How To Prevent Snail Mail From Piling Up In Your Home

Unless you're getting a postcard from a friend, or a birthday card from your grandma, most snail mail sucks. It's bills and junk. Worse than the content, is the physical barrage of paper flowing into your home – often piling into small stacks on desks and tables until you get around to processing it. 

A few months ago I radically changed my work environment when I completely closed down our restaurant's office and moved everything to the cloud. It was an arduous process of scanning tens of thousands of sheets of paper, and putting in new systems for receiving and processing mail. When it was done, I felt liberated by my new found paperless work-life and thought: how can I have this at home.

After some brainstorming I had this rather simple idea: Check your mail as you leave the house, not as you come home. It works like a charm. Here's what I do:

  1. As I leave my home, I'll snag my mail and start reviewing the envelopes on my way to the coffee shop.
  2. I pull out anything that's clearly spam (including magazines, coupons, and other ads) and dump it in the first sidewalk garbage can I pass. 
  3. I then open the envelopes and remove the content of anything that seems important, discarding the opened envelopes as I walk.
  4. Once get my coffee, I'll sit for a moment and read the seemingly important documents. They generally fall into a three categories: actionable items (bills to pay, calls to make), reference materials (tax filing receipts, countersigned documents), and personal greetings (if I'm lucky). 
  5. In the coffee shop process all important documents as follows:
    1. Most actionable items can be handled in a few seconds from your phone. So any bills or emails to send are done in a moment.
    2. Any personal greetings are read, but are not saved. Sorry.
    3. Most importantly, all important reference documents (irs, legal, leases, confirmations) will be captured using the Dropbox app's amazing built-in scanner, which allows me to make really good scans of my documents while they're on my lap, and automatically uploads them to my dropbox folder.
  6. That's it! I rip up any sensitive documents and trash them on my way to the subway. 

This small change has been one of my favorite life tweaks. It's de-cluttered my living space, and has made me much more responsive to communications. Best off, this practice gives you remote digital access to important documents, wherever you are.

Try it, and let me know what you think of this tweak in the comments below.