Banish Paper Piles & Manage Mail in Three Simple Steps

Do you have paper piles on your counters, dining table, and any other available flat surface? Believe it or not, getting on track with mail and paper does not have to be complicated. Here is the three step process I teach to just about all of my clients. I highly recommend it.

  1. Pick the time
  2. Create the space
  3. Process your paper

1. Pick the Time to Process Mail & Paper

organize your timeDon’t check mail until you’re ready to process it. If that’s not feasible, create an inbox close to your main entry so paper has a place to live until you have time to deal with it.

Set aside time daily or weekly when you can process mail and take follow up action. Mail processing and follow ups can happen at different times.

Create a reminder alert on your phone and/or an appointment on your calendar to process paper.

2. Set Up a Space for Paper Processing

Files for Mail and Paper

Set up space in your entryway, office, or wherever you will process your papers. You’ll want the following:

  • Inbox
  • Desktop file box
  • Trash, recycling, and shredding bins

If you’d prefer not to have trash, recycling, and shredding bins or sensitive items to be shredded near the front door, you might want an inbox in the entry area and the full processing area elsewhere. The file box can move to wherever you’re processing paper.

Inbox for Mail & Paper

Wall File for Paper

This could be the first file in your file box if you don’t have a high volume of incoming paper, an inbox on your table, or a wall file. If using a wall file, be sure to get one that holds your paper so it won’t flop out the top.

Desktop File Box

Create a mail desktop file box for your paper processing. The file box is key because it can be closed to hide papers and is easily transported to wherever you’re processing papers.  

File Box for Mail & Papers

This is the Stockholm file box from Container Store It comes in many colors, so you can pick one that accents your decor. It can live on your kitchen counter, in your entryway, or on the desk in your home office.

File Folders

Create file folders for the action you’ll need to take. This might include any or all of the following:

  • You can include a To Process file for incoming mail if don’t have enough paper to need a separate inbox. That may seem like an impossibility right now, but you can get there. One way to accomplish this, is to opt out of junk mail.  You can also go paperless to cut down on incoming mail and help you avoid identity theft.
  • Mail – If you’ll be paying bills using the desktop file box, you might include a mail folder with stamps, mailing labels, a checkbook, and envelopes.
  • Urgent – Anything that needs to be done immediately.
  • Do – Often to dos don’t need to be separates into subcategories like To Call, To Schedule, etc., but if you have enough items of one type of action, set up a file for the actions that need a group.
  • Pay – if you haven’t gone paperless with your bills, you may need this folder.
  • Buy – for catalogs, house items, clothes, or other things you want to remember at gift buying or home improvement time.
  • File – the papers in the desktop file box are for action steps. You’ll want a separate file box, drawer, or cabinet for papers you need to reference. Click here for a copy of spaceWise Filing with tips to set up a filing system, recommended filing categories, and to learn which items you want to keep in a fire safe or safe deposit box.
  • Other categories might include To Read, To Write, Travel, or any type of papers that need the same kind of action.


  • Trash can
  • Recycling bin
  • Shredder or shredding bin

Paper & Mail Shredder

I like a paper shredder with a pull out bin so I’m not taking off the top and dumping paper pieces all over the floor. Depending on the volume of paper you have, you can decide the number of sheets you want to shred at a time. Cross cut costs more than strip cut, but offers more security.

Some people shred everything with their name or address on it. Since that information can be found with a simple web search, I recommend that you shred anything with your social security number, birth date, or financial account number on it. By financial account, I mean anything that is directly connected to your money and, if hacked, would result in loss of said money i.e. bank, brokerage, retirement, or investment accounts. I don’t mean something like your electric bill account number.

3. Process Your Paper

  • Check the mail when you have time to process it.
  • Sort through mail and other papers into recycle, shred, trash, and action items into file box.
  •  Take action on the files. You might set up a bill paying time and just pull out your To Pay file. Or, you might set up paper processing time and go through files in order of urgency and importance.

Contact Me

If you need help with your mail, files, home office, or any room in your house where you have paper, spaceWise offers decluttering, organizing, design, and remodel planning services. Contact me by email or call 512-891-5129 to tell me about your project and ask me any questions you have.

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