Off-beat solutions for organizing your mail

If you don’t immediately process your mail when you come home each evening, I strongly recommend having a set place to store your mail until you do have time to process it. This holding location should be near your main point of entry to your home and be able to meet your needs (a.k.a. large enough to hold the mail you receive).

We all know what traditional mail organizers and sorters look like, so I found a handful of not-so-traditional versions to highlight:

An over-door mail organizer, which is especially handy for renters since it doesn’t require nailing or screwing anything into a wall:

An old-school wood mail organizer with key hooks, which used to be traditional but has fallen out of style:

A corporate mail cart, which you can wheel around your home (and is large enough to hold an entire GTD and mail system):

A locking mailbox, which is great if you have a roommate whom you found on Craigslist or if you live in a group house:

21 Comments for “Off-beat solutions for organizing your mail”

  1. posted by Donna on

    I highly recommend putting a recycle bin near the mail sorting area. Maybe even a trash can too.

  2. posted by Laura on

    We got a PO Box (for privacy, to keep our home address off of the internet). We only go get the mail about twice a week, and I have gone as little as once a week without any negative consequences. The Post Office has recycle bins there, so most of the mail goes straight in there and doesn’t come home with us. The stuff that does come home goes either into the in-box for processing, into the shredder, or on the table where we put magazines.

    This process has reduced our mail processing time and volume.

  3. posted by Jay on

    My wife and I immediately put our mail in an 8.5 by 11 inch cloth bag, which we keep on a small table near the front door of our home. When we are ready to look at the mail, we can pick up the bag and carry it anywhere in the house.

  4. posted by J. on

    Every day (after immediately recycling anything that’s obviously junk mail) we throw our incoming mail into a very large decorative bowl that our former neighbors gave us as a thank you gift for house sitting while they were in Mexico. Then I deal with all the real mail at once on Saturday. The bowl is gorgeous, so getting it to an empty state where I can admire its interior’s design again is a good incentive for me to get through a task I don’t really enjoy.

  5. posted by Jen on

    I’ve been looking all over for a wooden organizer something like that; too bad I can’t order that stuff from Amazon in Canada.

    Why did they fall out of favour? They’re so useful!

    We just dump our mail on the kitchen table; I try to enforce a clear-table-before-dinner rule but it doesn’t usually work.

  6. posted by Anita on

    I’m pretty good about going through my mail as soon as I get it. It helps that I don’t get a lot of mail, and junk gets recycled about 5 seconds after it comes out of the mailbox. Mail that does need attention usually ends up in a “stuff to deal with” pile on my desk, which I try to clear every week.

    Doing my banking and paying most of my bills online has cut down my mail quite a bit. Now if only I could get VISA to send me electronic statements…

  7. posted by Kris on

    Another simple option for holding mail is to put it in a canvas tote bag until you’re ready to deal with it. (This is similar to what Jay and his wife do.)

    You can just throw the mail in the tote unsorted or you can include some file folders for sorting. The folders can be labeled with the name of each person in your household, they can be labeled with the kind of mail (catalogs, magazines, etc.), or they can be labeled with the action required (recycle, trash, read, respond, pay, file).

    As Jay points out, you can carry the bag to any part of the house when you’re ready to deal with the mail.

    Also, if your mail box is by the road rather than by your door, you can carry the tote bag directly to the mail box.

    L.L. Bean’s medium tote bag works well for this purpose. It’s sturdy, relatively inexpensive, and comes in 15 colors. (And for the record, my only relationship with L.L. Bean is as a customer.)

    Another cheap but less sturdy option is to throw the mail into a shopping bag from your favorite department store.

  8. posted by Michele on

    I deal with my mail daily. However, I don’t pay bills daily; I let them accumulate for a couple of weeks, until I’m too close to the oldest bill’s due date for putting off the task any longer. To keep on top of that due date, I process all my mail daily by opening the bills, discarding the inserts, and setting the bills half in the envelope, with their due dates prominently showing. Then I stack the bills in a drawer right on top of my checkbook.

    I get about a dozen bills monthly (utilities, credit cards, mortgage, and miscellaneous health bills), so I receive new bills frequently enough that I can always stay on top of the most urgent due dates.

    I like putting the bills away in a drawer for two reasons: privacy (the content and amount of a bill is none of my guests’ business) and neatness.

  9. posted by Karen on

    The over-cabinet mail sorter would also be handy to hang on the front of a file cabinet or desk drawer. I have limited space on my desk, and it might be a way to get rid of my “Out” box on my desk (without having to commit to something permanent).

  10. posted by tammy on

    there is an important step between bringing in the mail and putting some of it in the recycling bin:

    removing the postage paid envelope and cutting out the address label, and writing “remove from mailing list” on the label, then sending it back in the postage paid envelope.

    reduce! it comes before recycle. 😀

  11. posted by na on

    no one should be getting much mail other than packages. its unnecessary. but u definitely shouldnt buy have another item to store it. the point is owning as little as possible. get as many places to stop junk mail, everything else can be done on-line or faxed.

  12. posted by Sara on

    I’m shocked anyone gets enough mail that they can’t just go through it right away when it’s brought in. Maybe I’m just so obsessive I couldn’t stand not to look at it? At any rate that wooden organizer is gorgeous, I’m sure I could find another use for it!

  13. posted by Suze on

    I’m with Sara – I need to open and deal with it as soon as I get it. Junk is shredded and binned in recycling, bills are filed in my bill folder and dealt with each Friday on our payday, and anything else is filed away.

  14. posted by Lola on

    I hate mail almost as much as I hate phone solicitations. As soon as I pick it up from the mailbox, I deal with it straight away. Recycle, BillPay, ScanSnap It, then Shred.

    http://www.junkbusters.com/declare.html

    Life is so much more enjoyable without having that weekly load of mail to deal with — not to mention the peace of mind that comes from not having to look at or think about paper clutter.

  15. posted by Dawn on

    Before you toss your unwanted mail and/or junk mail make sure you ALWAYS tear your name/address off of the envelope or enclosed documents and shred it before you toss the rest in the recycling bin. I always worry about identity theft.

    I have signed up for electronic billing whenever possible to try to minimize the amount of paper mail arriving. Junk mail – ugh. I wish there was a permanent, free and real solution to stop unwanted junk mail.

  16. posted by Haley J. on

    These are great! My husband offices out of our home when he is not traveling for work (he travels about 75-80% of the time). He get a lot of mail, and I have a wire basket near our entrance to dump it all in. These solutions are much more attractive, though. I really like the old-fashioned organizer with the key hooks.

  17. posted by Peter on

    The over door hanging style looks really good. I just wish I had a door like that to hang it on…

  18. posted by AG on

    To control paper clutter, I use the (1) paper shredder (2) online banking and (3) file cabinet (for all others) religiously.

    Also, here is a crazy thought. If I ain’t got 3 and 1/2 minutes to pay a bill online, then I probably ain’t got time to run up the charges on said bill either.

    Hmmmm.

  19. posted by RoaringSilence on

    The corporate mail carts are fantastic. I don’t get so much mail that I’d use them for that, but I have one for foods in the kitchen (it’s stored underneath a countertop and can be pulled out), and one for craft supplies (it’s stored underneath a desk)

  20. posted by Sooz on

    I’m with Lola on this – since we got our Fujitsu ScanSnap, it’s: open bill, pay it online, scan it, shred original bill.

    We are now moving to get as many bills sent electronically as we can arrange. That will lead to (hopefully): open e-bill, pay it online, save as PDF, delete original bill.

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