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How do you handle your mail? May 13, 2005 2:25 AM

Question for all you organized folks out there:

How do you handle your mail... all the bills, magazines, (letters, I wish) and junk that comes into your house daily?

Now that I've cleaned and organized some of my rooms, I'm finding that I'm more confused about what to do with this paper. It used to get stuck on the sofa, along with clean clothes and a bunch of other stuff... or else on the dining room table. Those surfaces are now clear and I'm trying to keep them clear.

When I pick up the mail, I try to go through it in the Post Office and throw away any junk or non-keeper material before I ever get back home. However, I haven't been successful at training DH to do this, and he fetches the mail most often.

So: Where do you put stuff? Do you have something special set up close to your entrance? Or where? And do you have suggestions for organizing it, wherever you put it? (I already know that wall-hanging letter racks are black holes for us, so that doesn't seem to work.)

Any help greatly appreciated...
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 May 13, 2005 3:57 PM

I can offer some tips on this and hope others join in with other ideas -- what works for one person may not work for another.

A dump place needs to be established for your mail until you are ready to sort it.  This can be a tray basket, a nice wicker basket, whatever.  It should be situated in a place that is central and convenient so it doesn't end up on a table top or piece of furniture.

tray basket   

Sorting the mail should be done at a desk or work area where you do administration stuff.  

1) Put bills to pay in a bills folder (or you can use a tray in a stacking tray basket system); 

file sorter

2) Toss any junk mail; 

3) Put papers that involve a task into an "Action" file (and put a note of the action on a to-do list). 

4) If it's something you just want to keep for reference, put it in a filing tray basket.

A desktop vertical file holder is very useful for action files (papers relating to tasks / things that need to be done) and project files (papers that relate to projects or research).

vertical file holder

Hope this helps!

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Thanks, Cyndi. May 13, 2005 7:48 PM

This is a good system, but I'm still struggling with finding the right place to locate the "dump"... and I haven't really set up a good desk area for administration, as you say.

I'm afraid any container will turn into a black hole, and that the surface it rests on will become another clutter magnet.

But gotta do something soon, or I'll end up right back where I started.
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 May 14, 2005 12:04 AM

I open my mail as soon as it arrives. Junk mail goes into the paper recycling bag. Bills go by the computer, so that next time I turn it on the first thing I do is pay them (post-dated, if the payment doesn't have to be in yet). Bills are marked with two dates: today's, and the day the funds will leave my bank. Then they're filed under "paid bills".

Other official stuff, catalogues and magazines: I skim through them, decide if I really want to read each properly & if there's anything useful in there. Then they either go for recycling, or the useful bits are torn out / highlighted and I plan when I'm going to act on them.

As for personal mail, it goes best with a cup of coffee! I tend to keep it until I've replied, but only permanently hold onto really special items. They go into what I call my "memory chest", which contains all sorts of oddments that I occasionally look through for inspiration and/or nostalgia.

Most important point: sort it out immediately. It shouldn't take all that long once you've got into the habit, and that way you're not tempted to let it pile up anywhere.
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 May 14, 2005 8:24 AM

Some people do not fetch the mail themselves, as the case with Kristin, and some people can not always sort mail as it comes in.  In these situations, a mail center or mail basket would be needed until the mail can be picked up and sorted.

Each household should try and find a location for this, and should set up an administration area if they don't have a desk or work area.  Otherwise, papers end up in various places.

Kristin, try a location and set it up -- you can always move it and try another place if that doesn't work out.  Test places around the entrance of your house, or close to it.  If you don't have space for it, think about hanging a basket on the wall to dump mail.

Make it a habit to pick up the mail in its "drop location" and take it to your work place area to sort.

The thing with systems is that for any system to work, it has to be applied.  That may involve establishing new habits and disciplines.  And, systems can change to meet changing lifestyles.

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 June 13, 2005 5:54 AM

Try using a sorting mechanism for different members of your family, and put dated correspondence in a tickler file. It really does help.

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 July 31, 2005 8:52 PM

Here's a great idea for using your junk mail instead of throwing it out!!
Make jewlery out of it!
Here's the instructions:
http://my.hsonline.net/~kidatart/htdoc/lesson5.htm

This would be a good activity to do with your children/grandchildren too.

~Cathy~
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Like to get to the bottom of junk mail August 01, 2005 12:01 AM

Al Junk Mail gets tossed into a plastic shopping bag that's hung up on a hook on the top of the steps leading down to the basement. The night before garbage is picked up, this bag, which includes old newspapers, catalogs, etc. get's put out.

It's very freeing to know ones junk is being hauled off!!

What I find scarier, is how it is piling up somewhere else....

There needs to be a law against junk mail, just like the "no call" program. Make it where you can easily get off lists.

Or is there already such a program

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 August 01, 2005 2:14 AM

There sure is!
It's called The Mail Preference Service (MP and is designed to assist those consumers in decreasing the amount of national non-profit or commercial mail they receive at home.
You can find out more here:
http://www.dmaconsumers.org/offmailinglist.html

There is a link for registration information. It is free if you register by snail mail or you can pay $5 to do it online.

FYI,
~Cathy~
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 August 01, 2005 2:17 AM

Now I know what you get when you put a S and a ) together! You get that little funny face! LOL!

~Cathy~
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Mail: December 25, 2006 4:01 PM

First, get hubby to throw away the junk mail at the P.O.  Most of them have trash bins by the entrances, exits and some even by where the boxes are.

How do you seperate your mail?  I seperate mine by putting them in a mobile hanging file box I found a beautiful one at Office depot for just under 30.00.  (Sounds expensive, but hang on.)  In this box I have hanging (letter size) folders.  This box replaces the expand-a-file accordian files people buy each year.  I bought those for years...and always by the end of the year, that expand-a-file is in tatters from constant use. 

This solid box has locking fasteners, like a briefcase.  So, even with constant use, it holds up, looks nice and I will never need to buy another box for the year's bills, receipts, notices, etc.   

I also have a 2 drawer oak file cabinet that I keep things that cannot be shredded but not needed to keep in the new year's receipts (such as previous tax folders, handbooks for items bought in previous years--i.e., appliances, game systems, computers--)  I also keep fun things in the oak file cabinet such as my children's artwork.

In my smaller file box I have different coloured folders: 

Red is for rent, taxes, legal issues, and other issues that need IMMEDIATE attention. 

Blue is for regular monthly bills, such as water, power, etc. 

Yellow is for medical, school, online purchases.  You can include magazine subscriptions in yellow. 

Black is for regular correspondance, handbooks and warranty information that comes with new appliances (and KEEP THOSE RECEIPTS!!!). 

Also, know how long to keep your papers.  Bank statements, receipts from bills, etc. 

Bank statements:  I have read two different times:  One: indefinately, and two: shred all the statements after you get your first one of the new year.  You can scan them into your computer, and label them, if there is any worry.

Taxes:  Indefinately. 

Receipts for regular household bills:  One year.  Shred each category as you get the new one of the year.

Invest in a good shredder.  I have two. One is a desktop shredder, for daily use, one is a full sized one for bigger jobs.  Both are cross-cut.  Cross-cut or confetti are the best.  My desktop one only cost about $15.00, my bigger one $40.00  the bigger one shreds credit cards, too.  Shred anything that has your private information on it, such as SS#, any account #'s, or infromation that could help an identity thief.  Best to invest in a shredder for a small amount of money to get a big amount of peace of mind.  I have seen shredders that will shred credit cards and CD's for about $50.00

I live on a very tight budget, and the sacrifice for the hanging folders and shredders is worth it.  I did buy the shredders at different times, with the desktop one first.

It is going to take discipline.  Every day that mail comes in, it goes straight to the box or shredder.  After a few weeks, it'll be a part of your routine and you'll do it without hesitation. 

I pay most of my bills online, and print out the receipt, stapling it to the bill. 

That is how I do my mail and bill paying.  I hope these suggestions help.

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