In our paperless society, we have more paper than ever! While we can do almost anything we want or need on a computer, we’re still inundated with paper that we have no idea what to do with. The biggest paper-related issue I see on a regular basis is mail. A lot of people do their bill paying online, yet still receive paper statements. I recently had a client who was moving and needed to go through her things and do a big purge before the movers came. It turned out that she had boxes and boxes of unopened mail, dating back to the 90’s! She has been paying her bills online for quite some time and wasn’t sure what to do with the paper bills… keep them?, Throw them away? Shred them? So she would just throw them in a box and seal the box when it was full.
She had just been moving from place to place with these boxes and accumulating more as time went on. When we were finished she had close to 20 boxes of recycling and about 15 boxes of shredding. She was unbelievably relieved and was committed to not continuing this mail storage pattern, now that she knew exactly what to do with the new mail that came in.
If you are having a similar issue and just not sure what to do with a backlog of mail, here are some easy tips that will help!
• Go through the backlog – either by yourself or with help from friends, family or a professional. Shred everything that has any account numbers, social security numbers or credit card numbers. There is no need to shred things that just have your address, because your address is public record anyway. Recycle the rest.
• Decide what’s important to keep and what’s not – bills that have been used for tax purposes should be kept with the taxes for that year. You only need to keep tax information dating 7 years back (unless you have had some tax issues in the past, then consult your accountant).
• Set up a filing system for the keeps – make sure they system is simple to use and has enough room for everything you want to keep as well as new things that come in.
• Stop all mail that you don’t need – if you have a backlog of magazines and you want to read them, stop all your subscriptions until you’ve caught up. Go paperless on your bills if you’re already paying them online. You can always print out any statement online if you need to. You can also sign up at DMA Choice to help stop the junk mail you’re receiving.
• Adopt the ‘do it now’ mindset, moving forward – Don’t pick up the mail unless you have a few minutes to go through it. Once you have it look at it immediately and sort into shred, recycle and keep piles. Put the shred and recycle into bins you have set up, right away. Figure out what to do with the keeps…file, pay, respond, etc. Put sticky notes on each pile with the action that needs to be taken and a date to get it done by.
It can be daunting to look at a big pile of mail from who knows when. It feels easier to just hide it away and not think about it, but unless you plan to abandon your home and everything in it, you will have to deal with it at some point! If it’s too much to tackle alone, call a Professional Organizer. We do/see this stuff every day, so don’t be embarrassed or scared. It will definitely be worth your time and money!