When the mail and other incoming paperwork comes into your home or office, do you just plop it down on the first available surface and forget about it? Do you shuffle through it to pull out the most interesting or most urgent stuff, and leave the rest to pile up, because figuring out what to do with all of it is just too overwhelming and time-consuming? Are you tired of having your counter tops and desktop covered with piles of paper and never really being able to keep it all under control?
The root of those paper piles lays in a lack of timely decision-making. Delaying decisions leads to clutter build-up. I have yet to meet anyone who has been able to lead a completely paper-free life, so having a system in place to deal with the constant incoming paper in our lives is crucial to keeping those piles away. In order to make the decision-making process as quick and painless as possible, I have established a system that I have found to be very effective for dealing with mail and other incoming paperwork, “The 5 D’s for Quick Decisions.” Over the next two months, I will be discussing each step of the system and hope that you will find it to be helpful in keeping your own paper piles from building up.
When the mail comes into your home or office, the first step is to immediately sort the junk from the important stuff. And yes, this needs to be done every day! Don’t wait, don’t plop it down on the desk or counter, don’t let it pile up! Do this initial sort as soon as you walk in the door. Credit card offers, catalogs you’re not interested in, store flyers for places where you’ll never shop are all fodder for immediate disposal. Set up a trashcan, recycling basket and shredder near the place where the mail enters your space, and just dump all of the junk immediately. If you enter your home from your garage, you may even want to set these tools up there and get rid of the junk mail before it even enters your home. DONE!
Stopping a large portion of the junk mail before it’s even delivered is even more effective. For catalogs, you can get removed from mailing lists by visiting the Direct Marketing Association and removing yourself from specific catalog lists. If you have a smartphone, check out a terrific little free app called PaperKarma. It enables you to snap a quick photo of the mailing label with your phone, click the “unsubscribe me” button, and they will do the work for you! It takes a little extra time and persistence at the beginning, but you will eventually see very tangible results (I can personally testify to that!) To cut back on those credit card and other financial junk mail offers, go to Opt Out Prescreen (operated by the major credit rating companies) to remove yourself from those marketing lists.
If you live with or share workspace with other people, there is a good likelihood that the mail will contain stuff for them that you can’t or don’t want to deal with. Spouses, teenagers and co-workers sharing your living and working space need to have their own spot where mail and other paperwork can be left for them to address. When doing that initial mail sort, delegate the stuff that you are not (or should not) be responsible for taking action on. Have a specific spot for each person where the things that need their attention can be placed, like a labeled wall pocket, paper tray or basket. Make it clear (this is for you, moms!) that it’s their responsibility to check their own paper and deal with it on a regular basis, whether that means discarding it, taking action on it, or saving it for future reference in their own space.
Just doing the first two steps of the 5 D’s should help cut down on the amount of paper you need to deal with each day. See Part 2 here.