Mail – get it before it gets you

I was speaking with a client a few days ago, and she was recounting to me how tough it can be to manage mail.  Her description included a lot of usage of the words “piles”, “stacks” and “moving”.  It reminded me that sometimes those tools that should help us can at times overwhelm us, if we allow them to go uncontrolled.

My first and best rule about mail is to not let it go horizontal.  Now clearly, this is not a new, cutting edge idea.  Others have expressed it before me, however, the really tough part is to live by that rule.  Here are some steps that may help.

The first and easiest thing to do first is to eliminate anything you didn’t request, or don’t want.  Keep a recycle bin near where you sort mail, and drop in anything that fits that description.  I am guessing in just this first step, you have cut the size of the pile in half.  Good job!

Second, sort out anything requiring a response.  These would include bills or invitations.  I like using a vertical mail sorter to keep these in line.  You may like to split bills into early and mid-month bunches, so find a sorter that has sufficient slots to handle the groupings you like.

Third, set aside anything that needs to be filed.  Don’t worry about filing the items right away–it isn’t critical that you do that more than once or twice a month–but just put them in a spot where you can pile up a few days worth, and not have to go through it again before filing.  I like setting aside a spot in a drawer or closet, and using one of those wire bins that hold 8 1/2 x 11″ papers.  It contains items well when you are sorting the mail, and can easily be carried to your office or other filing cabinet location when you are ready to put them away.

Fourth and last, sort out reading materials, including catalogs or other periodicals, and store them in a spot you are likely to access them when you have downtime at the end of your day.  In my house, it is in the coffee table in the den which has two deep drawers.  I have one drawer and my husband has another.  Two separate magazine baskets would work just as well.  Once a month, I go through and extract anything older than one month, to be sure that the drawers don’t get overloaded.  (Those old periodicals also get recycled, of course.  Save a tree!)

So this sounds tough at first, but give it a try.  After a few days of clean counters and no missing cable bill, life is much better and it will become second nature to get to your mail before it gets to you!

My name is Lori Fowler, and I am a professional organizer working in the Winston-Salem area.  If you are interested in getting some help in organizing your home, please contact me at, or at 336-978-6211.

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