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It is far easier to stay organized if you have less stuff. If you are able to reduce the flow of stuff into your house, especially if you can get rid of more than you bring in, you will be able to stay organized. So what to do about that steady stream of paper arriving at your house just about every day? The mail never stops, which means you have to deal with it – developing a system for processing your mail is essential. The following steps will put you in control of your mail.

Step 1: Purge

One of the most important things you can do to bring your mail under control is to recycle most of it – immediately! You’ll need a designated space for this. It could be a bin near your front door or an available drawer in your living room. Likely 80% of your mail is something you don’t need taking up your time. So, take the time the moment you bring new mail in the door to quickly purge flyers, offers, ads, coupons, and junk mail – if you are not currently actively shopping for it, then toss it. Open envelopes, such as those containing bills, and throw out the fillers and marketing materials and the envelope itself. Keep only the items that require your attention. With repetition, you will get good at this and if you are consistent you should be able to do this in less than a minute. You will have a great sense of accomplishment when you reduce that stack of papers down to 20% of its original size right off the bat.

Step 2: Sort

Everything in your home should have a home – a place where it is kept when not being used. With mail, it is important that there is space for future mail to live. The following list includes mail types and suggested homes for each. I recommend using labels to ensure everything ends up where it should. This step should only take a few minutes, so it too should be done right away, right after the initial purge.

1. Bills to be paid – Home office space, desktop organizer

2. Catalogs, ads, or coupons for stores that you plan to buy from in the near future – Bin or shelf near your kitchen or living room (recycle the older item at the same time)

3. Magazines, newsletters, or newspapers that you actually read – Bin or shelf in your living room (recycle the older items at the same time)

4. Packages – Home office space or living room

5. Other important mail: such as bank slips, financial statements, paycheck stubs, or any relevant documents for taxes, insurance, medical, school, work – Home office space desktop organizer.

Step 3: Process

This is the step that will take the most time. As with everything that takes time, you must literally put an appointment in your calendar for it. Processing important mail requires your focus – schedule it so that you don’t miss critical deadlines! Packages should be opened within the same day of receiving them; otherwise you need to seriously consider why you bought the item in the first place and return it.

For the other mail types, try making it part of another regimen that you already have, such as part of your bedtime routine. After getting ready for bed you can sit down to look through the ads or catalogs first and plan any trips to the store – put these trips in your calendar too! Last, move on to the entertainment or news mail items. If you notice that you never seem to get to reading them, it’s time to consider canceling the subscription.

Step 4: Reduce

Reducing the quantity of mail that comes into your home is the most important thing you can do to bring your mail under control. Why throw away 80% of your mail, when you can resolve to not even receive all that clutter in the first place? When purging, you will notice certain recurring unwanted mail. Set it aside during your purge and schedule a time in your calendar for when you can take the steps to make sure it isn’t sent to you ever again.

Forming new habits isn’t easy – it takes a lot of perseverance; but if you turn these steps into a habit you will feel so much better dealing with your mail. Another steady stream of stuff into your home could use a similar overhaul – and that is the flow of food into your refrigerator. The heart of your kitchen, your refrigerator, and how to organize it will be the subject of our next blog.