[VIDEO]: How to Organize Your Mail in the Home Office

Organizing paper is difficult, especially mail since its never ending! Here’s a detailed video on how I organize my mail from incoming, outgoing, stuff to file, coupons, work related mail, and work projects. The key to managing mail is actually checking your mail daily and sorting it immediately. How do you organize your mail in your home office? Leave a comment below on your mail organization or create a video response and let me know!

Video Transcript:

Hi guys, it’s Alejandra. And I am in front of my desk and if you look behind me, you can tell that my desk is looking a little bit bare like I took everything off my peg board and I took those colored whiteboards down. They were in that gray space right there. Well, we’re starting – I announced last week that we’re starting to move or we’re moving very soon. So as we get closer to the move date, I’ve started taking things down and started packing. And I’m going to do some packing videos coming up very soon.

And a lot of you guys have been asking why we’re moving. We’re moving because well, Ed and I are getting married soon and we’re expanding our family. We got Mojo recently. And so, living in a condo is kind of tight having a dog and all the up and down, going outside and stuff. So the new house has a backyard and a fence so she can run around and play more. So I’m looking down at here because she’s down here in her crib.

But yeah, so we’re moving very soon and so the house is starting to look a little bit more bare. But before we move, there are some videos that I wanted to do that have just been on my video list and I’m trying to get them done before the move happens.

So in this video, I’m going to show you guys my process for dealing with mail. And a lot of people hate paper. They hate organizing paper. They hate dealing with paper. They hate stacks of paper. And I don’t blame you. Paper is one of the hardest things to organize in my opinion.

So I’m going to show you my system for mail. I’ve been using the same system for a while not just living here but I was using the same system in prior homes also. OK. So the first thing I want to say is that you have to check your mail every single day. I know there are – let me back up a few steps. Before I got into the organizing industry, I thought it was common sense to check your mail every single day like I usually get excited to check the mail.

And when I started organizing professionally and helping people and going to their homes and stuff, I learned that not everybody likes to check their mail. In fact, a lot of people dread checking the mail because of bills, more paper, more clutter, stuff they don’t know how to deal with like another pile to add to another stack of mail from yesterday, and all that stuff.

So, the first tip is that you have to check your mail every single day even if it’s full of bills, it’s full of junk mail, it’s full of stuff that you don’t want to see. You have to check it. Get into the routine of checking your mail every single day. When you get the mail, come inside and immediately sort it. So I usually sort my mail over a paper recycling bin and a shredder. Sometimes the trash also but most of it is paper and it can be recycled if it’s not something that you need to keep or not something that has sensitive information that needs to be shredded.

So bring in your mail, immediately go through it, and sort it. Anything that‘s sensitive stuff, sensitive information that you don’t need, drop it in the shredder. If you need to have a shredder downstairs in your kitchen, if you’re doing your sorting in the kitchen then put your shredder in the kitchen. I suggest having your shredder in the office because I think that paper belongs in the office.

But of course, everybody has different needs so if you’re doing your mail in the kitchen then have your shredder in the kitchen. And then you need to have your paper recycling near your shredder so you can easily put paper documents that you don’t need, that don’t necessarily need to be shredded in the paper recycling.

OK. So once you’ve shredded anything with a sensitive information that you don’t need and you’ve recycled al the paper that you don’t need from the mail, then you’re going to be left with stuff that you do need whether it’s a bill, a magazine, a letter from somebody, a card, or whatever kind of mail you’re receiving. You’re left with a stack of stuff that you need to keep. And the question is, well what do you do with those things?

Well, some people just – will drop the mail somewhere and say, “OK. I’ll get to this stuff later.” And know that it requires some kind of action. That is not good enough. You can’t just drop the mail somewhere. Everything has to be sorted.

Take all the items that you’ve saved that you decided you need and you want to sort them now into very specific categories. So let me show you exactly what I have. Let me kind of go through the categories here. The bottom two sections here and this is part of an elfa system. You don’t have to have elfa to have a mail center. This is my mail center. You can do the same thing with baskets, bins, any kind of organizing product that has sections. The categories I have are incoming, outgoing, processing, file, coupons, and then work stuff. And I’m going to explain everything in just a minute.

OK. Incoming, my incoming basket means anything that has a deadline attached to it. So for example, a bill in the mail. Whenever I get a bill in the mail which I try to do them all online to save on postage and to make it easier and to get things automated. But if I can’t do it online then once I get a bill in the mail, what I’ll do is I’ll open the envelope, I will look at the bill, and I don’t pay things immediately because if you pay things as they come in, it just wastes more time as opposed to paying all your bills at the end of the week or the middle of the month or whenever your due dates are.

So what I’ll do is if I get a bill, I’ll open it, I look for the due date, and then I’ll write it on the outside of the envelope just like this. So this says, “Due June 13th.” So I know that if this is in my incoming box that it’s going to have a date attached to it. Does that make sense? So anything that’s inside this box has dates on it.

And then at the end of the week, usually on a Sunday night, I will go through my incoming section and look for the dates and see what’s coming up and see what needs to be paid. Maybe I’m not going to pay everything that week if I have like ten bills that are due sometime that month, maybe I’ll wait and pay the later ones next week or I can just get it all done at the same time. It just depends on how much time I have and stuff.

So incoming is stuff that has very specific deadlines, something that you need to take action on by certain date to prevent any penalties, late fees, and so forth. We all know what happens when you don’t pay your bills on time or you don’t get back to something when there is a deadline. You have to suffer the consequences and that’s late fees, that’s – what else? There’s tons of stuff that happens when you don’t do things that have a deadline. Late fee is just one of them.

OK. So that’s incoming. Outgoing, my outgoing box is where I keep all of my address labels and my stamps. So if I write a card to somebody or I pay a bill then I will go to the outgoing section, I’ll grab a stamp, grab an address label, put it on and then I will drop that piece of mail that’s ready to go out to the mail box in the outgoing section. And then usually before I leave the house, I check my outgoing section to see if there is anything in there that I can bring down to the mail box.

Obviously, I’m not going to put like returns in there because this is just for paper. This is not for like big physical items that are being returned to the store. Yes, that stuff is outgoing but it’s not paper outgoing. And that’s just for paper outgoing with the exception of ink cartridges. So like ink cartridges because this is in my home office, I take them back to the stores so I just put them in my outgoing section so the next time I go to Staples or Office Depot, I know to bring them to recycle them.

OK. So that is my outgoing bin. And I feel like I’m talking like a mile a minute here. OK. So the next basket right here, this is processing. Can you guys see this OK? I think you guys can. This is processing. So processing is where I keep all of my papers, it’s like papers and folders of projects that I’m working on like notes from projects or printouts of like ideas or it’s basically just like my – I was going to say it’s my processing bin. Yes, it’s my processing bin but it’s projects that I’m processing or work in progress. Does that make sense? I plan to do another video on just the processing bin at a later time because that kind of goes into more detail. So I will do another video on that one shortly.

OK. So the next bin over here is the filing bin. And we all get mail that doesn’t necessarily have a deadline attached to it. It’s more like a letter of confirmation or proof or some kind of record that you know you need to keep for down the road and you know it needs to go in your filing cabinet. Well, a lot of us don’t like to file, right? And a lot of us don’t want to waste our time filing one sheet of paper if we already don’t like to file.

So what I do is I have a filing bin that I take the contents of the bin at the end of the week and I file everything. So for the whole week and maybe sometimes two weeks if there is not that much stuff to file, I’ll just collect the stuff I need to file and then Sunday night, I will take that stack and I’ll just head over to the filing cabinet which is right underneath my mailing center and file those papers. Does that make sense?

OK. So that’s my filing bin. Let’s see. Up here is coupons. So sometime you get coupons in the mail and I did a whole video on coupon organizing and it was like one of my first videos I did. So I haven’t watched it in a long time. It was probably awful because it was last year. It was like the second video I did. I plan to do another coupon organizing video soon. I don’t know how soon I’ll get to it.

But I have a system up here. I have and I kind of talked about this on Facebook recently, I keep all of my Bed Bath & Beyond coupons in this poly envelope that’s from – I think it’s from Office Depot. I am like a Bed Bath & Beyond coupon hoarder. I was going through my coupons recently and I counted, I have 27 Bed Bath & Beyond coupons. But the best thing about them is they don’t expire and you can double them and you can use like ten coupons in one transaction. I think it depends on who your cashier is because sometimes they don’t allow you to double them but some cashiers do.

So anyways, so I collect them and since we’re moving soon, I’m going to have a great time at Bed Bath & Beyond saving money. Anyways, I keep my Bed Bath & Beyond coupons separated from my main coupons in here because there are so many in here.

And now that I think about it, I think there are some Bed Bath & Beyond coupons in the very front of this that didn’t fit. Yeah, there are. Can you see all those coupons down there? I am telling you, I have a lot of them.

OK. So I’m going to show you guys here how I organized my coupons and this is – I think this is in the video I did last year. I have to go back and watch it. But basically, I organized all my coupons by expiration date and I was planning to put them in a binder. That’s one of my projects to do. I organized them by expiration date. And this month is May so I will look in here, look for my May coupons and I usually pull them out and put them on my desk or put them on a bulletin board so I know that they’re coming up and they’re about to expire and I make sure to actually use them. If I don’t use them then I will just recycle them at the end of the month.

So anyways, I find that organizing your coupons by expiration date is most helpful instead of organizing them by category like grocery store coupons or what are some other ones? I don’t know. I think it’s just more helpful to organize them by expiration. It’s easier for me. Of course, you have to do what works for you. I just find that this works better for me.

OK. And then the last bin in my mail center is my work bin. And that’s more like work receipts that need to be filed away. It’s not work projects. Work projects go in the processing bin which I told you, I’m going to do another video on it. That’s more just like work receipts that get filed away into the specific categories.

OK. So here are the things we talked about in the video just to recap everything because I know I said a lot of stuff in here. The first thing is to check your mail every single day even if you don’t like checking your mail because you’re expecting to see bills or stuff that you just don’t want to read or stuff you don’t want to add to another stack of paper. You have to check your mail. It takes two minutes.

Check your mail. Bring it back in. Immediately recycle paper that you don’t need but not sensitive information, immediately shred stuff that you don’t need that has sensitive information like account information or personal information, and then you’re going to be left with stuff that you actually need to keep and deal with.

If it has a due date, I suggest writing the due date on the outside of the envelope and sticking it in the incoming section in your mail center. If you don’t want to write incoming on your label, if you want to write bills to pay then that’s fine too, whatever works for you. OK. So if it has a due date, put it in there.

If it doesn’t have a due date but it’s something that you need to keep and file away like a record or some kind of proof or something, put it in your filing bin and then at the end of the week, take the contents of your filing bin and file them away in your filing cabinet. If you want, you can file immediately. I don’t do that. But if that works for you and that’s easier then by all means, go do that. The same thing with your bills, if you don’t want to wait until the end of the week to pay your bills and you rather pay them as they come in then by all means do that. You got to do whatever works for you. I’m just telling you what works for me.

I suggest paying bills online. I think paying bills online is a lot easier. And with a lot of companies, you can automate your payments so there’s really not much to do besides record the transaction in your checking account.

So OK, we talked about shredding things, recycling things, things with due dates. We talked about filing things. What other kind of mail do you get? You might get a package from somebody like a card or a letter. Decide what you’re going to do with it. Maybe you want to hang it on your fridge or hang it on your bulletin board for a week or two to admire the card or admire that somebody thought of you.

But then at the end of these two weeks or week or however long you displayed it, decide what you need to do with it. If it’s really pretty card and it had a really nice message and you want to save it for s scrapbook or whatever then do that. But know that you can’t save everything. It doesn’t mean that every card that comes inside your house you can save. Don’t do that because then you’re going to end up with like shoe boxes and shoe boxes and shoe boxes of greeting cards that you just feel bad throwing away.

OK. What other stuff do you get in the mail? You get magazines and catalogs. I did a video on magazine organizing a while ago. I only keep about 12 magazines in my magazine rack. Everything else, once I read it, I recycle it. If it has good information then I save it. If I’m not going to read it, then I will donate it to a doctor’s office or give it to somebody who will read it. But I don’t keep magazines if I know I’m not going to read it.

Catalogs, I am not a fan of catalogs at all. If I’m going to do shopping, I’m going to do shopping online. I’m not going to sit there and go through a catalog. That is just me. That’s my preference. I immediately recycle those catalogs like the Crate & Barrel ones and Pier 1 sends them. Who else sends them? Pretty much stopped on all my catalogs. There is a statistic that says that the average American receives 41 pounds of junk mail every single year. That is a lot of junk mail. Imagine 41 pounds of paper coming into your house every single year? It’s a lot.

So what you have to do is you have to check your mail daily and you have to immediately sort it so it doesn’t pile up because when it piles up in the outside, it piles up on the inside. So do yourself a favor and immediately sort your mail. Get into the habit of doing it every single day.

If you’re struggling with getting a handle on your mail, you are not alone. In my experiences, the home office is the number one spot in the house that has the most amount of clutter. And why? Because think about all the mail that comes in every single day. What else inside of your house has stuff coming in every single day? Like think about your books. Do you have like a pile of books coming in every single day? No, absolutely not. Do you have – like think about your closet. Do you have a stack of t-shirts like ten t-shirts coming in every single day? I hope not.

But think about mail. Every single day, you get a stack of mail like this much, right? Maybe like ten envelopes, a magazine, a catalog. It comes in every single day, just pouring in whether you want it or you don’t want it, it just keeps coming in. And because it keeps coming in, it keeps piling up and if we don’t deal with it on a daily basis then the problem is just going to get out of hand.

So anyways, that’s my lesson for organizing your mail. You got to check it every single day. Do you check your email every day? You probably do. So you got to check your mail too. So that’s all I have for you guys. If you have a question or a comment, leave it below or if you have a video on how you organize your mail, I would love to see it and you can create a video response and show me and show everybody else watching. I will see you guys soon. Bye!

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  • About the Author

    About the Author

    Alejandra Costello is a Creative Organizing Expert who shows busy people how to declutter their lives with easy-to-follow (and fun!) organizing video tutorials in her Power Productivity Program and free organizing video series! Alejandra started her company, Alejandra.tv, in 2008 and to date has shared her organizing expertise with millions of people in over 100 countries around the world. Named 1 of the 5 most organized people in America by HGTV, Alejandra's creative expertise has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, Woman's Day, Parents Magazine, Oprah, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and CBS. You can connect with her on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and .