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REAL SIMPLE

Real Simple – March, 2002

Your Problem:

Too Much Mail Piled All Over the House

Kari Bloom, 38, works long hours as a brand manager at a Boston Internet company, and although she’d like to come home to order at the end of the day, she hasn’t been able to tame the piles of paper that clutter most of the surfaces and drawers in her one-bedroom apartment. “The disorganization takes a toll on my personal life,” she says. “I can’t have a friend over for a glass of wine because my apartment is too messy.” Kari has tried a number of systems to control the paper, which includes mail, catalogs, magazines, invitations, and coupons and special offers, but they all broke down after a month or two.

SOLUTION #1. THE INBOX

Designate a box, basket, bin, or drawer for incoming mail. If you and your partner like to keep your mail separate, get two boxes. Corral all mail in this one spot until you’re ready to deal with it. Strive to throw out junk mail as soon as it arrives.

SOLUTION #2. THE ACCORDION FILE

Set up a 13-pocket accordion file with tabs for each month and the last for your tax return. As you pay your monthly bills, file them accordingly. Add bank statements and credit card receipts. Drop in your tax returns at the end of the year and store the file.

SOLUTION #3. THE PERMANENT FILE

Set up a tabbed filing system for papers you need to keep long term, such as your car, life, and homeowner’s insurance; medical insurance and claims forms; and warranties and owner’s manuals.

SOLUTION #4. INVITATIONS

Enter information for events you want to attend into a date book or PDA and throw out the invitation.

SOLUTION #5. COUPONS AND SPECIAL OFFERS

Put them in an envelope or pouch and carry them in your handbag.

SOLUTION #6. MAGAZINE AND CATALOGS

Contain them in two small bins or baskets next to your couch or bedside. Store them upright, not flat, so you can always see what you have. As new issues come in, throw the old ones out.

  • If you’re holding on to magazines and catalogs, keep in mind that news articles and catalog items are unusually available on-line, too. Can’t look it up on the Web? Rip out the page and stash it in a file.
  • If you just get too much mail, demand that direct marketers remove your name from their databases. Contact the Direct Marketing Association atwww.thedma.org and register with its mail preference system ($5 per person for online registration; free by mail). Then call the National Opt Out Center, 888-567-8688, to have your name removed (free of charge) from the lists that the four largest credit-reporting agencies sell to direct mail companies.
  • Schedule maintenance for your high-energy times of day.
  • Set realistic goals. Otherwise you’ll feel discouraged rather than accomplished.
  • Think simple. The less complicated the system, the easier it will be to maintain.

Real Simple

 

File box with lid

A file box with a lid is a space-saving alternative to a filing cabinet for permanent files.

Mail management

Efficient mail management should take about 30 minutes once a week with these tools: an inbox, an accordion file, and a slim pouch for coupons.