One of the fastest clutter growers in a home is incoming paperwork. Without a system in place, the papers will quickly overtake a space. It isn’t uncommon for a household to get two magazines/catalogs and four envelopes DAILY in the mail! If those items aren’t dealt with today, the clutter will soon pile up to monstrous levels! Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating some…but not much. Each day it keeps collecting and growing and then it seems to be entirely too much trouble to sort the mail. Then, on bill-paying day, you have to go through a huge pile of mail and other random papers that have somehow “migrated” to that pile. It’s so frustrating! For years, I lived this way. I would let everything pile up and then go on a wild goose chase to find some random bill that needed to be paid (yesterday). Not only is this stressful for me, but it also costs me extra money in late fees.
A few weeks ago, when I started my life transformation (That’s what I’m calling it. Don’t judge me.), I decided that one of the nicest things I could do for myself is to stop stressing myself out over where in the hell I put the credit card bill. I tried a couple of different systems, but I really like my current system. So, here goes:
Everyday Frank or I will get the mail from the mailbox. If it is me, I immediately begin opening the envelopes and sorting the mail into different piles. If it is Frank, he lays the mail in our “Inbox.” I then sort it later. (Our Inbox also serves another purpose, which I will cover in another post.)
When I’m sorting the mail, I toss anything that is obvious trash: flyers, envelope stuffers, catalogs (except for ABC Distributing, my favorite!), envelopes from other pieces of mail. Then I start making piles:
Bills: They end up in the office in a vertical file holder until they are paid, which is about once a week.
To File: Another pile goes to my little plastic 3-drawer organizer that sits on a shelf under my Inbox, this pile goes into the drawer labeled “To File.” About once a week I take the papers out of this box and file them in the office in my short or long term filing systems.
To Shred: Yet another pile is my “To Shred” pile. It also goes in my little plastic 3-drawer organizer, and about once a week, I take the papers out and shred them.
Action: These would be any kind of invitation or appointment reminder. Since I now always keep my planner handy, I immediately transfer that important date or reminder to my planner. I then toss that piece of mail. (Exception: Invitations to special occasions that I want to keep for scrapbooking purposes.)
Magazines/Newspapers: The weekly newspaper that we get goes to the small table beside the recliner. My husband reads it every Wednesday. When the new one comes in, I toss the old one. Magazines go to a hanging file folder that is situated behind the inbox. After we read them, we toss them.
Sale Papers: Go in the hanging file folder. I reference them when I get ready to go grocery shopping.
Coupons: If I get a Sunday paper, I grab the coupons out and toss them in this hanging file until I’m ready to clip and sort them. I also put any restaurant coupons (pizza take-out, etc) in this file.
That’s pretty much all there is to it! I timed myself today when I opened and sorted the mail. It took me…64 seconds. Now, I think 64 seconds is well worth the piece of mind I now have when I sit down to pay bills and I know exactly where to put my hands on a bill. Why didn’t I do this for myself sooner?