Clutter: Eight tips for handling the mail

You come home to a towering stack of mail. What next? Everyone's routine will be slightly different, but here's the system that, after much trial and error, I devised for myself.

1. The first and KEY step to handling mail: I stand next to a wastebasket and toss junk-mail the minute I identify it.

2. I put magazines in the magazine drawer. Most people display magazines on coffee tables or in special magazine racks. I've never understood this. Magazines always look messy. I keep them out of sight.

3. I open bills and throw away everything but the parts I need. I've been considering automating my bills, but some friends have had bad experiences, so I'm holding off for now.

4. I put those bills in my correspondence drawer, where I keep stamps, envelopes, an address stamp, and my checkbook. Once a week or so, I watch a Friends re-run and pay them.

5. I put invitations in a special pile to take to my office, along with anything else that needs to be noted on my calendar or that requires a phone call.

6. In my office, I have an "Upcoming Events and Invitations" folder. There I put invitations, directions, tickets, emailed plane tickets, reminder notices, any information related to an upcoming event. I write "yes" on an invitation after I've rsvp'd, so I know I've responded.

7. A lot of people like to put invitations on their refrigerator, keep theater tickets tacked to a cork board in the hallway, put notices on their kitchen counters. To me, this is visual clutter. I have no cork board, keep my fridge bare, and make a daily sweep of papers off the counters. Clean surfaces contribute to a calm mind.

8. I open my husband's mail, too. If it's something he needs to read, I leave it on the counter where he puts his wallet and keys each night. After he ignores his mail for two or three days, I chase him around the house until he deals with it.

How about you? Have you found some good strategies for dealing with the mail?

Interested in starting your own happiness project? If you'd like to take a look at my personal Resolutions Chart, for inspiration, just email me at grubin, then the "at" sign, then gretchenrubin dot com. (Sorry about writing it in that roundabout way; I'm trying to thwart spammers.) Just write "Resolutions Chart" in the subject line.