Here we are once again, on the heels of Ferragosto, and beginning our reentry into regular life. Kids are starting their first day of school, and proud (relieved!) parents are posting adorable pictures to social media. With any luck, you are returning from some place like this:
The August reentry is painful – that’s why Italians delay it so long, until well into September! Americans are lucky to get a few days here and there over the summer, but still, with long sunny days and kids at home, it can be easy to let home organization slide. Here’s a tip to for taming your mail and paperwork. An easy, low-stress change to how you handle your mail and the influx of coupons, bills, cards, and junk mail will keep your counters from getting crowded, and your kitchen table ready for dinner.
Step One: Don’t let it in!
Like a witch in a fairy tale, junk mail and unnecessary papers should never be allowed to cross the threshold of your home. If you live in an apartment or loft, head from the mailboxes to the dumpster / recycling area with unwanted items. If you have a house with a garage, keep a big tub for recycling by the door. Open mail (and pull random paperwork from your purse, kids’ backpacks, briefcases, and car) and IMMEDIATELY dispose of:
- junk mail
- exterior envelopes (if you do not need the return address)
- reply envelopes (on items you respond to / pay online)
- any paperwork you don’t need
Seriously, letting unwanted paperwork into your house is more dangerous than inviting in a vampire. It leads to losing important paperwork, late fees, clutter, dust, and – shudder – grime. Do be careful to shred anything with personal information before tossing. Criminals are wily and will go through trash.
Step Two: Organize
Once paperwork is let in, it needs to find a home, which should NOT be a counter or kitchen table. Some newer houses have a family office center in the kitchen, which, if used properly and tidily, can work well. For those without that built-in, I recommend a product from IKEA designed – strangely enough – for shoes. There is the more elegant version shown below, and then cheaper plastic versions that will do the trick as well. I am sure companies other than IKEA sell something similar, but if you notice, IKEA is – as always – incredibly space-efficient. This little number is only a few inches wide, foregoing back legs in favor of plywood panels that easily anchor it to a wall. I’ve placed mine in a tiny apartment “foyer” (to stretch the term a bit) and in a narrow hallway of a house.
The various drawers allow you to create “inboxes” for different people in the family, or maybe a drawer for school, community group, or church/temple/mosque items, and a space for coupons. Every few days or perhaps once a week you can go through bills that need to be paid, or letters / forms needing responses. Once that’s finished, you can take a moment to get the item filed, posted to your fridge or bulletin board, mailed, or shredded, and voila’! You’ve tamed your mail.
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