If you’re prone to having piles of bills, letters, advertisements, and junk mail on your kitchen table, you are not unlike most people. Great news! There are many ways to keep paper clutter under control. Here are some exclusive tips from a former professional organizer:
- Whenever possible, opt for computer statements. Most banks, investment services, and businesses offer opportunities to view statements securely online or get them delivered to your inbox. Just remember to use a secure password and log in and out of your account each time to help maintain account security.
- Visit the Federal Trade Commission
The FTC provides links to register with the Direct Marketing Association’s consumer website to reduce unsolicited mail and emails. Consumers may register online and indicate what mail they do and do not wish to receive. There may be a minuscule processing fee, but it limits solicitations for a ten-year period.
- Set up automatic payments online and streamline your bills. Automatic payments will not only save you time, but it will save you money on postage while also helping you to avoid late fees. Even though payment is automatically deducted from the account of your choosing, such as a checking account, be sure to continue to monitor payments and statements regularly.
- Create one place for incoming paper mail to go, such as a basket. You will be less likely to lose papers or accidentally toss them when they have a specific landing place. This is a temporary home for mail, for what you just received and need to act upon or wish to file soon. The basket will serve to keep papers from cluttering your countertop or desk.
- Immediately toss unsolicited junk mail. Use your basket exclusively for important incoming mail you wish to keep. When discarding mail, always shred documents containing personally-identifying information. Also, shred credit card offers and so forth.
- Get into the practice of sorting through the mail regularly and acting upon it as soon as it comes in. For example, if you get a notice that you need to make a medical appointment, do it asap. Use your phone to set a reminder of that appointment. You may wish to file that mail for reference or discard it when acted upon.
- For things that need acting upon in the future, such as confirming a dental appointment or making a dog grooming appointment, create a to-do list. Keep information handy that is needed to make the appointments, such as your contacts’ phone numbers. Then prioritize making those appointments.
- Create a file system for archiving paper mail. File mail in one location, such as a file cabinet with labeled dividers or a labeled accordion file. Remember that it’s easier to get the job done if you don’t have to climb jillions of steps to file something, so make sure your system is located in a practical and easy to reach place.
- There are numerous ways to organize mail you wish to keep. Categorizing files depends entirely on what works best for you, but most people file mail by company name, such as Allstate Insurance, Dan’s Electric Company, Mazda, Wells Fargo, etc. or categories, such as car payments, childcare, electric bill, mortgage, pay stubs, real estate taxes, etc.
- Consider storing valuable paper documents in a fireproof home safe that is bolted to the floor or in a secured safe deposit box in a bank, post office, or reputable institution. Be reminded that documents kept in a safe deposit box may not always be accessible, and retrieval may be complicated should the institution be closed.
- Additional tips: Most people use their cameras to take photos. Some use it to store general information, such as a doctor’s address and phone number, but closely guard your personal information. Experts warn against storing photos of personal documents on your phone’s camera as others may gain access to your photos. Safeguard your private information. Always use passcodes for your phone, change passwords to websites regularly, and use two-factor authentication for accounts whenever possible. And never reveal personal identifying information on social media.
It only takes a few minutes a day to keep up with incoming mail. The benefits of tossing/shredding junk mail as soon as it comes into the house, or storing and filing what you want to keep, are plentiful. You may not want your nosey neighbor who dropped in unexpectedly to see your credit card bill laying on the table. Not only does managing mail at home help maintain your privacy, but important papers are less likely to be lost or tossed in an organized home.