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7 Rules For Conquering Your Mail Mountain

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The mail.

Sometimes I don’t think there is anything more annoying to deal with on a daily basis than the mail. So much of it isn’t needed or wanted, but it still comes every day.

The thing that perhaps makes it most annoying is that it either has to be tended to every day, or, if it is something that is procrastinated it becomes paper clutter, which is no fun to deal with either. Unless I am waiting for something important, I love holidays when the mail doesn’t come.

Of course I have nothing against anyone who works for any kind of mail service because we certainly would be lost without it. Although it must have been kind of fun when your mail was delivered by the Pony Express!

Because the mail is one of those ongoing things in daily life, I have found it best to create some ground rules that make dealing with it a bit simpler.

Here are my seven rules for managing your mountain of mail.


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1. Don’t ever remove the mail from the mailbox until you are ready and able to take care of it

This is something that I have trained my family members to do as well. Ideally, before anyone takes the mail out of the mailbox they have to ask me if I’m ready for it. Likewise, I’m not going to grab it unless I am ready to tackle it right then and there either.

2. Go through the mail before taking it in the house, separating what can be tossed and what needs to be kept

I keep my trash and recycle outside. This allows me to sort the mail while I am walking toward the recycle bin so I can put whatever I don’t need there right away. As long as I am the one getting the mail, nothing unneeded even comes into the house this way. This reduces the amount of hassle and paper clutter right away.

3. Implement the one-touch rule

This is a rule that applies to so much more than just the mail, but the one touch rule is the basic idea that you touch something and deal with it right away rather than setting it aside on the table or counter for later. That’s not to say that something can’t be set aside until a more appropriate time comes to take care of it entirely.

For instance, I have an office day once a week. This is when I pay the bills and take care of many of the paperwork type things. When bills come, I still have a place for them to go until office day without them having to clutter the counter. This is what I use for sorting paper clutter in my house, including my mail.


Because it has three drawers, I can easily sort what goes in there. For me, bills go on the top, things that need to be dealt with go in the middle, and things that simply need to be filed go in the bottom drawer. This has always worked well for me. Maybe it can for you too!

4. Separate out the trash from the actual mail

This is assuming that someone else brought in the mail or you can’t care of the waste before coming in the house as in rule 2. It took me several years of training, but for the most part I have broken my husband’s habit of opening the mail that seems interesting to him and then putting it back inside the envelope for me to take out later. Why put it back in the ripped envelope? I have no idea, but most times he finally takes care of the waste himself now. Again, I prefer that he not do anything with the mail (which is something he does maybe once a month for some unknown reason), but at least he can help me out by not making me dig around in a torn envelope for the actual mail. If you are still hanging onto the waste in some way, now is a great time to form the habit of putting it in the trash or recycle right away.

5. Unsubscribe from things you don’t want or need

We had our house on the market about four years ago. I still get solicitation mail from other realtors rather often. I call them and ask them to stop sending me things since it only becomes something that I have to deal with and is of no value to me right now. I also get unsolicited insurance information, home repair information, and a variety of other things. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes these things can have value, but I have no problem contacting them when I need information…and they are more than happy to send it at my request. This also goes for catalogs and magazines you no longer read or look at. Spend some time over the next week or two taking note of what you can actually stop receiving. Then, call to cancel it.

6. Find a way to sort your mail into a way that makes sense to you

I shared with you my three categories…bills, handle later, file, but maybe there is a different method that works better for you. Maybe it would be look at now, look at later, give to other people, and so on. Determine the effective way to sort your mail and then get the tool you need to accomplish this in a functional and eye pleasing way such as the three basket system above.

Here are a couple other ideas that are too cute


7. Schedule a day and time to take care of the mail you’ve sorted

Whether you have an office day or make time in your daily schedule to deal with the mail, having a known day and time to tackle it means that it won’t get left behind. There is nothing worse than late payments or missed deadlines because you never got around to figuring out the most efficient way to take care of these things.

Paper clutter is one of my pet peeves, and the mail can easily become paper clutter if I am not proactive in dealing with it. If you find this to be true for you, see if my seven rules for managing your mountain of mail are helpful.

This post is based on a chapter in Ruth Soukup’s book, 31 Days to a Clutter Free Life. Grab a copy and join in, or, grab a copy and work through it at your own pace in your own time.

Either way, you will have a clutter free life by the time you work through all 31 days!

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