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Part 2: Organize Small To Profit BIG- The Incoming Mail 'Pile'

By Cynthia Fooshe

Magazines, newspapers and incoming mail are the big three household items that consistently create organization and storage challenges in the home. Small changes in how the mail is handled daily can make a big difference over time and potentially save money by avoiding late payments, lost checks and eliminating a source of stress and worry.

Incoming mail creates challenges for all of us. It’s often picked up at the end of the day when you’re tired and don’t feel like facing relentless bills or anything else that shows up in the mailbox. So, the incoming mail is placed on top of ‘The Pile’. ‘The Pile’ consists of all the unopened mail that you had every intention of going through last week-end, or the week-end before that, but couldn’t make the time or find the energy. So now ‘The Pile’ has built up into something quite scary. You look at it and wonder, “How many overdue bills are mixed in with the endless credit card offers and mortgage refinance pleas?  Could I possibly have thrown out the tax refund check with the junk mail?”

One solution to the never ending stream of junk mail is to get off mailings lists and avoid subscribing to magazines you know you won’t have time to read. It’s cheaper to buy the occasional issue on the newsstand than to endure those stacks of unread magazines.

The best solution, however, is to implement a simple daily procedure for incoming mail. The best time to do this, of course, is right after you walk in the door with the mail. If, however, the dog must be fed or the cat threw up and/or company’s coming over right away, make sure you have a dedicated ‘staging” area to store the mail until it can be sorted and processed. Try NOT to go to bed with the mail still in the staging area.

Your mail staging area should be in an obvious location so the mail cannot be easily avoided. Examples include the kitchen counter, table or other surface that is normally kept clear. The point is that it should be staged in a spot so that it will be unsettling or disturbing to you if anything that doesn’t belong is left there.

The next step is to sort the mail, first by recipient (if more than one person in the household receives mail). Create separate stacks for each person and DO NOT throw out any mail addressed to another person, no matter how tempting it may be to dispense with political solicitations right away, without first asking permission.

The next step is to process your stack of mail. Go through the stack top to bottom and make a firm decision on each piece. If it is obviously trash or junk mail (you may need to open it to be sure) shred it and/or throw it out. Special note: Make sure you don’t throw out any traffic tickets from the police department who contracted with an out-of-state company to run their automatic speed trap cameras and used the same style envelope and return address format as junk mail companies (I don’t make this stuff up). This can create a big and expensive problem for you!!

Separate bills and other maybe important items into a separate stack. Open each bill and maybe important item, read it and decide where it should go. It’s best to deal with each piece of mail only once and decide then and there how it should be handled. This, of course, requires a good system to file incoming items that need to be saved. Bills, in particular, can create expensive problems if they are not handled in a timely manner.

A simple way to handle bills is to mark the due date on the outside of the envelope. For example, write “____ Due 6/15/08” at the top of each bill. The underscore in front gives you a place to check off the bill once it’s paid.  If you pay bills once or twice a month, this provides an easy way to sort bills by due date and never miss a payment. If you save statements, you can write the amount and date paid on the outside of the envelope and file it in a paid bills file, drawer or envelope depending on what works best for you. This approach keeps you from having to go through the stack multiple times searching for bills you thought you had paid.

Done on a daily basis, the above process takes only a few minutes and a huge benefit can be realized over time … no lost paychecks, no late payments and, more importantly, the peace of mind that comes with never again having to face ‘The Pile’.  

So, let’s get that mail sorted, organized, bills actually paid when due and profit BIG!



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