Motivated moms don’t have time to handle paper mail. Paper mail is usually an all-consuming project over a cluttered countertop, dining room table, or desk, or all of the above.
Most of my postal mail is junk advertising flyers for window replacements and credit card offers. I knew the contents barely deserved a second look, yet I would still find myself staring down an ever-growing pile throughout the week.
Here are my tricks for tackling one of the biggest pain points in homemaking.
Recycle bag at the door
The easiest life-changing step: put a reusable recycling bag on your door handle nearest the mailbox. Make it a mental rule that the pile has to get slimmed down before hitting any surface, and pull out any unnecessary junk mail for recycling. Chances are that you’ll reduce at least half of your pile. Woohoo!
Keep the positives for the end
Envelopes that look like special notes or cards or checks paid to us instead of a bill always brighten our days, and opening them makes the mundane task of sorting/answering mail a little happier with those at the finish line.
When you open the happy stuff first, you are more likely to get sidetracked. You’ll jump to look up the baby registry or wedding venue online, you’ll call to RSVP and get into a conversation, or you’ll open your banking app and start depositing and thinking of where that money is headed next.
Start with surprises
Envelopes that make you say “hmm, I wasn’t expecting this” or “I’ve never seen this before” fall into this category.
This might be a random letter from your insurance companies, current 9-to-5 job, your kids’ schools or activities, etc.
These items do not come predictably, so they peak our interest and anxiety first because “oh crap, is this another bill?!” More often than not, you will be pleasantly surprised to learn that these items aren’t additional bills, but that they do require you to put another item on your to do list.
As you open the envelopes, put those to do items on your Trello housekeeping board. [You can get a free Trello account here.]
Buy Sophie’s 6th birthday present — party June 17th @ 4-6 PM
Submit 2017 tax organizer to accountant — December 31
You get the idea.
RSVP right away and add important due dates to your calendar. If you want to keep the pretty invitations on display, add them to a peg board above your indoor mailbox.
Systemize recurring bills
As I open paper bills, I pay them immediately before opening the next one.
Most bills are available in e-statements now. When a paper bill is paid, I look for how to sign up for future e-statements and follow those steps.
I save all of my billing usernames/passwords and account numbers in a folder labeled “Utilities” in my LastPass account. This way, I can have my monthly e-statements emailed to me and on the following Mail Day, I can easily sit at the computer, click the pay now button, and LastPass will auto-fill the website’s login information and my secure payment information. Billing time is cut down to a minute or less for each bill!
BONUS TIP: While I am logged in to the online bill pay for each account, I download that month’s billing statement and save it to my corresponding Dropbox folder.
By the time taxes are filed, I have digital folders of perfectly labeled bills that I only touched once. No more paper shuffle. No more office supplies. The process is simple: I get an email saying my monthly bill is ready to view, I pay that bill online, and download the statement to my Dropbox folder. 1-2-3.
If you’re like me, you might be a little reserved about letting go of all of the paper at first. I definitely was nervous to! But I challenged myself and can say I will never go back to the paper shuffle confidently. Life has been SO much easier ever since!
If you’re in the market for something in particular, scan the relevant sales flyers at the doorway, then put those in the recycling bag with the irrelevant ones. Note the sale in your smartphone or planner right away.
You can unregister your address from many major chain sales flyers by going to CatalogChoice.org.
Note: Even with Catalog Choice, we still cannot unregister from everything. I’m still looking for a thorough way to say “No, thank you!” to all of the flyers that are addressed to us and our home’s last 2 owners. If you have any strategies, please let me know in the comments!
Unlike ad flyers, this is a section we can have control over. To start, check your current magazine subscriptions and consider your actual magazine usage.
Do you actually sit and read the magazines?
Do they collect on a coffee table somewhere?
What happens to magazines when you’re done?
Would you be able to read them from an app on your phone or tablet?
Could you live without the magazine distraction altogether?
We converted all of our existing magazine subscriptions from paper to digital and read them on their free iPhone/iPad apps instead.
As subscriptions expired, we were careful to not renew any ones we weren’t getting maximum use out of. Eventually, we ended up with no current magazine subscriptions.
Repeat this process with any newspaper subscriptions, too!
Unpack with a purpose
We are huge fans of Amazon Prime. For $99/year, we get Amazon Fire TV, free 2-day shipping, Amazon Music, and unlimited Amazon Photo Storage. We have our dog food, paper towels, toilet paper, vitamins, diapers, wipes, toothpaste, and laundry detergent on Amazon’s Subscribe ‘n Save. Basically, any home supplies are delivered on a recurring subscription.
We have 3 large rescue dogs that chase the mailman for their monthly BarkBox delivery of treats and toys, too. [Get your first BarkBox free by clicking here.]
I’ve also become a much bigger fan of shopping online for clothes and shoes. It’s way easier than taking a newborn out of the house every time I want to make a purchase or return!
Needless to say, we’ve got a lot of cardboard boxes in our house that need to be taken care of — for both the entryway and the environment.
I have all of our recurring monthly subscriptions delivered on the same day, so the only random packages arriving are one-time orders.
Specify your package delivery location on both subscriptions and one-time orders. For example, all packages at our last house went to the garage entrance door, so I could remove the box contents but leave the actual box near the recycling bin.
We love that we can fill our empty Amazon boxes with usable clothing, accessories and household goods we no longer need and print our free shipping label at home. [You can read more about the Amazon GiveBackBox effort here.]
As you unpack packages, consider how you can reuse the boxes to gift donations, help friends move, ship your own business products, etc. If nothing else, find a responsible recycling center.
Dedicate a “Mail Day”
Do all of this opening on Mail Day. This is one of my most important time-savers. Using block scheduling, I dedicate a set amount of time only once per week for handling all of my recurring bills, surprises, flyers, magazines and packages.
This way, my responses are made efficiently and I can compartmentalize the task out-of-mind and not anxiously deal with the clutter everyday. All paper mail worth opening is kept in one single bin by the front door with packages stacked neatly underneath.
Start with a 2-hour window to get yourself organized the first time you try this strategy. Each time you sort the mail, the organizing time gets shorter.
Plan to be mobile: standing at a desk, going around your house/office to gather all paper mail into one spot, and only sitting once it’s sorted into the categories above and you’re ready to act on one pile at a time. I prefer to stand while sorting mail — totally up to you!
Right now, I’m down to a 5-minute mail management time.
Tip: Keep a paper shredder or paper recycling bin/bag at this desk so you can handle envelopes and scanned documents responsibly. Side note: It’s pretty disgusting to see how much paper waste there is coming out of just our individual homes alone.