This is a guest post from Professional Organizer Seana Turner of The Seana Method. I’m so pleased she has agreed to share some of her wonderful tips on how to manage your mail with us today.
Managing The Mail
Mail: it just keeps coming and coming… and coming. We stash it, stick it, pile it up, and cringe every time we walk by it. What is the best way to handle the mail?
The first step is to stop thinking of it as “mail”. Instead, recognize that it is a broad array of communication. Some of it is for our pleasure, some of it requires we follow-up, some of it requires us to pay money.
How to Manage Your Mail
An efficient approach to the mail involves 2 primary functions:
- Sorting the mail into action files
- Taking the necessary action (e.g. paying the bills, responding to invitations, etc.)
Many people make the critical mistake of trying to perform both of these functions at the same time. This is a big mistake, as we rarely have time each day to go through the mail and simultaneously perform the associated tasks for each and every piece. As a result, we tend to just stash the mail “until we can get around to it”, and this results in copious piles of paper.
To make better use of your time and space, unbundle these two functions in the following way.
- Bring the mail into your home whenever you have the time to sort it. Wait until you have 5 minutes, even if this means the mail sits in the mailbox awhile.
- Designate a spot where will put the mail down and sort it, such as on an entry table, desk or table. Ideally, this spot will be near the door where you bring the mail in.
- “Triage” the mail into categories:
- Trash (or recycle)
- Shred (anything with personal information)
- To read (magazines, articles, letters)
- To pay (bills)
- To follow up (coupons to clip, invitations to answer, calls you need to make, etc.)
Keep only the paper you actually need. For example, when you get a bill, you can open it up, pitch the outer envelope & the advertising, and simply keep the bill and pay envelope.
- Next, go ahead and get rid of the “quick hits”… the trash/recycle and shred. It only takes a minute or two when you do it every day.
- Move the actionable items into folders which are categorized as outlined above (“to read”, “to pay”, “to follow up”) These folders need to have a home somewhere in your house, such as in a desktop file sorter or hanging files.
Now you need to decide when and where you will take the required follow-up action.
- Bills should be paid once a week.
- Invitations should be responded to in a timely fashion.
- Items to read can be brought along when you will be waiting or killing time.
- Problems requiring a follow-up call should be scheduled into your “to do” system.
Whenever you follow up, you will now have all the required items close at hand and organized, and it won’t take you as long as it would have it you still had to go through the sorting.
The paperless society is emerging, but it isn’t quite here yet. By sorting daily, eliminating the clutter, and organizing your action items, you can reduce stress and be more efficient.
What are your tips & tricks for handling the mail?
Seana Turner founded The Seana Method in 2010 because she wanted to help people. In a society where accumulation of wealth had always been linked to high quality of life, Seana was witnessing the direct opposite.
Born and raised outside Philadelphia, Seana attended The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania where she earned a BSE. She moved to CT in 1989 where she worked in Marketing Consulting until deciding to leave full-time employment to be home with her children. During this time, she often found herself being tapped by friends and family members to help them “get organized,” and consequently realized she had something valuable to offer the marketplace.
Over time, Seana developed The Seana Method, a structured approach designed to bring freedom through organization. Her specialties include:
– Customization of client-specific solutions
– Discerning the beneficial from the burdensome/wasteful
– Keeping clients motivated and on task until completion
– Space planning for maximization of space and efficiency
– Public speaking
– Life coaching
Seana lives in the New York metro area with her husband and two daughters.
I love mail! The good kind that is. Letters, cards, postcards all too often get displaced by all the bills and junk mail and digital mail these days. Nothing like the charm of snailmail. Some great ideas here, thanks for sharing. Visiting via SITSShareFest.
I’m glad you enjoyed the tips. I think that’s the one piece of advice I would add is to unsubscribe from as much junk mail as you can. I would say that about 80% of my mail is junk mail – I try to train my husband to trash it or shred it before he even brings it into the house, but he doesn’t do it very regularly.
I should start checking my mail everyday and sorting it when I check it. I’ve got a pile sitting on my desk right now. I’m stopping by from SITS & I hope your having a great day!
Good for you! I’m glad you got some good ideas from this post.
Love the idea of triaging the mail. I’ll have to try this out, thanks. I’m a big fan of throwing the junk out quickly!
That’s great. I hope you get some benefit out of these tips.
Love that you have Seana on your blog, Adrian…she is amazing! I have gotten so many great tips from her! I am getting better about the mail and getting rid of stuff…right now I only have yesterday’s to deal with…that is a big change for me. I tend to avoid it.
Isn’t she great? I’ve gotten some great tips from her.