There's an entire episode of one of my favorite TV shows, You're the Worst, (by the way, the show is quite explicit and not for everyone) where Gretchen has such severe anxiety about her only household chore--opening the mail. Her therapist assigns her this task, and when she finally sits down to do the job, feeling proud of herself and what she accomplished, she opens a letter containing news of a loved-one's death, confirming to her forever that nothing good can come from the mail.
This was very much a "funny because it's true" episode. I have definitely stared at a pile of mail in my early adulting years and realized that no good could come from it. People needed money, people wanted to con me into giving them my money, I forgot to give them my money and they were going to shut off my power, and they were getting married in a destination ceremony and could I afford the roughly $800 it was going to cost for travel, lodging, and gift? Christmas and my birthday were really the only time I looked forward to mail, because it was used for actually connecting with people. But even then, the papers resulting from mail would pile up and stress me out, no matter how many well-wishes were contained within the pile.
After years of struggling with major mail purge systems, I finally realized that mail falls into three categories. That's it! It's simple. Three categories is TOTALLY manageable! And so I started managing it.
Mail Category 1: Items to Dispose Of
Unless you're an extreme coupon-er, those multi-page ads can go straight to the bin. Credit card offers? Straight to the bin--you're better off doing your own research and applications. Whether you shred it, recycle it, or trash it, if you don't have purpose for it to be kept, DO NOT PUT IT DOWN IN YOUR HOME. Take it straight to the bin and dispose of it.
Mail Category 2: Action Items
Action items are the ones that typically stress us out--we see a bill that needs to be paid, or an invitation that needs to be replied to, and then we have to remember to do it. Start by taking all of these papers out of their envelopes and disposing of the envelopes--UNLESS it has a return address you need to update in your records. Still take the paper out, but put that envelope in your Action Pile along with the flattened, unfolded bills and invitations.
The next step with the Action Pile is to sort it according to urgency. The most urgent actions go on top--think the bills that have consequences if you forget to pay them. The least urgent actions go on the bottom--like that address you need to update. Put the organized pile next to your computer or in the place where you will take action on these items and work on the most urgent items every day until the pile is gone.
Mail Category 3: Items to File
Did you recently get your car title mailed to you and see something like, "Please put with your records" plastered across the top of the cover page? You need to keep this paper. You also need to keep updated insurance policies, medical records, legal documents, or school records in a filing system. Does that mean that you're going to file everything as soon as it comes in? Maybe, but likely not. My files are locked in a fireproof safe, so I tend to file all of my documents that need filing weekly. They come in, I take them out of the envelope, unfold them, and put them in my To File Pile. For me, this pile lives next to my printer in an orderly fashion until my weekly filing session while watching an episode of Workin' Moms on Netflix. Fun fact? It never takes me more than 5 minutes once I sit down to just do it. If you don't have a filing system yet, just start with the pile. If you do? Go one step further and file these papers at least weekly to keep them safe for when you need them.
And that's it, friends. Three categories of mail. Items to dispose of, action items, and items to file. If you start this sorting practice daily, as soon as you bring your mail in, you will end up able to find what you need, when you need it!
Organized YOU! host Taylor Vogel is the Owner &
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