Developing a Mail Organization System

December 4, 2013

A few weeks ago I read a great post by Emily about the system she created for controlling paper and keeping her home neat and organized. Since we moved into our house I’ve been searching for a way to organize our mail but haven’t found anything that really worked for more than a couple days. After a week, I was back to square one with a giant pile of paper sitting on my office desk once again. Ideally, I would sort through our mail every day, but I don’t think that’s realistic.

When I saw Emily’s post, I was inspired to form my own organization system for my blog room/office. I already had three hanging metal magazine baskets that we mounted on the wall when we moved in. The magazine baskets, purchased from Pottery Barn, had previously been used to house old magazines. The magazines weren’t really getting looked at or used, so I moved some of the magazines into storage and tossed those that weren’t all that special.

Once I cleared the magazine baskets, I created three different classifications for our mail. In one way or another, all our mail fits into the following categories:

1. Items to File 
This includes all the usual suspects, such as tax paperwork, receipts that we need to keep from home improvement projects, investments and 401K statements, etc. In our house, this is Joe’s responsibility. He is great with organization and keeps a detailed filing system at our house for all important documents. Once items go into the “to file” basket, I consider it off my to-do list and onto Joe’s to-do list.

2. Bills/To Do
We don’t get many paper bills anymore since we signed up for electronic billing, but occasionally we get a bill from the doctor, dentist, etc. that needs to be paid. Additionally, I put things in this folder such as writing to our Compassion Child (the one sponsored by Espresso and Cream!) and a blue zipper bag that holds all the coupons I get sent in the mail. It’s nice to have all the coupons in one place since they are strange shapes and sizes. And when I go shopping, it’s easy to take them and head out the door.

3.  Items to Read 
This basket contains magazines, catalogues, etc. Each week or two, I make an effort to sort through the basket and toss the magazines that have been read so that things don’t pile up. It’s a good practice for me, someone who tends to hoard magazines if I’m allowed to.

Thanks so much to Emily for the great inspiration! It is wonderful to have a place to immediately sort mail from the moment it arrives at our house rather than letting it pile up. And I’ve already found that I’m better about sitting down once a week and going through the mail when it’s cleanly sorted and organized. It’s much less overwhelming!


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  • Reply Lindsay West December 4, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    This is exactly what I need to do! We moved into a new home in August, and I have completely failed to get a new paperwork system going… there’s just a pile on the desk! Baskets and designated places seem perfect to me. Now, to just DO it! 🙂

  • Reply CupcakesOMG! December 4, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    This is a really smart idea. We’re still in an apartment (!!) and we are super limited on space, so when the mail piles up on the corner of the bar, and sometimes all over the kitchen table, it feels like the walls are caving in! I’m totally inspired to do something similar now!

  • Reply DessertForTwo December 4, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    What a fabulous idea. I have piles of magazines and catalogs by the end of the week. and then I “must” look at them, instead of waiting to enjoy them, and it takes out all the fun.
    Joe is just like Brian–he does our budget and tracks everything electronically. When we bought our last house, we needed documents but we were out of town. He said not to worry because he scanned all of our personal documents and they were on our computer with us. It was a lifesaver!

  • Reply Rachel December 4, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    I am in the middle of organizing all of our papers right now, and I absolutely love this idea! I was just going to get a basket organizer to place in the kitchen, but I like this so much better! Anything to keep stuff off the counters and up is better!

  • Reply Emily J December 4, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    Wow – I’m so glad you felt inspired to work on an organization system that functions for you and Joe! It feels so good to tackle paper and have some space on the desk ;-). Thanks for the mention today…it’s you that inspire me to be a more health conscious and creative in my cooking habits. I love reading your blog, and I look forward to the day we meet in person sometime when we visit Minneapolis in the future!

    • Reply Madison Mayberry December 5, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      You did! Your blog is so wonderful and always so inspiring! Congrats on your two new little additions. They are just so cute!

  • Reply Robin Juthe December 14, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Love this idea! Where did you get your baskets?

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