You can think of this filing section as anything that needs to be retained for your records in future. If you need help creating a filing system for your needs, you’ll want to take a look at my post here.

Items to be processed.

This is for anything that needs to be processed by you in the near future. This can include items such as paying bills, handling phone calls, paperwork, and the sort. Keeping everything together in one location will make it easy to deal with items when you need to process them.

Items awaiting some form of completion.

If you’re looking for a more specific way to processing items, you can create a separate filing section for items awaiting a form of completion. Maybe you’re waiting to hear back from a company or agency or maybe you’re gathering materials for an upcoming meeting. This section will take care of all those items that are still in process.

Items to be mailed.

Lastly, you’ll want to create a section that is dedicated to outgoing mail, parcels, and packages. This will house these items until you’re ready to send them on their way. You’ll stop by this area on your way out the door in the morning and pop them in the mailbox or drop off at the post office or shipping company as needed.

How to keep mail from piling up

Managing mail is often at the top of people’s to-do lists. It’s no wonder, as mail can easily grow from a few pieces of correspondence to a towering pile over the course of just a few days. So how do you keep everything running smoothly?

Here’s a few tips to help you get a grip on the mail:

Keep mail contained.

Designate one place in your home or office as a mail center. This is where correspondence will be received and processed. If you corral mail in one place it will be easier to keep track of and process. At the very least, if something goes wrong, you’ll know where to look first for an errant piece of mail.

Eliminate unnecessary mail.

Do your best to eliminate receiving unnecessary mail. Think twice before signing up to catalogs, and mailers, read the fine print, and ask not to be placed on mailing lists.You’ll find some additional ideas in the section that follows on how to cut on postal and junk mail.

Process mail daily.

The best course of action to keep mail under control is to not ignore incoming mail or let it sit around for long periods of time. Make regular appointments to process mail. Remember, the more time you let lapse, the more mail you’ll have to process. What’s more, when you let time pass, you run the risk of not being able to address urgent or sensitive material in a timely manner.

Make a solid commitment to maintain mail.

If you make the commitment and the time to process mail, guess what? There will be less of it sitting on your counters and desks! Processing postal mail won’t take hours of your time. If you make a commitment to process mail on a regular basis, it will be one less thing taking up space, causing headaches, and undue concern for you in your home.

Home mail station ideas

A home mail station can make sorting, processing, and disposing of related mail items relatively painless. You can think of a home mail station as a well-stocked mini-office, ready and waiting for you whenever you need to process postal mail.

Your mail station should be set up in an area that is relatively close to your front door or mailbox, such as in a hallway, an entryway, or kitchen countertop. That way, you won’t have to carry mail all around your home in order to process it.

If you think you have to spend a lot of money to create your own home mail station, then you’re in for a surprise! You can create your own station with items commonly found around the home or home office. This is a great way to use duplicate or overflowing supplies, such as spare scissors or address labels.

At the very least, you’ll need to assemble four main components for your DIY mail organization station: relevant office supplies, a container to store loose office supplies, a container to store papers to be filed, and a way to easily dispose of papers and trash.

Below you’ll find suggested lists of items for your home mail station. Feel free to add or subtract items as you see fit.

Suggested list of office supplies to include in your home mail station

  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Eraser
  • Markers
  • Postage stamps
  • Address labels
  • Envelopes
  • Scissors
  • Calculator
  • Stapler
  • Staples
  • Paper clips or other fasteners
  • Rubber bands
  • Twine

Container ideas for storing loose office supplies

  • A shallow plastic container with a lid
  • A sturdy wooden container or box
  • A sturdy shoebox
  • A cookie tin
  • A clean cabinet drawer

Disposal ideas for your home mail station

  • Cross-cut paper shredder with bin – this is for shredding sensitive and personal information
  • Paper recycling bin – for recycling non-sensitive and non-personal information
  • Garbage can – for any obvious trash or refuse

Storage ideas for holding important mail and documents

  • Upright free standing wire file holder
  • Vertical hutch or cubby with dedicated slots cubbyholes   
  • Upright magazine holder or series of upright magazine holders

Cutting down on mail

You’ve organized a mail processing center in your home and have been honestly processing and storing mail as it comes into your home. Even if you’ve completed all of these things to the letter, sometimes you need to take action to cut down on the amount of mail you receive in the first place.

Here are some ideas to help you cut down on mail at home:

Sign up for automatic payments

If you’re tired of receiving paper statements for bills, you may want to consider signing up for automatic payments. If you’re going this route, take note of when payments go out and how to track them. Be sure to review your statements online every month and save them on your computer. Just because you transfer your information to a digital format doesn’t absolve you from ignoring, failing to review statements for accuracy, or keeping digital files for your records.

Subscribe to digital copies of magazines and catalogs

You can cut down on the amount of paper in your home by swapping out paper for digital copies of magazines and catalogs and reading them on your computer, tablet, phone, ereader or other device. You may find it even more useful to do this as you can take information along with you to read and read when you’re waiting for something or are in transit commuting.

Shop online for magazines and catalogs

Instead of relying on magazines and catalogs, you can check out online sales and deals. It’s as easy as visiting a website or signing up to an email newsletter. If you’re trying to cut down on emails, you’ll want to read my post here. It’s as simple as being choosy as to what comes into your email inbox.

Remove yourself from junk mail lists

Call companies directly and asked to be removed from their mailing lists. You can also do research for your local municipality or country to see if there’s junk mail lists or groups you can remove yourself from. If you’re receiving mail at an address where someone has moved, contact your local post master to let them know mail recipients are no longer at the address in question.

How about you? What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of processing postal mail? Which tips are you going to put into practice in your home or office? Join in the conversation and leave a comment below!

Follow Rashelle:
Rashelle Isip is a New York City-based professional organizer and productivity consultant who helps people get organized so they can stress less, have more fun, and be happier at home. Her work has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, Business Insider, and The Atlantic. Get access to her free guide, 3 Smart Steps to Organizing Your Home, by clicking here.