Mail Gone Wild?

Is the mail out of control in your home?

Catalogs and magazines sliding off the tables or counters?

Late charges on bills that got lost in the chaos of your mail piles?

You are not alone.  If you can’t seem to keep up with your mail, you want to read this.  There is no “one size fits all” system for handling mail but there are a few changes you can make so that your mail is easier to manage. Here are 3 easy changes you can make to simplify your mail routine.
Change #1:
Only have one place for mail to land when it comes into your home.  Designate a basket, tray or bin for incoming mail.  Let family members know that all incoming mail is to be placed there, no exceptions.
Change #2:
Handle the junk mail and the outer envelopes only once.  Have a recycle
or trash bin nearby, as well as a shredder. Immediately toss the junk mail. Open all envelopes and throw the outer envelope away before it lands on the counter or table.  If it contains your address or any personal information – shred it.
Change #3:
Really stop and consider how many magazines and catalogs you can successfully read each month.  Why not cancel a few subscriptions or get the digital version online? What catalogs are you still getting that you no longer want?  If your kids are in high school (or older!) it’s probably time to cancel the Pottery Barn Kids and Oriental Trading Company catalogs.
How to cancel catalogs-
  1.  You can find the web address on the catalog and go online to request a cancellation. I have found that trying to find where to do this on a catalog’s  website can be frustrating and take too much time.       OR
  2. Look at the back of the catalog and locate the phone number.  Call them with the catalog in front of you and give them the numbers listed near your name and address. Doing this, I was able to cancel 4 catalogs in just 5 minutes!
There’s more you can do to get a handle on the chaos of your mail, but start by making these 3 easy changes first.
These minor changes represent new habits and will get you moving in the right direction.  Get into the habits  of doing these things daily and weekly, then you can move towards refining your mail system even more! When you make these 3 easy changes, you will see a noticeable difference and be well on your way to taming the mail.

Taming the Paper Bill Monster

Do you have a ton of paper staring at you in your office or on your kitchen counter? Most of the time this is a big complaint.

Are some of those papers your monthly bills?

Many of us have files we’ve labeled “Telephone”, “Utilities”, “Water/Garbage”, “Cell Phone”,  “Credit Cars”… Sound familiar? We’ve set up these folders because that’s how our parents used to do it. So when we moved out of their home we did the same thing. Only, we hate to file them. Do you really need to keep those bills?


Probably not. While what I am going to say may make you feel a bit queasy or uncomfortable, I say it to help you eliminate the paper monster in your life.  No, I am not recommending that everyone go paperless, don’t worry.  I am recommending, however, that you embrace technology. Create passwords to your utilities, phone, and credit card accounts so you can access your information online at any time. Get comfortable with their websites so you begin to use this valuable resource.  You can look up past bills, see recent statements at the touch of a button. If you are reading this blog then you have access to the internet so use it and eliminate the need to keep all those paper bills.

It’s okay if you still want to get your paper statement (or you can request that they be sent to your email in box).  The point here is that you don’t need to file or keep those bills. After you pay a bill, shred it. The information is still there online anytime you need it.

So get comfortable and let go (if you haven’t already) – I double dare ya!


Too Little Time, Too Much to Read

This week I had a client ask me to help her with a strategy to get ahead of her reading, and I couldn’t help but think that was an interesting way to put it.  Most people want to “catch up” on their reading.  In fact, I wrote a blog post about that very thing. There seems to be too little time and too much to read.

 Here are my best tips for “getting ahead” of your reading:

  1. Analyze what you currently have in your library and make some decisions.  Make a list of all the books  that you’re in the middle of and decide which two books are worth your time – a great story line, almost finished or amazing writing and finish those two books. Put the rest back on the bookshelf for another time. Re-evaluate your magazine subscriptions; choose to let some magazine subscriptions lapse. Take any magazines that are more than 2 months old to the library and donate them.  Newspapers and flyers that are more than a week old need to be put in the recycling bin.  For the articles you’ve printed or pulled from magazines, put these together in a folder and put in the car.img_1833

  2. Decide how much time you can spend reading each week.  For example, can you commit an hour a day? How would you do this? One half hour on your lunch break and one half hour before bed? In order to read, you must carve out time. Carving out time consistently is the only way to get ahead on your reading.  Even committing 15 minutes a day to purposeful reading would be a great start.  Decide how much time you can commit and when you will read.

  3. Carry your reading material (Nook/Kindle/iPad/Hardcopy) with you so you can take it out during your lunch break or coffee breaks.  Fight the urge to surf the net and pick up your story.  In tip #1 I recommended putting a folder of reading materials in your car.  Use that folder to read while you’re waiting somewhere (ie: the doctor’s office or for a meeting to start etc.) or at the kids’ sports practices. Always be on the look out for places you can read, even if it’s just a few minutes.books-n-nooks


Try these tips and see if you can get ahead on your reading.  If you have other tips you can share on this topic, please share them with our Facebook community at!

3 Steps to A New Mail Habit

Many people struggle with paper.  Are you one of them?  Creating a new mail habit is the first step to getting your paper better organized.

Here are 3 simple steps to a new mail habit:

1. Create a mail station location.

This should be in the place where you currently are in the habit of opening your mail. For example, this can be in the office, the kitchen, or next to the couch where you watch TV. Once you determine the mail station location, it is important that the mail be put there every single time it is carried into your home.

2. Have the right tools.  

Have a basket, an in-box or some sort of container for incoming mail. Label it as such. This container is only for the mail that has not yet been opened! Also have a trash can and shredder (or a “To Shred” bin)

Taming the paper Bill Monster

3. Train yourself and your family.

ALL incoming mail is to go into the incoming mail basket.

Determine how often you will review the mail – twice a week, four times a week, or every day? The choice is yours, but you need to be consistent! When you are reviewing the mail you must be ready (and willing) to do one of three things:

take action

file it

or throw it away

Do not place mail back in the basket with the idea that you will deal with it later. That will just repeat the vicious cycle of having too much paper to manage and not taking care of it (which is the reason you are probably reading this post, right?)!

 If you want more ideas on how to take action on the mail you receive, check out these videos:


Household Paper Management


Capture those thoughts!

A System for the Day to Day Papers


Keep or Toss – A Receipt Dilemma


Receipts seem to really confuse some people.  I have seen clients hold onto YEARS of receipts.  They are in ziplock™ bags, crammed into junk drawers, stacked and sliding off counter tops, and forced into bulging file folders.  They come into the home every day but never leave!

There are really only 3 kinds of receipts:

  • Weekly
  • Big Ticket Items
  • Gifts

Weekly receipts come from the grocery store, doctor visits, medication, clothing purchases, and other such purchases made needed for your home and car maintenance.  Big ticket receipts are for large purchases like a washer and dryer, new roof, computers, TV’s… you get the idea. And gift receipts are for – you guessed it – gifts purchased.

Do you need to hang on to each and every receipt?  The short answer is “no”.  The long answer is “it depends”. And that’s where folks get stuck – it depends.  Once they are stuck, no decision is made and hence years’ worth of receipts clutter their life.

At my Declutter Your Life groups (in Sacramento and Chico, CA), this was a hot topic so I created this flow chart to help with the decision making.








The bottom line here is that receipts will hang around forever until you make a decision. The chart reflects what to do with a receipt if you are at home or out and about. The basic premise is this:

  1. Set up an in-box to collect receipts.
  2. Have a folder or envelope to save questionable receipts for 6 months; purging on at the beginning of each new month.
  3. And for the large purchases, keep the receipts with the product manuals.

So take control and start making decisions about those receipts!

File Cabinet Rehab

I know… most of us hate to file. That’s one reason so many of us are battling with paper in our homes and offices. Most file cabinets are relegated to the back of closets, under the stairs or out in the garage. Some file cabinets are so full they can’t be opened, while others date back to the time of the dinosaurs and need excavation! You might even experience a genuine filing phobia every time you open a file drawer.  It’s difficult to find things when you need them and then you have no idea where to put new papers to be filed.

The first step to overcome your phobia is to re-work your filing system by understanding the types of files and how they are used.  Here’s a chart of the 3 types of files for any home or office.

Type of File


Action Files
  • Useful to hold papers that need attention
  • Can be integrated for use by the whole family
  • Contains information you use on a daily or weekly basis


Reference Files
  • For the majority of the files in your office
  • Contains information that you need to reference on a monthly or yearly basis
  • This is a good place to start if you want to begin scanning.
  • These files need the most purging
Archive Files
  • These files are being kept for tax or legal purpose
  • Sometimes need to keep forever
  • Do not have to be immediately accessible
  • Should have an index of archive files readily available

Now that you have read about these 3 file type, it’s time to take the steps needed to get your file cabinet organized. What I’m about to say is not rocket science or some new age technique…

Use the K.I.S.S. method – Keep it Super Simple!

K eep the 3 types of files separate

I s it worth keeping?  Ask yourself the trigger questions and purge, purge, purge as much as possible  

S implified your categories   Re-think how you have your files labeled; using broad categories will make things easier to find and put away!

S chedule regular maintenance   This is imperative. If you’re not willing to do this step, then all the other steps won’t work! Set up yearly dates to purge files, toss papers, move files from reference to archive, and to re-evaluate your current systems.

Here are a few trigger questions to ask yourself as you sort through and purge your file cabinet.

  • Is this information useful?
  • Can I get this information again?
  • Is this information on the internet?
  • Is this information needed for tax or legal reasons?
  • What’s the worst thing that would happen if I threw this away?


To Do in the New Year: Catch Up on My Reading





Let me give it to you straight-

If you haven’t read it by now, you are probably never going to read it. So let it go!

It’s time to start fresh and have a plan for all the reading you intend to do this year.

First, set some boundaries. How many articles, books, magazines will you let pile up to read before you actually get to reading them? Determine what is manageable. I have no more than 2 books in line to be read after I finish the book I’m currently reading. There are certainly lots more I want to read but I just keep a book list instead of buying more books and magazines to have stacked by my reading chair. (I am even moving to more ebooks now that I have my iPad.) Boundaries can also be set for the number of magazines you subscribe to. Take a look at the number of subscriptions you have now and if many of those have gone unread last year then cut back your subscriptions by 50% as a starting point.

Decide how you will contain your reading materials. Some ways to do this are with magazine holders, baskets, or dedicating a shelf on a bookcase or side table for things you plan to read next. Having a specific place that contains your reading materials is also another way to set a boundary. If the reading materials start to exceed the designated space, then some need to be purged. No guilt, just follow your own boundaries…

Avoid printing out articles or emails you find on the Internet; it’s a waste of our resources. Bookmark it and come back to it when you do have time to read it. For newsletters and random sheets of paper you have accumulated to read, create a portable “To Read” folder.  Take it with you and sneak in some reading while waiting at the doctor’s office, while parked and waiting for kids to get out of school, while getting a pedicure or, my favorite, while sitting in the airport waiting for a flight.


If you really want to get some reading done, plan for it. Set aside time daily or weekly to read. If you are not doing this already, you may need to schedule actual time in your calendar until it becomes a habit. It’s perfectly fine to have an appointment with yourself, you know! Speaking of habits, it’s also a good idea to go through and purge your reading piles quarterly. Things that seemed like a “must read” look a whole lot different after 3 months has gone by! Re-evaluate and purge the reading materials regularly, you’ll feel so much better!

Say ‘NO’ to Phone Book Deliveries!

“According to the U.S. Postal Service and Seattle Public Utilities research, Seattle homes and businesses receive an estimated 17,500 tons of unwanted paper in the form of junk mail and yellow pages phone books, approximately 100 pounds of waste per household, each year,” a release from the city of Seattle states. That’s some major waste!  I found this information and photo here.

 A look at the discarded phone books, courtesy of the City of Seattle


 When I read the article, I first thought it only applied to the city of Seattle. But that’s not true – they are just giving it better P.R. than other areas.  Go to and you can enter your zip code in the box labeled “1” and it will tell you if you can request to opt out of the phone books for your city. If your city phone books come up, simply hit the ‘New Request’ button for each one.
You should see something like this at the top of your screen:

Now look below this box and start filling out the form.  The instructions are simple and it took me all of 3 minutes to do. can also help eliminate your junk mail.  This is a great nonprofit organization that ultimately helps to save trees and simplify the paper in our lives a little bit. They ask that you consider giving them a donation after you’re done to show them some love!
Would love to hear if you do go on there to stop your phone book deliveries. I know I’m on a mission to tell as many people as I can!!

Can You See the Desk?

Does this look familiar?

Is your desk so cluttered that you forget what the wood grain looks like on its top?  Do you put down papers just about anywhere because you don’t know what else to do with them?

Whether it’s your home office or your work office, having a functional desk is important.  By functional I don’t mean having four legs and working drawers (although that helps!). I mean having a surface where you can do your work, have things at your fingertips and know where things are when you need them.  Here are 3 keys to helping you make your desk more functional: