This is the second part of a two-part post on how to manage your mail. If you missed the first one or just need a refresher, you can find it here.
If you’ve followed the previous post, you now have four stacks of items: reading material, bills to pay, “action items” like invitations and requests for donations, and items to file or display.
Reading material: I like to keep my reading material on the coffee table in our den because that’s the room I relax in. If I’m looking for a magazine, newsletter or newspaper, I know I can find it on the coffee table. To prevent a towering stack of publications, I toss out each publication when the new issue arrives. So the two daily newspapers we receive spend 24 hours in our home. A weekly magazine lasts a week. The only exception is The New Yorker. Though it’s a weekly, I sometimes need a month to finish an issue!
Bills to pay: I’ve had fewer of these arrive in the mail since I began switching to online statements. One day they’ll be obsolete, but until then, I’m stuck with them. I suggest paying them within a week of receipt, perhaps on the same day of each week. You might want to keep them in a bright folder that you empty weekly.
“Action items”: These give me the most trouble because they require input from other people. I can’t RSVP to a birthday party for my son’s friend until I check with him to see if he wants to attend. I need to book a babysitter before making adults-only dinner plans with friends. But grouping these items together in a folder makes it easy for me to coordinate events with my calendar. I’d suggest tackling all invitations every week or every two weeks at a time when you can check in with other family members and/or friends.
File/display: Call me heartless, but 99 percent of the papers and artwork my son brings home from school go on display … in our big blue recycling bin. You just can’t save everything. If you want to remember every finger painting and picture, I’d suggest photographing the art to create an online slide show. You might also hang pictures in a designated spot, like on the fridge, until new ones replace them. Display holiday and birthday cards until the holiday/birthday is over. If any are especially meaningful, save them in an acid-free box.
Items to file are a different story. You need a copy of your homeowner’s insurance and your car insurance. You’ll need to keep a copy of your tax return. It’s fine to make a stack of paperwork headed for your filing cabinet and then file it when you get a few minutes. Tackling even a few pages at a time will yield results. Setting aside an hour here and there for filing makes a huge difference.
The key is to clear these items from your mail-processing zone and get them into a place where you know you’d go to look for them.