We’re on an organizational kick here these days. While the season for sustainable spring cleaning might seem as though it’s over, it’s still technically spring and, honestly, if you have things to downsize and organize, then it’s always time for spring cleaning! So let’s move on to at home paperwork and mail organization.
Mail Organization Ideas
My husband hates mail. HATES IT. With a passion. Sometimes I’m not even sure he’s happy to get birthday cards because it’s mail (though he claims otherwise). While I’ve come to a fine place with it now, he has not, and it’s because of the waste of materials and the clutter it can create in our home.
Before we talk about ANY mail organization, you need to UNSUBSCRIBE FROM ALL MAILINGS YOU DO NOT WANT, which honestly, is probably well over half of your mail.
Whether it’s company catalogs, local paper mailings, or just good old fashion spam mail, they need to go. Yes, it’s a waste of paper of resources, but it’s also a waste of your time and sanity! A waste of your space. It’s just a waste.
So, start there. Begin with the items you won’t even contemplate looking at. This post gives you the steps to take. It might seem tedious at first, but it’ll start to become a bit obsessive because it feels so good to break up with all the crap!
Once you’ve eliminated all of the extra mail that you don’t want or need, then it’s time to switch as much as you can to paperless. I understand some places don’t offer it and there are some things, you’d still like the physical copy of, but consider it for everything.
Bills received paperless are all still accessible in an online account (you can even still print them if you want).
Mail Organization Hacks
With so much less coming in, the conversation around mail organization ideas becomes a lot easier (for you even)!
We need 2 locations for mail – new mail and mail that needs attending (e.g. filing, bills, personal correspondence).
When we get the mail, we IMMEDIATELY recycle or throw away anything we don’t need. I also IMMEDIATELY open up suspect things that are pretending to be important but are really just spam.
I should make a note here that mailboxes should be checked regularly and, therefore, mail should be organized regularly.
From there, any mail that requires a response, a check, or to be filed is put immediately on my desk. Because I have such a small desk, I take care of these things within a day or two because I simply have no workspace if I don’t.
SO. After you unsubscribe, establish your needed places, and get on top of it. When there’s little mail coming in, it’s MUCH easier to organize and get a handle on.
Paperwork Organization Ideas at Home
With having mail, owning anything, or existing in any function, there’s paperwork. It’s an unavoidable part of life.
Going paperless is certainly key to cutting back on paperwork clutter, but it isn’t entirely possible.
I’m a big fan of file folders. I make labels (and change them as needed) with my handheld label maker. I’ve had this one for years and I still absolutely adore it!
My files are separated into two places. The first is in a file drawer that sits right next to my desk. It contains folders I need access to (if only for filing things away) regularly (i.e. at least once per year)! I’m lazy, obviously.
The remainder of my files are in a standalone file box. It lives buried in the closet and contains folders I need access to basically never (think all our old tax documents that I keep because we legally have to, but basically never need). In essence, I need access to this file box once per year – to add the latest tax return and to take out the outdated one I don’t need.
How Long do you Need to Keep Tax Returns
The IRS website says you only need to keep your taxes for 3 years unless you file a loss or don’t file at all! My mom taught me to keep them for 7 years, so I do that. Whatever works for you, just remember to shred and dispose of any taxes you don’t need anymore!
When to Get Rid of Paperwork
We (humans?) have a tendency to hold onto paperwork for far longer than we need to. A general rule of thumb I follow is to dispose of any paperwork which I have an updated copy. So, for example, every year we get a hefty amount of paper conveying our home insurance coverage. And every year when it shows up, I get rid of the previous year’s printing.
If you feel as though you can move something, but just aren’t quite sure, you can always scan or take a photo to keep on your phone, computer, or external drive.
If you have an iPhone, you can easily create a PDF in the notes app (see directions here) – just make sure you name files and keep them organized in a way that works for you.
And when it comes time to shred important and personal documents…my biggest trick is just to stay on top of it! We have this single-page (yes, 1 sheet) mini shredder.
Obviously massive file shredding isn’t happening here, but it means that when some mail comes in that needs a shred, it gets shredded right away because stockpiling it just won’t work.
This mini shredder also fits in my desk drawer, taking up practically no room!
Small Home Living Tips
You’ll also want to read how we’re making our home more sustainable; how to decide what to donate in every room of your house; and how to declutter your mailbox!