Sunday, January 30, 2011

Paperless January: Mail

I've wanted to do a post on going paperless for some time now, but the amount of information I have to share is a bit overwhelming. So, enter Minimalist's new "paperless" series for 2011. Each month I will share information on a different facet of paperless living. I'm thinking the posts will be seasonally relevant, too. In honor of the new year, January's post is about mail. Let's cut that paper off at the source!

Let me take a step back first and ask an obvious question. Why go paperless? There are two main reasons from my perspective. First, paper uses a lot of natural resources to be created. Reducing our dependence on paper also reduces our impact on the environment. Second, paper tends to become clutter for many people. Less paper = less clutter = less stress! I'm not suggesting we live in a completely paperless world. As a designer, I find hand sketching to be a crucial part of the design process, for instance.

Okay, now let's get back to this mail business. My suggestions take a bit of upfront commitment, but once the systems are in place you will save far more time than you spent getting set up.

1. Eliminate junk mail and unwanted 'zines. Click the link for a detailed breakdown of how to reduce excess mailings.

2. Bank and pay bills online. Most banks have an online banking and bill pay option. It only takes minutes to set up and has many benefits. No more bank or credit card statements in the mail. In most cases, you can also receive your various bills through online bill pay instead of via mail. Email reminders can be set up so that you won't miss a payment. Seeing all of your bills in one place and when they are all due makes it easier to budget and ensure that accounts don't overdraft. Your local banker can address any security concerns you may have about online banking and bill pay. An added bonus - you'll save money on stamps and envelopes since your bank mails the payments for you (or transfers the money electronically).

3. Organize your mail. A common issue I see in many of my organizing clients' homes is that there is no consistent place to deal with the mail. Bills, magazines and other mailings end up scattered throughout the home. The key is to choose one place to gather the mail. Whether that be a letter-sized tray on a table by the door or a three-tiered mail sorter in the home office, the key is consistency. Depending on your schedule, choose a time each day or each week to sort through the mail and make decisions. Remember, there are only three options when dealing with paper - shred/recycle, take action or file. If setting up a filing system seems overwhelming, a professional organizer can help.

In the spirit of this post, check out these super stylish recycled security envelope coasters and magnets by Crab Apple Designs on Etsy!

Kristen Ziegler

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