Although not as intimidating as the ten days’ worth of email l valiantly plowed through, the size of the pile of ten days’ worth of snail mail I recently faced upon return from a trip was rather impressive. Even though I’ve done my best to get off mailing lists (I’ve subscribed to to eliminate unwanted catalogs and have opted out of credit card and insurance offers through there still seems to be an unwelcome quantity of mail that comes into my home through my mailbox. Here’s how I dug my way out from under the backlog:

1.I sorted the mail by category into relevant piles on my kitchen counter, where there was plenty of room to spread out. The categories included: junk mail to recycle; junk and other mail to shred (anything I’d be concerned about if it flew off the garbage truck and landed in someone’s yard); magazines; bills; newspapers; and things to follow up on.

2.I moved each pile to its next destination: recycling to the recycling bin; shredding to the shredder (rather than letting it becoming its own intimidating pile I just shred as I go); magazines to my car (where they’re available to read when I’m waiting for an appointment); bills to the “Pay” folder next to my desk; newspapers to the table in my family room where I will read them; and things to follow up on to my desk.

3.I sorted the pile of things to follow up on according to the next action I needed to take: phone calls; things to review (quote from insurance company, medical bills to match to insurance company’s Explanation of Benefits, etc.); things to discuss with my husband (schedule from local playhouse, etc.).

4.I put each categorized pile into a file folder and labeled each with an appropriate verb (Call, Review, Discuss), and put them next to my desk along with the “Pay” folder.

5.I processed each folder by pulling out the contents and putting it in a pile, facing down, on my desk. By turning the pile upside down I was able to focus on the one item that was in my hand – no cheating by looking ahead for the most fun or interesting or easy item. I decided what the next thing was that I needed to do with each item and I just did it, item by item.

6.I set a timer in 10 minute increments to keep me focused on making decisions and to remind me not to dawdle on any one item.

7.I filed items as I came across them, rather than setting them in a separate pile to be dealt with later. Since my file cabinet is right next to where I work, it was easy to drop items directly into the appropriate file folder. Of course, having a file system already set up made this step easy, as well as the fact that I don’t save many papers.

8.I got to things as I had time. I made bill-paying my top priority, and determined via my preliminary sorting that nothing else urgently needed my attention. So I processed the remaining items as I had time throughout the week.

Now that I’ve gotten through the backlog, I keep up with incoming mail by following the same sorting and processing system I’d used for the backlog.Here’s to your success in handling your mail efficiently.

Author's Bio: 

Internationally known professional organizer, author, and speaker Sue Becker is the founder and owner of From Piles to Smiles®. She enjoys helping people from around the world live better lives by creating customized systems to overcome their overwhelming paperwork, clutter, and schedules. She specializes in helping people who are chronically disorganized - those for whom disorganization has been a lifelong struggle that negatively impacts every aspect of their life, especially people with AD/HD. Her hands-on help, as well as her presentations, have helped thousands of individuals create substantial change in their lives.

Sue is Illinois’ first Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization. She co-authored the book Conversations on Success, and has appeared as an organizational expert on NBC News and the national TV show, Starting Over. A CPA, Sue has an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.