How To Organize Mail

I enjoy checking the mail.  I know it’s old fashioned – but I’m and old fashioned kind of guy!

I do not, however, like dealing with clutter.  So, I’ve developed a simple system for organizing our mail.

I use 15 file folders, a file box, and a small filing cabinet.

The Setup

I have three folders – one labeled bills to pay, one labeled paperwork to file, and one labeled action to take.

I keep the folders in a file box.

The Day-to-Day

Each day, when mail is received, it is processed.  Junk mail is discarded – coupons are placed into my box for coupons – and mail is placed in one of the three folders.

The water bill is placed into the bills to pay folder.

An explanation of benefits from our health insurer is placed into the paperwork to file folder.

A driver’s license renewal reminder is placed into the action to take file folder.

You get the picture.  This entire process usually takes less than 1 minute.

Once Per Week

I pay any bills in the bills to pay folder – and then place the paperwork associated with those bills into the paperwork to file folder.

Blank envelopes and stamps are stored in the file box for easy access.

I also scan the items in the action to take folder – and take any applicable actions.  Once completed, the paperwork associated with the action is placed in the paperwork to file folder.

Filing Setup

I have twelve folders – labeled January through December.

I keep these folders in a filing cabinet.

Once Per Month

The contents of the paperwork to file folder is transferred to the appropriate folder in the filing cabinet.

All bills, receipts, and other documents associated with February of 2013 go into the folder labeled February.

Once again, you get the picture.  This entire process takes, oh, 30 seconds.

Alphabetizing is optional, but it makes things easier to find, especially if you have a lot of paperwork.

End of the Year

I take all 12 of the folders out of the filing cabinet, place them in a file box of their own, label the outside of the file box with the appropriate year, and store the file box.

Should I need to find a document for March of 2009, all I have to do is go to the file box labeled 2009, find the folder for March, and I can quickly find the document.

Very Important Documents

Very important documents (think birth certificates, insurance polices, etc) are kept in a safe location, separate from other, run-of-the-mill paperwork.

I know that there are rules about how long paperwork should be kept, but with this system, I can keep several years worth of paperwork, nice and neat, in a relatively small space.

This is my system.  It requires 15 folders, a place to keep those folders, a minute or so per day to sort the mail, the time it takes to pay bills and take actions, and a minute or so per month to file the mail.  It’s simple, it works, and it keeps our mail organized.

Filing Variant

For those interested in filing by topic rather than by month, folders in the filing cabinet can be labeled tax receipts, medical bills, bank statements, etc.  I have used this setup up before, and find that both setups work.

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2 Responses to How To Organize Mail

  1. Jamie says:

    I am really big on “processing mail” as soon as it comes into our house. We run a couple of home based businesses as well so this is really important. Funny how 90% of it seems to go in the recycle bin most days. I find that just this one act of reorganization can not only avoid quick-multiplying clutter, but also make sure paperwork and bills are handled in an efficient and timely manner.

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