Dear Kathi,

My mail is out of control. What can I do with all of the bills, coupons and cool graphic ideas I receive on a daily basis? I am really disgusted. I have too many piles spread throughout my entire house. Help!

Carole, Encinitas


Mail has a life of it’s own if it’s not handled with care on a daily basis. Attending to your mail a few minutes every day will save yourself hours of frustration. Decide now to develop a few easy habits and avoid the persistent reminder that piles have overtaken your life and your home. Keep in mind, all new routines take four – six weeks of continued practice before they become habits. Your persistence will create a new reality in your home.

New Habit #1
Make going to your mailbox a single task. Don’t combine mail retrieval with unloading the groceries or walking the dog. Walk to your mailbox empty handed and purposefully so that you can tackle it head-on as it enters your life.

New Habit #2
Begin sorting your mail as soon as you take it out of the mailbox. Toss the junk mail immediately into a trashcan. Do not bring it into your home. Detour through the garage to dump it on the way in. If you don’t want to walk through your garage, consider placing a small trash container discreetly on your porch behind a chair or planter.

New Habit #3
After dumping the rubbish from your stack of mail, use the five finger sorting method. Sort the mail into sections between your fingers. As you find new categories, i.e. Mail to Read, Bills to Pay, Events to Schedule etc, separate it between fingers. By the time you arrive at your front door, your mail should be sorted.

New Habit #4
Walk into your house and deliver the mail immediately to it’s designated landing zone, not the kitchen counter. This means simply that each category of mail should have a place to reside once it enters your home. This routine works well when you have an inbound “action file” system which leads to the next habit.

New Habit #5
Create an “action file” system for your incoming papers. This system is simply a set of manilla file folders designed to hold papers as they enter your life until you have time to deal with them. Common categories for action files are: Bills to Pay, Pending, Upcoming Events, Papers To File, and Data Entry. Your personalized system might also include Cool Graphic Ideas, Coupons or Current Projects. Place these file folders vertically into a metal file holder, preferably stepped so that each tab is visible at a quick glance.

Please use a vertical “Action File” system. Stacking these folders on top of each other only creates – guess what? – piles!

These new habits will enable you to gain control of your piles, your finances and your home. It’s obvious that you recognize the underlying stress and chaos of piles. I hope now that you will become accustomed to the space in your newly created “pile free” home.

Cool Tip
Reduce your junk mail by taking your name off of junk mail lists. Visit: This is a FREE service sponsored by the Direct Marketing Association.
Another online service will remove your name from mail and phone lists:  or

To sign up via “snail mail” write to:
Mail Preference Service, PO Box 643, Carmel NY 10512
Telephone Preference Service, PO Box 1559, Carmel NY 10512

If you are curious about how your name gets placed onto mailing lists, send a stamped, self-addressed #10 size envelope for the consumer booklet, OPENING THE DOOR TO OPPORTUNITY, to: Consumer Services — Opening the Door, Direct Marketing Association, 1111 19th Street, NW – Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20036.

Kathi is a professional organizer, image consultant and event planner based in San Diego California.

Please submit your questions to: [email protected]. San Diego Professional Organizer