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Q & A: How do I handle my mail? How do I keep it from piling up?

by respaced on November 5, 2010

Question: How do I handle all of the paper that comes into my house each day? Between the mail and the kids’ schoolwork and school forms, the paper piles have gotten out of control! 

Answer: This is probably the most common organization problem I see in people’s homes. It is so hard to keep up with the constant influx of paper! But I do have few suggestions:

1. For your mail, set up an incline file sorter near the surface where you usually stack your mail (if you’re used to putting your mail there, it may be hard to start putting it elsewhere, so it’s always easiest to work with your existing habits.) Get five to seven folders and label them with the various actions your mail needs. Some labels include: To Be Paid, To Be Reviewed, To Be Filed, To Be Signed & Returned, To Contact (I also have one called “Netflix”). For more ideas, keep track of the mail that comes into you house over the course of a week and write down the actions that each piece needs.

Then, choose to get your mail only when you have 10-15 minutes to open it all, sort it, and recycle, shred or file it. File the keepers in the appropriate folders in your incline file sorter. Pick a time once a week to do all those actions on the folders (usually the same time you pay bills.)

If you and your spouse pay separate bills or are at odds over who handles the mail, get an incline file sorter with labeled folders for each of you. This way, you are each responsible for only your own mail.

For mail with deadlines attached (e.g. school permission slips, birthday invitations), write the action needed on your calendar a few days before the deadline. Label one of your folders “Calendar,” and stick that invitation or permission slip in there. You might even put an asterisk on your calendar next to the activity so you can remember to grab the necessary paperwork out of the “Calendar” folder.

For information about setting up a filing system for paper that needs long-term storage, read my post on “How to set up a filing system that works.”

***Do you have a question for me about kids’ rooms, living rooms, kitchens, garages, attics, closets, collectibles and memorabilia, to-do lists, time management or more? Leave your question in the comments section or email me at Thanks!

Excellent image of piles of paper thanks to Melissa from Flickr.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly @ April 20, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Ahhh…yes, this is me! I’m off to read your filing system post now. 🙂


respaced April 25, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Hi Kelly, I think we all struggle with paper piles at least some of the time. Paper seems to worm its way into our house no matter what we do! I hope these tips gave you some ideas that will work for you and your family. Thanks for reading and commenting. And now I’m off to check out your blog!


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