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?

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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.