Faced with a staggering deficit and a steady drop in the volume of first-class mail, the U.S. Postal Service is exploring ways to save money. The price of a first-class postage stamp is rising a penny, to 45 cents, on Jan. 22, and Saturday delivery might soon become a thing of the past.
One less day of mail might not be a bad thing. Most of the “mail” I retrieve from my mailbox is unwanted circulars and ads. If the contents of your mailbox routinely overwhelm you, let me offer some help.
In this post and next week’s, I’ll be helping you create a system to get your mail under control. There couldn’t be a better time to do it, with glossy holiday catalogs and thick stacks of circulars filling your mailbox. Let’s get started.
First, you’ll need to designate someone in your household to be in charge of the mail. If you’re single, it’s you. (That was easy.) I’d suggest that for couples, the person who’s better organized is better equipped to handle this job. (If neither person wants that job, that’s a whole other story.)
The Mail Handler’s job is to remove the mail from the box daily and do a quick sort by the recycling bin. Quickly flip through the mail and toss anything that’s clearly unwanted (circulars for stores you don’t visit, appeals for charities you don’t support, solicitations, etc.). If you’re like most people, you’ll probably toss at least 50 to 70 percent of what was in the mailbox. Keeping this junk mail out of your house—and off your counters and tables—makes a huge difference in the amount of clutter in your home.
Next, use a letter opener to neatly open all envelopes of the mail that you’re keeping. Remove the contents of each envelope and sort the mail into four categories:
— Reading material: magazines, newsletters, etc.
— Bills to pay
— “Action items”: items that need a response, like invitations, solicitations from charities,
— File/display: insurance paperwork, holiday cards, etc.
So far, so good. Next week, I’ll explain how to set up a simple system to make sure magazines are read, bills are paid and important papers are filed. Stay tuned!