How to avoid a huge task in the future with minimal effort today
Updated: May 8
Making a slight adjustment to your daily routine when bringing USPS-delivered mail into your home will prevent a huge task in the future of culling through a mass of mail to sort what needs to be filed, shredded, or trashed. Consider the two scenarios below – one that creates an onerous task in the future and the other that simplifies your life now.
Scenario 1: You collect your mail and quickly flip through the contents looking for something personal like a “thank you” card. You see plenty of ads and coupons, a credit card bill, and a furniture store catalog you want to peruse for decorating ideas. You then place the handful of unopened mail on top of a stack that has accumulated a couple weeks already. You don’t need to open the credit card bill because you’ll pay it online. You need the stack handy on your kitchen table, however, to go through and pull coupons before you go shopping and you want to browse the furniture catalog for decorating ideas. As the stack of mail grows on your kitchen table, you “stash” a couple older piles into a grocery bag in case there’s something important you'll need in the future.
Fast forward a year in the future - you’ve hired a Professional Organizer (me!) to go through bags and boxes of “stuff” in your garage so you can fit your car into the garage. As we open and sort bags and boxes, we come across two large, green garbage bags full of smaller bags of old mail!
Unfortunately, you need to sort through the mass of mail to pull out personal information for shredding or filing. Also – the missing pink slip for the car you paid off last year might be in one of the bags of mail. This scenario of stashing mail has resulted in the time consuming task of having to view and sort each piece of mail into piles to be shredded, trashed, or filed. It also cost you time in the past when searching for specific items stacked on the kitchen table.
Scenario 2: You collect your mail, walk to a location in your home and immediately OPEN and sort the mail into the following categories.
• DMV pink slip for the car you just paid off (congratulations!) which you place into your "Car" file
• utility bill not accessible online* which you place into your weekly "Pay Bills" file
• “thank you” card from sister which you’ll place into the recycle-bin a week after you’ve absorbed her thoughtfulness
• coupons, ads you add to the stash of coupons you take with you to the store
• magazines, store catalogs you’ll add to a small-sized bin for review within a month before pitching into the recycle bin
4. Immediate recycle-bin/trash:
• coupons, ads, catalogs you don’t want go into the recycle bin or trash right away. Get this stuff out of your home or you'll be swimming in it someday.
*In this scenario, there are few, if any bills in your mail delivery because you've opted for paperless billing.
If you're unable to address the mail right after retrieving it from the mail box, set it down for later sorting before end of day. If mail starts to stack over days, then you're falling back into Scenario 1.
As you may see, Scenario 2 is minimal effort now to save time and money in the future. Scenario 2 also makes it easier to access what you need now instead of wasting precious time searching piles of mail on the kitchen table.
These scenarios are not intended to encompass all the different types of mail you receive, but rather, exemplify how minimal effort now to manage your mail enables ease to access what you need soon (coupons, bills) and ultimately avoid an onerous situation in the future that will require a substantial amount of your time.
If you have a different way to manage your USPS mail - please share!