"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
May 2, 2013
Organizing the Mail
by Cyndie Swindlehurst


I do not have a good system for my mail. I work, have three children, and am a Relief Society president, so time is at a premium for me.

Do you have any suggestions for organizing mail?


Mail is one of those things that sounds like it should take no time at all. And if you deal with it every day, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes.

But if you let a mountain of mail pile up on your dining room table, you’ll spend an hour sorting through it all. And you’ll end up with lost documents, late bills, and missed invitations.

The trick with mail is consistency. When you look for something, you want to be able to say, “I’m looking for a bill. I always put bills in the red basket in the office. Here is the red basket in the office, and here is my bill!”

In other words, you need to designate a place for the different kinds of mail you receive: bills, magazines, forms, etc. Each kind of mail should be put near the place you will eventually use it.

So here is what I suggest.

First, bring in the mail. That’s easy enough: go to the mailbox, remove the mail, and bring it into the house.

Second, when you enter the house, walk directly to the trash and recycling cans. Put the mail on the counter by the cans.

Third, look at each item. Open all envelopes. You’d hate to toss a rebate check or school enrollment form because it looked like a credit card solicitation.

Junk should be thrown into the recycling can immediately. This includes solicitations for credit cards, mortgage refinancing, magazines, lawn services, etc. which should be shredded or torn into little pieces.

It also includes catalogs and magazines you do not want to look at, coupons you will never use, and forms for events you will not actually sign up for. Sorting the mail is no time to get aspirational.

Things you don’t need to keep can also go right into the recycle can after you read them, such as thank-you notes, or baby announcements that you were delighted to see but which you don’t want to keep.

Fourth, get out your calendar and add any events and deadlines, such as parties, sign-up deadlines, school activities, and the like. Make sure you include important phone numbers, times, and addresses. If you use your phone’s calendar, set alerts to remind you of each event.

RSVPs should be made immediately. Keep any necessary paperwork for your events or deadlines, but toss any papers you don’t need.

Fifth, put the bills in your bill place: a basket or bin or cubby that is not in danger of being knocked over, lost, or spilled on. Bill-pay day will go much more smoothly if you don’t have to hunt through your house for your bills.

If you get paper bank statements, put them with your bills. But if you have financial documents that don’t need to be saved and which require no action, look at them while you are sorting the mail, then tear them up and discard them.

Sixth, put the things you need to deal with in your deal-with-it place: a basket or bin that is large enough for a large piece of paper to lie flat, and which is at least four inches deep.

Things you need to deal with include forms to fill out, calls to make, and papers to file. If you put a deadline on your calendar that requires paperwork, put that paperwork in your deal-with-it pile. Then, when the deadline comes up, you will know where to look for the paperwork.

Seventh, put coupons in your coupon place. The goal with coupons is to have them when you need them. So put them in an easily-accessible envelope or place so you can grab them as you head out the door.

Eighth, put magazines, newspapers, journals, and other reading materials where they will be read. Your husband’s Car and Driver might go on his bedside table while your Runner’s World might live on the kitchen shelf.

When you read a magazine, if there is a page, recipe, article, or picture you want to keep, tear it out and put it away (in your recipe binder, for example). Or take a picture of it. Then, when you have finished the magazine, put it right into the recycle bin or your library donation pile. Make a rule for yourself that any magazine over two months old must be discarded. Do not drown in magazines!

Finally, you might have some other categories of mail that need to be carefully managed, such as business documents or confidential correspondence. You should have special places designated for these kinds of mail.

Wait! There is one more kind of mail. You might get a letter! If this happens, read it with great joy. Letters are a rare and precious thing.

Do you have a quandary, conundrum, or sticky situation in your life? Click this button to drop Cyndie a line, and she’ll be happy to answer your question in a future column. Any topic is welcome!

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About Cyndie Swindlehurst

Cynthia Munk Swindlehurst spent her childhood in New Hampshire and her adolescence in San Diego. She served a mission in Manaus Brazil. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and from Duke University with a law degree.

She practiced law until her first child was born. She enjoys reading, tap dancing, and discussing current events. She and her husband live in Greensboro, North Carolina with their two sons.

Cyndie serves as the Sunbeams teacher in her ward.

Visit Cyndie at Dear Cyndie
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