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September 16, 2010

Laura’s Blog Entry

The one thing that bogs me down, over and over, is paper. Mostly paper that comes in the mail. Anyone else experience this?

I used to go nuts opening the mail each day and then making piles of things that needed attention. I didn’t want to put it away somewhere because I was fearful I would forget that it needed to be dealt with. But then there was so much lying around that things got lost anyway.

I was pretty sure I could wrestle this monster to the ground if I just put my mind to it. What resulted was a system that has evolved over the past five plus years. It works pretty well. In case you are looking for a way out of the paper nightmare, here’s how it goes…

Mail comes in the front door each day. I give it a quick look – anything interesting? Any packages? Those get opened right away. Everything else goes into the mail storage box. That’s the large box on the bottom in the photo below. The top box contains the letter opener, paperclips, pens and any other odds and ends I need for the process.

Once a week, often on Thursdays for some reason, I process all the mail. It is listed on my calendar so I don’t forget. This way bills get taken care of in a timely manner and nothing sits too long. Processing involves opening everything and making decisions.

Is it a bill to pay? It gets moved into a file folder in a portable file box. These are organized by date. I file it in the folder for the week before it is due.

This file box also contains supplies for mailing – stamps, envelopes, return address labels. I also keep files I use on a regular basis in here as well. For example, there is a folder for coupons – these are the ones for oil changes, restaurants, craft stores. I can easily leaf through them before I go shopping.

There is also a file for deposit envelopes so I can process any checks that come in the mail.

My latest strategy – and this is working really well – is that I keep any statements that come for investments or 401Ks here. Each month I pull out and shred the one from the previous month and only keep the most current. Then at the end of the year I just keep the final statement. That is so much neater than filing them away each month and then purging at the end of the year.

Back to the mail processing: Is it junk mail? It goes to the shred pile or recycling. Catalogs I want to keep go in a large basket. Other go straight to recycling. I try to only touch things once. Open and make a decision.

If I have time I pay bills that are due right then. Best not to put it off.

I also take this time to transfer any important dates to the calendar – things like invitations, school functions, etc.

Some people can probably whip through this routine every single day and be done. If I had to do that my soul would wither up and die. So mind-numbing. It works for me to only have to do it four or five times a month.

My latest experiment is a basket on the coffee table for school forms that need processing. I dislike having a pile sitting there, but if I put them away some where I forget to do them. So far the basket is working better than the pile system. Time will tell.  How do you keep your paper under control?

11 Comments leave one →
  1. September 16, 2010 8:43 am

    Thanks for sharing this. Very nice system. I too despise the paper. I physically recoil if someone hands me paper at work!

    I have converted everything possible to electronic-only. Any incoming paper mail that’s valid gets scanned and shredded… all else to the recycle pile. I have to do this each day, or I get overwhelmed by it. All scanned documents are encrypted and backed up offsite.

    Your files and boxes are way more attractive though. 🙂

    • September 16, 2010 8:47 am

      Whoa. That’s hardcore – both the idea of going paperless AND the daily maintenance. I bow at your organizational feet! Way less storage space needed, tho. That is very attractive! I have started paying a number of bills online. No checks, no stamps. It’s a small step!

    • Marlea Hanson permalink
      April 20, 2011 10:49 pm

      Warren, you are my hero!

      As I check my PMB once a week, I save myself the drama/trauma of sifting & sorting daily. The UPS Store, where I rent the box, notifies me by email if I have a Certified letter or package, and I can decide if I want to make an extra trip or not. Currently, my Significant Otter & I have separate office spaces, but we share the industrial-strength shredder under his desk.

      Along with my paperless checking & online billpay, I’ve eliminated 2 large filing cabinets, 4 two-drawer cabinets. And thanks to my nifty B&N Nook, I’m down to half-a-dozen out-of-print books and dumped many bookcases.

      Wait, that last doesn’t really have to do with mail, does it? Except that I used to buy my books online, and get them via…post.

      • April 21, 2011 6:26 am

        Now you are MY hero! While I’ve shredded through a couple of drawers worth, I still have 5 drawers of files. My next project should be to go paperless! I have started paying about half my bills online. Now that I feel comfortable with that I should set up the rest of them that way. That’s a great system for a mailbox, if you aren’t able to have it on site. At least you know if you urgently need to get there or not. Thanks for weighing in!

  2. September 16, 2010 9:35 am

    I like this method. I’ve tried to switch all our bills to paperless & reoccurring so they happen without me. This does make me feel a little helpless sometimes when I wonder if everything is paid. I was always the type to pay a paper bill the week I received it so I know it’s done. I saw an organizational thingy on some website (forget where) where the person had a small, not ugly, paper shredder at the door, like your boxes. That way stuff could be shredded then and there. It sounds good, but it’s not far to our recycling & shredder, so maybe not for us. Someday we’ll all be paperless and then computers will go down. Makes me want to get bills in the mail again just thinking of it.

    • September 16, 2010 9:45 am

      I know what you mean about wondering if the “autopay” has gone through. We have that on a number of things as well. You can check your bank statement online if it’s keeping you up at night, LOL. I like the shredder at the door idea, if I had a place for it. I have a “to shred” box and I process a a bunch of shredding at one time, a couple of times a month. The key seems to be finding what works for you and then actually DOING IT. Simple but true!

  3. Patrick permalink
    September 16, 2010 1:28 pm

    Nice system. My system looks like this:

    Everyday, I get the mail. I keep a bag in the office for shedding. All junk mail and catalogs I don’t need go there. From there, I have two bins. One is for bills to be paid, the other is to be filed. All bills go in the box and are paid on paydays (or remain until the next payday). Once paid, the bill is then moved to the to be filed bin. 401k statements and other such items go straight to the to be filed bin. Once a month, I file everything.

    • September 16, 2010 3:13 pm

      Ah, the simplicity of your system is marvelous! and once a month you file everything. If only I could make myself do that step. It’s my one current weakness. I did rework my file cabinet in a more sensible fashion and it seems to have helped cut the dread a bit on this one. I hate filing!

  4. Jenn permalink
    May 5, 2011 10:59 am

    I don’t… plain and simple. Looking for a system that will work well for me. I like a lot of your ideas and will try to implement those that work the best.

  5. Nettie permalink
    June 17, 2011 11:30 am

    Thank you so much I really like this idea. Thanks for sharing.

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