Restore Order by Managing Your Mail Wisely

Physician's Money Digest, April 2006, Volume 13, Issue 4

Real

Simple

Each year, the United States Postal Service deliversapproximately 206 billion pieces of mail.Since about 40% of all household mail consistsof advertisements, it's easy to let it pile up untilwe feel overwhelmed. According to an article in , however, there are some simple ways to takecontrol of your mail and restore order to your home.

Make Preparations

The first step is to designate a storage box ordrawer as your in-box that can hold no more than 1week's worth of mail and place it in a convenientlocation. Place a large trash can or recycling bin nearthe in-box and fill it with junk mail the day it isreceived. Your junk-mail pile will be smaller, anddealing with it will seem much less daunting.

Next, decide on a regular time to attack your inbox.That could be a few minutes each day or an houronce a week, but stick to it. Also consider purchasinga paper shredder. Since you'll dispose of documentscontaining personal information or account numbers,you won't have to worry about identity theft.

In order to keep paying bills from feeling like achore, set up a portable filing system, such as anaccordion file, that you can move from room toroom, working where you choose. Also, keep yourcheckbook, pens, stamps, and any other bill-payingitems you might need with your organizer so thatthey're conveniently located. The easier you makethe task, the less likely it will feel like an ordeal.

You can also streamline your efforts by receivingbilling statements online instead of by mail. Also,consider setting up automatic online bill paymentplans so that you do not have to write as manychecks each month.

Important Documents

Insurance claims, bank statements, and all paidbills need to be filed. It's important to create a systemthat works for you. The article suggests organizingfiles first by broad subjects, such as medical, thendividing it into subcategories, such as dental or labreports. Organize the categories alphabetically sothey're easier to locate.

Of course, over 1 or 2 years these files are going toexpand, especially if you're paying most bills on amonthly basis. One suggestion is to streamline yourfiles. Each tax season, go through your file and throwout whatever is no longer needed. Tax returns shouldbe kept indefinitely, but supporting documents likephone bills can be discarded after 6 years. Also considerscanning bills onto your hard drive, and thensaving them on rewritable CDs as backup.

Control Junk Mail

The best way to stop the flow of incoming junkmail is at the source. First, contact the Credit ReportingIndustry Pre-Screening Opt-Out hotline (888-567-8688), which removes your contact information fromthe lists for preapproved credit card solicitations ofcredit bureaus. Next, sign on with the Direct MarketingAssociation's Mail Preference Service (www.dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offmailinglist). In about 3months, you'll see a significant decrease.

Finally, do not give out your contact information,such as mailing address, telephone number, or e-mailaddress. If you must provide it, always request thatthe information not be sold to other companies.Also, contact your bank and credit card companiesto ask that your name be removed from any sharedmailing lists. Taking these steps will help you to get abetter handle on your mail, and help restore order toyour life.