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Every day, I get a lot of mail at my household. They range in importance from personal bills to advertisements or flyers. They may be addressed to the different members of the household as well.

Note: I'm talking about non-electronic mail here:

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How do I handle this situation efficiently with minimum effort?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

I understand your problem (and I'm still struggling myself with this problem).

Some useful tips

  • create an inbox for each member of the household and sort incoming items directly in those inboxes
  • throw away "spam" directly (advertisements, ...)
  • if it is something time critical (bills to pay), open it directly and make a note in your calendar or task management system (whatever you use to track your todos) with the deadline.
    I also found it useful to just have one folder to collect all bills to pay and then regularly (e. g. once a week) empty it and pay them all at once.
  • if it is something to act on, also note the corresponding task (e. g. with start date or deadline) in your "task management system" and also note where you have put the correpsonding document

The most important point IMHO is the same as with electronic e-mail (where "inbox zero" is a good motto): ** do not let sleep any tasks and deadlines in your inbox! ** extract the tasks and deadlines directly when processing the mail and add them to your task management system.


An important problem which I could not solve yet to my satisfaction is where to store the paper until it is processed.

A useful link:

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In addition to the suggestions, don't just toss the "spam." A lot of catalogs you can opt out of receiving. That way you don't KEEP getting the same junk mail.

  1. You can also opt out of catalogs.
  2. Ask your banks and credit cards for their privacy policy and opt out of advertisements
  3. Switch to electronic bills
  4. Write back or call to stop getting requests for donations you don't want.
  5. For catalogs or donation requests you do want, call to ask to get them less often. I successfully got on a quarterly (vs monthly) cycle for one and a yearly (vs monthly) cycle for another.
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Great tips. You can also try putting a "No advertising material, please" sticker on your mailbox. – Gruber Jun 26 '13 at 5:46
very good points - also cure the root causes instead of only working on the symptoms! – MostlyHarmless Jun 26 '13 at 6:59

Are you in the States? If so, or to anyone in the U.S. looking for an answer to this (and btw, it is a horrible waste of resources and polluter due to high gloss inks, etc.)

Please check out the following hyperlink which takes you directly to their stop junk mail kit

Although it says it's Sold Out just click on the pdf which gives you the 1 page 2 sided flyer that includes 2 postcards to the major direct mail advertising along with online sites, phone numbers, etc. for other junk mail services. They will remove your address of their list. A simple 5 step process so you put an end to all the junk mail you receive. It is good for anywhere in the U.S. outside of that I am unsure.

If into reducing waste, recycling, reusing building materials this site has lots of great information!

Good Luck!

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You need one big box. For each item do one of the following

  1. Throw it away (spam)
  2. Act and do it right away if it is very urgent
  3. Put it in the box (inbox)

Every day reserve one hour (i.e. early morning) to process these items. Open each one and do one of the following

  1. Act right away if it take less than 5 min
  2. If it takes more than 5 min and has a deadline, put it in the calender
  3. If it takes more than 5 min and does not have a deadline, put it on the task list
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Here's what I do with our paper mail. This process has been working well for several years.

I bring the mail in from the mailbox. I immediately sort it into three piles - addressed to me, addressed to my wife, and junk to recycle. The recycle pile goes into the recyling bin, my wife's mail goes into her in basket, mine goes into my in basket. Ads and flyers might be junk to recycle and might go in either pile, depending on whether it looks like something one of us might be interested in.

"Basket" is literal - we have "His 'n' Hers" baskets in the dining room that are general purpose collection points. We both drop notes, mail, books, magazines, and whatever into those baskets to hand them off to the other person. (If either of us were the type that leaves socks on the floor, they'd go in there too. They're pretty good sized baskets.)

The mail in my basket then moves to my home office for processing. Bills go in a "Bills to Process" folder (I pay bills in a batch weekly), things to read go in a "To Read" pile. Other mail is handled on a case by case basis. Some gets tossed, some causes me to make entries in my task or projects lists, some goes into a tickler file for future consideration. See (PDF) for David Allen's GTD perspective on setting up and using a tickler file.

As I have moved more and more to digital bills, subscriptions, and correspondence, the amount of paper in the mailbox has dropped dramatically. I'm currently averaging less than 5 minutes a day in handling paper mail.

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