Simplicity 101: How to Corral Your Mail Clutter

Are you a mail hoarder?  If not, then this post really won't apply to you.  But if you are, know that you're not alone, and it's one of the biggest issues people with clutter in their homes have to deal with.  I used to be a mail hoarder.  So did my mother.  Though my mother, on a scale of 1-10 would have been around a 9.  But she is a Cricket (check out for your cleaning type) who loved to shove all her messes into cabinets and drawers.  I was a level 6 or 7 or so, and am a Butterfly, so my mess was everywhere you could see (Crickets like to hide it, and Butterflies like to leave it where it lays).

I struggled with this issue for many, many years, and tried everything from Flylady, to GTD (Getting Things Done), to pretty much every system you can think of that's out there.  And I'd feel so energized and happy and awesome and great in the beginning.  I'd feel accomplished, and know that I was "on to something".  Then it was time for upkeep, and I could not figure out why I kept becoming messy again, sometimes the very next day.  Nothing seemed to work for me.  Not a damn thing.  And it was beyond frustrating, to say the least.  I just assumed my brain was broken and I'd never be organized.  

And one of the worst culprits was the freaking mail everywhere.  It was on every surface, and one time, I found a Paypal debit card I never activated, that offered 1% cashback on every purchase.  So, I was actually losing money by being messy.  This was a wake up call.  Something had to change.  

So I found a few neat tricks I learned from others and some I realized myself, and figured out how to make a mail system that worked for me.  But first, let's figure out how it got there to begin with.

So here is how "mail clutter" happens:

  1. You get the mail.
  2. You bring the mail inside.
  3. You peek through the mail, maybe taking out the important things.
  4. You then set the other mail on a surface to deal with later. 
  5. Later never comes.
  6. Next day, you start all over again, and keep going until mail has taken over many surfaces and you just want to move and leave your mess for someone else to deal with.  

This is what I used to do every single day, even though I thought I was organizing my mail by keeping it in various piles.  But eventually, those piles would integrate into one huge mess.  And then I'd be plagued by mail all over my house.  

So, I found a way to climb out from under my mail clutter.  So, here is how I learned to FIX it, once and for all: 

  1. Get your mail and walk straight to the recycle bin and throw every piece of junk mail right in.  GONE.  Just like that.  It does not enter he house, period (though now I take my mail inside and throw it in my burn bag, because I live out in the country and burn all my paper).  This step, cured my mail clutter to about 80% or more.  If you can adopt just one habit, let it be this.  
  2. What you bring into your house, you divide into two piles (or three, if you burn your mail).  If you burn, your first pile is BURN.  I suggest using a reusable bag to hang up somewhere in your kitchen or somewhere close to where you burn (I bought a 55lb metal drum from FB Marketplace for like $5 to burn in--in fact, I bought two, and my kids turned the other one into a meat smoker) and throwing your burnables into it.  Now, I tried using a trash can in my garage, but it got so unwieldly to wait until that filled up, that it took three people to carry it all out.  So now I use a large reusable shopping bag to put burnable mail, cereal boxes, or any other type of burnable item in it and it hangs in my kitchen.  That way it fills up in a few days, rather than a week or more, and I can just get it done quickly.  But the bag or whatever container you use, it needs to be easily accessible (and not in anyone's way).  That's the trick.  Otherwise, you'll take your paper items and lay them on a surface for putting in your burn container later.  And guess what?  Later will never come.  So make your container easily accessible.  I cannot stress this enough.  I have a second burn container in my closet, which is a 5-gallon bucket (as I can't put mail in the kitchen burn bag, because my mother will get into it and take all the mail to put in her room--she has dementia).  Your second pile (or first, if you've already put in your mail into the recycle bin), is FILE.  Take the mail you need to save or file and put it where it's supposed to go.  I have two places where I put saved mail: in a wire-mesh file basket on my wall and in a portable file box in my closet.  One is short-term (the wall one) and the box is long-term storage.  I go through my wall basket monthly and burn anything I don't need or I file it in my box for long-term storage.  I leave anything I need regular access to.  Your third pile is ACTION.  This pile is full of mail that needs your immediate (or soon) attention.  I put this stack on my nightstand.  But you should put it where you can easily see it on a regular basis.  You don't want to lose these pieces of mail (though at the same time, you don't want to clutter your house with them, either), so make a spot that speaks to the way your brain works for you to check daily.  Or, try to do as many of the actions needed in the moment you bring the mail in.  You can also make yourself a list and put it on the fridge or in your phone or on your bulletin board (or whatever you have) of "to-dos" for your actionable mail.  "Call this doctor", "activate that card", "check your bank", etc.  That way your pile isn't the only thing reminding you to get those things done (because most of us with ADHD will most likely forget to check our actionable mail).  Or, put a reminder on your calendar on your phone to get that stuff done.  When it is done, either store it (but only if you need to) short or long term, or recycle/burn it.  
That's it.  That's all you have to do in order to get a handle in your mail clutter.  Just two steps (well, the second step is 2-3 steps): Get it, and sort it.  That's it.  It's the sorting habit that makes difference.  The sheer fact that junk mail goes automatically into the recycle or burn bin?  Works miraculous wonders for mail clutter.  Because usually, a majority of our mail is junk.  Not always, but mostly.  

Oh, I also have a box where I keep all my small weekly newspapers.  It's sticking out from under my bed, where I throw the papers into when I come into the house.  Why?  Because I compost and I shred them to throw in my compost bin (as you need brown, green, and food stuffs in there, not just food).  But other than that, all my mail is burned, filed, or put in a pile for taking action on.  And there's very little of that.  So, my mail clutter?  Is a thing of the past!  Finally!  I thought I'd be messy forever, but as it turns out, it's just all about building proper habits.  That's it.  I was never taught these habits as a child, so I had zero clue how to do them as an adult.  So thank goodness for both YouTube and authors who shared their own ideas of how to get organized, that started me on my path!  Otherwise, I'd most likely still be struggling (well, more than I am, as I have ADHD, so organizing can be a bit of a struggle sometimes).  

But honestly, just not letting your mail into the house to begin with (or going straight into a container for later burning) practically cured my mail clutter all by itself!  So if you only do one thing on this list, let it be that.  But preferably, do it all, so you can do other fun stuff other than trying to corral your mail!

Here is a picture of the style of wire wall file hanger I use:

Here is a link to get one from Sams Club: 

Post a Comment