by Maria Gracia

We’ve all felt that way from time to time, haven’t we? We’ve all struggled with a way to dig ourselves out from under the piles that can come from a blizzard of mail.

You CAN weather the storm. With a few simple new habits, you can take control over your mail, rather than it taking control of you.

Most people tend to try and solve the problem of what to do with their mail AFTER their kitchen table or desk is piled so high that stuff is falling on the floor. Sound familiar? You just know that your overdue utility bill is hiding in that pile but you just can’t find it, along with the invitation to the birthday this weekend that you haven’t yet RSVP’d to.

Let’s back up several steps and see if there’s not a way to tame the beast before it even comes to your mailbox.

Take a look at your mail for a week or so when it comes in. What is it that you are receiving? Catalogs are one big problem area. Do you have a couple of catalogs that you order from? If so, you are probably also being bombarded with tons of mailings from partner stores.

The best way to stop the flow is to take each catalog that you don’t wish to receive, sit down at your computer and type out a quick email to their customer service address requesting that they remove you from their mailing list effective immediately. It might take a few minutes of your time but you will end up the winner in the end.

If there are some catalogs that you enjoy receiving but that tend to pile up for you, consider this approach. Keep a hanging folder in your desk. In the folder, keep only the current issue of the catalogs. Once the new one comes in, toss the old one immediately.

Next up? Magazines. Take a few moments to consider which magazines you are receiving and whether or not you are actually reading them. Many people tend to simply renew their subscriptions each year and let the magazines pile up with the intention of reading them–someday. If you receive 4 magazines a month but only truly read half of them, maybe it’s time to choose which ones you really love and let the others lapse.

We’ve dealt with a couple of fairly easy fixes–now we reach the heart of the matter. Junk mail versus your important stuff. With so much junk mail coming in on a day-to-day basis, it’s easy to lose track of the mail that you really do need.

Some junk mail can be dealt with on an individual basis such as postcards from realtors, dry cleaners, or other local companies. It can take a few minutes, but if you contact these companies individually, you can request that they not send you any further mail. The other option is simply dumping the stuff the minute you bring it in the house. Have a recycling bin in an easily accessible spot where you sort the mail and toss all of the junk mail right away that doesn’t have personal information on it.

Some stuff will need to be shredded including anything that has more than just your name and address on it such as credit card applications and mortgage refinance offers. Rather than building up a large pile of stuff and shredding it on an occasional basis, keep your shredder in a spot that is easy to use each and every time you need to shred something.

This is our last and yet most important category. You’ve blocked the door on all of the other unneeded stuff and you now have only the truly necessary pieces. Bills, personal letters, cards, etc.

You can take one of a few different approaches to bills. You can avoid receiving paper bills altogether by visiting the company’s website and signing up for an e- bill option. This allows you to check your bill online, print out a copy if you so choose for your records and pay your bill online as well. If you are the sole person in your household handling the finances, this is a great option. If there are others involved, you may choose to continue to receive paper bills to ensure that the bill is being taken care of.

Once a bill comes into your household, rather than tossing it on the pile, it’s best to open it and either pay it right then and there or you can also jot yourself a note in your planner or PDA of when the bill needs to be paid. Then file the bill in a file folder marked BILLS. Toss the outer envelopes–they are simply adding to your paper clutter.

Personal letters are wonderful as are cards of all types. The problem lies when there’s the need or desire to retain each and every piece of correspondence. You might consider keeping some that are really special and meaningful. In the case of a letter, you can even scan it right into your computer, eliminating the need to keep the original.

The very most important thing that you can do to manage your mail and keep it from taking over your life is to tend to it when it arrives. It may seem like a daunting task but you’d be amazed at how much you can get done in a small chunk of time–15, 10 or even just 5 minutes will make your life so much easier!

From Sarah – being organized is what saves me in my life – the way I write my to-Do lists, the way my office clutter either works for me or doesn’t – my kitchen – Maria gives you lots of free stuff, and a very inexpensive, very helpful ebook here, where you can get organized once and for all! Visit Maria at GetOrganizedNow->

(Note from Sarah – any commissions we get from Maria’s book sales go directly to children’s charities – so look around when you land on the link page, see if any of the books interest you, and buy through that page if you want to try one out (I really like them) – then to see all her free tips, go to the bottom of the page where it says “return to getorganized now” and you’ll land on her main page.)

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