Tips for Keeping Your Mail Organized

Bills, greeting cards, magazines and other mail can create a paper blizzard if you're not careful. Piles on the desk, kitchen counter or dining room table can lead to lost important documents. But by following these tips, you can keep the stacks at bay.
Purge Home Office Paper With Desktop Scanner

Purge Home Office Paper With Desktop Scanner

A desktop scanner can sweep those stacks off your desk and into safe digital storage. Some models don’t require a computer to run and use batteries, so you can take them to whatever corner a pile lurks in.

A desktop scanner can sweep those stacks off your desk and into safe digital storage. Some models don’t require a computer to run and use batteries, so you can take them to whatever corner a pile lurks in.

By: Gina Hannah

The best way to reduce the amount of mail coming into your house is to keep it from landing on a flat surface in your home, experts say.

"Toss or recycle everything you don't want before you even set it down," says Amy Trager, CPO, and a Chicago-based professional organizer and member of the National Association of Professional Organizers. "Flip through the stack from the mailbox as you're bringing it into the house.

"Ads or catalogs that aren't interesting or relevant should go straight into the can," she adds. "If you have time, open everything the day it comes in and sort how it best makes sense for your home." You can also take yourself off mailing lists that send unwanted mail. The Federal Trade Commission website offers advice on how to do this.

Another way to cut down on paper mail is to go electronic. You can sign up for e-billing and set up automatic payments for regular expenses, such as your house payment or utilities, which saves both time and paper. Some banks even offer applications that allow you to deposit checks and pay bills from your smartphone, so you can control your paper flow while on the go. Many publications offer electronic versions that not only can be read on your tablet or phone, but also offer additional features not found in the print versions.

11 Organized Home Offices

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By the Bay

Enlighten your morning correspondence with a seat at your home's sunniest spot. Transforming an interior bay window into a study nook takes advantage of natural light and extra space. Eliminate the glare factor with adjustable Roman shades.

Behind Open Doors

You'll want to throw your closet doors open once you plaster the walls with sunny wallpaper, add shelving and plug in your favorite lamp. Invest in a Lucite chair to make the cozy space feel bigger.

Photo By: Virginia Bell; Edit by Virginia

Double Duty

Tuck a chair under your console table for an instant home office. Bonus: You can watch a movie with your family while you address holiday cards!

Stairwell Study

Carve out a study nook in the oft-unused space under your stairs. You'll find ample room for a desk, shelving and cabinetry.

Photo By: Sage Design Studio; Inc.; photo by: Leslie Goodwin

Take Note

You won't forget a single item on your to-do list when it's written on a cabinet-sized notepad. Cover a standard cabinet with chalkboard paint and start planning.

Photo By: Martha O’Hara Interiors; photo by: Troy Thies

Space Saver

Need a study break? Close your eyes and rev your creativity in a loft above your home office. With alternating corkboards and pegboards, this design maximizes the desk's function while showing off your best art supplies.

Photo By: Martha O’Hara Interiors; photo by: Troy Thies

Tidy Shelves

Keep your workspace uncluttered and your tasks organized with open shelving and stylish boxes for out-of-sight storage. Just look down for inspiration – an Aztec rug infuses color and texture in an otherwise unadorned office.

Bring on the Bling

Glam up your home office by adding shimmery sheets of gold leaf to a basic desk. Complement the glass desktop with a clear lamp for unobstructed creativity.

Photo By: Honey & Fitz; photo by: Ruth Eileen Photography

Perfect Fit

Make your own corner office with a colorful Parsons desk and gallery wall for inspiration. Economize the space with matching ottomans that can be tucked under the desk when not in use.

Upper Limit

Don't overlook the fifth wall when decorating your personal creative haven. A wallpapered ceiling draws the eye up, makes the room feel larger and invites inspiration.

Corkboard Calendar

Keep your social schedule in check with a larger-than-life calendar. Birthday invites and reminders find a home on days separated by rope and pinned by reusable date markers.

Photo By: John Bynum Custom Homes

For the mail that makes it into your home, it's important to develop a system that will ensure you can find what you need while keeping piles at bay, Trager says.

"Maybe each person has a designated place for their mail," she advises. "Or sort by task: things to read, things to pay, calls to make, etc. Give yourself a space limitation as well. A paper tray or magazine holder works well. If you aren't good about scheduling time to look through things, whenever the holder is full, it's time to tackle the paperwork."

These days, we can be bombarded by both paper and electronic mail. Trager says there are ways to keep email under control.  

"Email is tough. It comes in even quicker than paper mail," she says. "Creating folders helps. Set your system up such that spam is filtered out well. Ads or newsletters that you might be interested in when you have the time to look at them go into separate folders.

"Try to keep your inbox to action items only,” she says. "Ideally, it would act as a to-do list. Once emails are responded to, they can be archived accordingly."

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