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Friday, September 28, 2012

My Snail Mail – Invasion Of The Time Snatchers

CSA Judy Rough tells us: If papers control your life, it’s time to control your papers. The goal she sets? To get control of your delivered mail and all the papers that come into your home on a daily basis!
Set Up a System

Managing today’s mail is even more complicated than in the past when everything came by snail mail. Whether you remain totally paper-based or manage most of your bill payments and personal business online, you need a system to manage the flow of paper in your home and in your life. 

Make a Commitment

Follow this step-by-step plan to help you to take control. This time, with a system in place, you can make it happen. Remember to adapt it to your personal situation.

Step 1. Create a home

§  Control the chaos by setting up a “home” for everything and a process that works for you to direct incoming paper where it belongs. 
§  Be sure to designate a clear organized space to write checks and correspondence and use the computer and the phone with everything you need at your finger tips - including an online filing system such as the Papervana Binder System for storing, if you have one.

Step 2. Gather the tools

§  Have the tools you need ready in the designated “home” location - letter opener, pencil/pen, pad, stamps, calculator, return address stamps or labels, a holder for outgoing mail and a small, portable file holder with 4 folders labeled: 

ü  Bills  
                  ü  File/Scan   
                  ü  To Do   
                  ü  Receipts

Step 3. Collect your mail and papers daily

§  Retrieve mail from your mailbox every day, if possible. Don’t neglect your snail mailbox. Especially if you receive most items electronically you don’t want to miss an important item needed for filing income tax or other date sensitive notifications.
§  Empty your wallet, purse, backpack, laptop case, pockets, glove box of your car, children’s backpacks etc. of all receipts on a daily basis 
§  Bring mail, receipts, school flyers, etc. into your home or office to the same designated location everyday. Be creative. Set up a place that makes sense for your living space

 Step 4. Purge and Sort Daily

 Take 5 minutes to open and sort all papers into the following 4 categories:
§  Recycle used envelopes, unwanted flyers, solicitations, junk mail and all unwanted print materials.
§  Shred – items containing your personal information to avoid identity theft.
§  Read – store notes, letters, magazines, catalogs, newspapers, etc. in the same designated place for reading time later.
§  Take Action  sort any papers requiring action into one of your four folders in your portable, small file holder.                         


Take all items to be recycled to the recycle bin right away and do your shredding immediately - now you are gaining control!

Place all the “Read” items in a designated location when they arrive.

Set a deadline, such as recycle day in the first week of the month, to help motivate you to enjoy your “Read” file and prevent a pile up.

To pare down your pile of magazines and newspapers, cut out the articles you want to read, scan any articles you want to keep and recycle the rest!
Step 5. File items for later action

Place items requiring action directly into one of 4 folders in your portable, small file holder:

§  Bills and Payments to be made and Statements to be reconciled – then filed. 
§  File and/or Scan – medical statements, paid bills, reconciled statements, policies or anything  else you may need to reference later.
§  To Do – make a call, discuss a decision, send an email, collect items, etc.
§  Receipts – save for proof of purchase, warranties, tax related items, etc.
Step 6. Take care of business

§  Make sure to set an uninterrupted scheduled time to take care or your financial affairs . – once a week, twice a month, you decide.  
§  On your scheduled date and time bring your portable outgoing mail holder along with your portable small file holder to the location where you will pay your bills, send emails, make phone calls, read, etc.

If you are paying bills by mail:

§  Open the bill
§  Recycle the outer envelope and unwanted inserts
§  File the bill in the small file holder in the Bill folder
§   Use proper postage and return address information to ensure receipt. Write a “to be mailed by” date on a visible corner and file in date order in the outgoing mail holder with the date showing
§  Incorporate occasion cards and other date sensitive items into the outgoing mail holder with the mailing date visible and filed in order

If you are paying your paper bills online:

§  Open the bill
§  Recycle the outer envelope and unwanted inserts
§  File in the small file holder in the Bill folder
§  Set up e-bill, if desired
§  Scan into an electronic file, if desired
§  Have passwords handy 
Tip          There are several highly encrypted password vaults that you can use on your desktop to manage passwords so you only have to remember one password to access them all. They can even capture your User IDs and passwords as you create them and fill them in for you as you log in to a site. Search online for password managers, password keepers to compare software, if this appeals to you.


Handling all the To Dos 

§  Set aside a time each week to handle all your To Dos, mark it on you calendar, or set an alarm
§  Make a list and assign a priority order to the list, check it daily
§  Remember to do  one thing at a time
§  Delegate whenever possible
§  Be honest with yourself and only take on what you can handle while keeping your stress level as low as possible
§  When something is driving you crazy – create a new system that will last, it’s all about consistency
Build a habit, challenge yourself!  Commit to controlling your mail for the next 30 days then celebrate and reward yourself!

While clutter and a lack of organizational skills can be a nuisance, hoarding can be a serious illness which  expert Marilyn Ellis discusses in the most recent issue of the CSA Journal.

Blog posting provided by Judy Rough, CSA

Owner of Carefree Transitions, LLC - a Senior Move Management company and Owner of Papervana, LLC – a record and document organizing and management company

Judy works with seniors and their families on the emotional, as well as the physical aspects of moving and professional organizing. She can be reached at or 480-200-3415