Step 1: Invest in a small mail sorter. There are hundreds of styles to choose from, but I recommend a divided bin so that you can create some categories. If you’ve chosen a basket with no dividers based on your home décor, then invest in some clear poly envelopes or an expanding file folder.
Step 2: Place the organizer in an accessible location. The most common mistake folks make (and the reason why their system fails) is that they keep the mail sorter where it “looks good” rather than where it “works well.” Keeping your bin near the spot where you store your keys or purse is a great idea because you KNOW it’s a spot frequently passed when coming inside the home.
Step 3: Sort the mail on your way back from the mailbox. Immediately move all junk mail to the back of your pile. Don’t bother opening the credit card offer envelopes, coupon packs, or “You’re A Winner” mail. You already know what those contain, and 99.9% of the time, you won’t use them. (However, if you are a coupon queen or in the market for a new credit card, you can reserve those items in a special category in your mail sorter.)
Step 4: Place the mail in the appropriate categories. My favorite (and most used) categories are: to read, to pay/respond, to file/access later, and to get rid of. Magazines and other periodicals need to be read, or you need to stop subscribing. Make a point to have a home for those items right when they come in the door. You can always move these “to read” items to a different location in your home, but for now, make it easy on yourself —- you’re short on time and that mail needs to get sorted. Items that require a response from you whether it’s payment or confirmation, will need a separate home within your sorter so you remember that these are the top priority items. To file/access later items may include tax documents, insurance policies, or other factual material that you will actually access at least once a year. Finally the “get rid of” pile will need to find its way to the trash, recycle, or shred bin within your home.
Step 5: Make time to empty your mail sorter. This is the #2 reason why mail sorters turn into paper piles. If you never go through the mail, the system will definitely fail. Ideally, it’s best to go through your mail categories daily, but if you’re pressed for time, then choose one day each week like Saturday. To properly empty your sorter, start with the most important category first: to pay/respond. Open the first envelope, complete the required action, file any paperwork you know you’ll need to reference in the future, and then discard the rest. Then pick up the next envelope in that stack and repeat the process.
This post originally appeared on The Good Life.
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