One of the easiest ways to keep paper clutter from overwhelming your space is to set up a mail processing center immediately inside the door by your mailbox. In a buffet, chest, armoire, or another piece of furniture that matches the decor of your home, install a recycling bin, shredder, and trash can. Also, have mail cubbies for each person in your home so whoever sorts the mail can have a place to immediately store everyone else’s mail.
When you sort the mail, you have four options:
- Recycle. Most flyers, postcards, and papers can easily be recycled. If you don’t want or need the mail, and it doesn’t include any personal information, drop it straight into a recycling bin.
- Shred. Credit card applications, notifications, and other junk mail that includes your private information should be shredded to help prevent identity theft. A few seconds shredding these documents can save you hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars fixing a stolen identity.
- Trash. Not all mail can be recycled. Check with your local recycling center to know which types of papers and envelopes can be recycled and which ones can’t. For example, envelopes with the plastic window pane often have to be trashed.
- Process. Keep a pen in your mail center to write action items on the mail you choose to keep. “Pay by November 1.” “Send to lawyer by October 15.” Give yourself as much direction as possible so you don’t waste time re-reading the mail again.
The truly organized might also have a scanner in this location to immediately scan materials that don’t need to be kept in physical form, but can be retained digitally.
You can be proactive and reduce a good chunk of junk mail by opting out of direct marketing materials through DMAchoice.org. Additionally, call the customer service number on any catalog you don’t want and request to be removed from their mailing lists. You can also contact the three credit reporting agencies to opt out of credit card applications for five years at a time. (You will need to contact all three agencies — TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.) There are also companies that do all of these mail reduction services for an annual fee, such as 41pounds.org and PreCycle.
A mail center is also a great place to empty clutter out your pockets, backpack, and/or briefcase. The less paper clutter that comes into your home, the less clutter you have to worry about getting rid of later.