Restore Order by Managing Your Mail Wisely

Physician's Money Digest, February 2006, Volume 13, Issue 2

Real Simple

Each year, the United States PostalService delivers approximately206 billion pieces of mail. Sinceabout 40% of all household mail consistsof advertisements, it's easy to feeloverwhelmed. According to an article in, however, there are someeasy ways to take control of your mail.

The first step is to designate a storagebox or drawer as your in-box that canhold no more than 1 week's worth ofmail. Place a large recycling bin near thein-box and fill it with junk mail daily.Next, decide on a time to attack your inbox,and stick to it. Also consider purchasinga paper shredder. Since you'll disposeof documents containing personalinformation or account numbers, youwon't have to worry about identity theft.

Portable Bill Paying

In order to keep paying bills from feelinglike a chore, set up a portable filingsystem, such as an accordion file, thatyou can move from room to room,working where you choose. Also, keepyour checkbook, pens, stamps, and anyother bill-paying items you might needwith your organizer so that they're convenientlylocated. You can also streamlineyour efforts by receiving statementsonline and setting up automatic onlinebill payment plans so that you do nothave to write as many monthly checks.

Insurance claims, bank statements,and all paid bills need to be filed. It'simportant to create a system. The articlesuggests organizing files first by broadsubjects, such as medical, then dividingit into subcategories, such as dental orlab reports. Organize the categoriesalphabetically so they're easy to locate.

Of course, over a year or 2 these filesare going to expand. One suggestion isto streamline your files. Each tax season,go through your file and throw outwhatever is no longer needed. Taxreturns should be kept indefinitely, butsupporting documents can be discardedafter 6 years. Also consider scanningbills onto your hard drive, and then savingthem on rewritable CDs as backup.

Controlling Junk Mail

The best way to stop the flow ofincoming junk mail is at the source.First, contact the Credit ReportingIndustry Pre-Screening Opt-Out hotline(888-567-8688), which removes yourcontact information from the lists forpreapproved credit card solicitations ofcredit bureaus. Next, sign on with theDirect Marketing Association's MailPreference Service (www.dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offmailinglist). In about 3months, you'll see a significant decrease.

Finally, do not give out your contactinformation. If you must provide it,always request that the information notbe sold to other companies. Contactyour bank and credit card companies toask that your name be removed fromany shared mailing lists. Taking thesesteps will help you to get a better handleon your mail, and help restore order toyour life.