Mail is tricky. It is a never-ending trickle of stuff into your home (some of it VERY important). If you fail to find a place for it, it seems to exacerbate the problem. You place it in random piles and always have a nagging feeling you may be missing that important bill or tax file. And it’s just ugly to look at, right? Mail is not generally cute.
So, I wrote out the solutions we’ve honed over our seven years of marriage. I’ll talk about how I handle what comes in the mailbox on a daily basis, how we file our papers, where we store desk supplies, and what to do with the important papers, like hospital bills and tax documents. My goal is to help you create a good flow in your home, minimize stress, and make your home an easy place to maintain! If I don’t cover something you’re curious about….ask in the comments!
The first step is getting the mail from the mailbox. I quickly weed out all junk mail and throw it away in the trash can under our desk. No sense in letting junk clutter up your house.
Next you take care of the “keep pile.” I place coupons immediately in my purse. I only keep ones I will actually use at places I normally shop.
Try not to clutter up your home with stuff you don’t need just because you had a coupon.
Of course, if there was any “fun mail,” like birthday cards, Christmas cards, etc… that gets opened promptly! I’m not overly sentimental about mail, so I throw away the envelopes and keep a card out for a few days at most.
Then I head over to our desk. I bought a Nate Berkus file box at Target, and unscrewed the top so I could use hanging file folders in each of the three sections. I labeled three folders Unread Mail, Read Mail, and Magazines.
I place the remaining mail in the Unread Mail file folder. My husband will work through this folder once a week. Magazines go in their folder.
Every now and then, if Evie has been coloring, we make special mail to add to the folder.
When Zach is ready to go through the mail pile….this is the process:
1. Paid bills are labeled “Paid on ____” (fill in the date) and placed in the Read Mail folder.
2. Documents to be filed, like insurance papers, HSA receipts, or investment earnings, go into the Read Mail folder. Zach usually labels these with the file folder it will go into. (More about that in a minute.)
3. Documents that can’t be handled immediately stay in the Unread Mail folder. We’ll be sure to look at them again the next week.
4. Special Trick: The Blue Folder. At certain times in the year, you expect really important papers, like tax forms or hospital bills. It may be several months before you can “finish” taking care of these papers. The blue folder is where we collect tax documents for the current year. They are all in one spot when Zach is ready to file our return. We use another folder to collect all hospital bills, doctor bills, and insurance papers, after having our babies.
A filing cabinet is an essential for maintaining your paperwork. We keep ours in our living room as an end table. Once or twice a month, I take the papers from the Read Mail folder and place them in their appropriate spot in the filing cabinet. This is why labeling pieces of mail really speeds up the process!
We also keep two plastic boxes in the basement. One stores paid utility bills, cell phone bills, and credit card statements. The second holds receipts and warranty information for everything from our kitchen mixer to our stroller. If something breaks, I just need to check that box.
You can find filing cabinets for under $25 at Goodwill. I prefer the two-drawer kind, because it doesn’t dominate a room. It can even be used as an end table or nightstand in a pinch. If it doesn’t have the rails to hang folders on, you can easily add them like we did.
Here is a peek at our files.
Once we finish a tax return, I create a new file folder for that year. I also really need to split up our insurance folder into separate categories. I have file folders for each child, home ideas, my blog, and one for myself personally.
If you are just starting out, you’ll want to take an afternoon (ideally with your spouse) to sort through all your filed papers. Create piles, then make a labeled folder for each pile. I found this article about how long to save papers to be helpful.
I do not stress about organizing the contents of each folder too much. As long as we are filing consistently, if we need a document I can pull out a folder and rifle through it to find what I’m looking for.
Since our desk doesn’t have storage, I keep all our stationery, stamps, craft, and extra desk supplies in this secretary in our dining room.
And there you have it. All the organization of papers, our desk, and our mail! Again, I hope this inspires you to take charge of the mail pile and not let it stress you out any more.