The One Piece of Organizing Advice I Can't Stand (and what I do instead) |

Imagine you are coming home from a long day.

You stop by the mailbox on your way in while also carrying your purse, an umbrella, and a bag of groceries.

Or maybe you’ve been on several phone calls and want to take a 5 minute break from sitting in your home office to get some sunshine + bring the mail in before you dive head first into following up on emails.

Would your first inclination be to process every piece of mail to completion the moment you walked back inside?

Meaning you will call your credit card company to dispute a charge, pay your cable bill and call Aunt Clara to thank her for the Anniversary card – that very instant your mail crosses the threshold into your home?


I didn’t think so.

But this is what some organizers advise so that you can stay clutter-free.

I even read a recommendation recently that says you should just let your mail pile up in the mailbox if you do not intend to deal with each and every piece immediately.

Call me crazy, but I think if I did that I might quickly get in trouble with the IRS or something like that and I may just miss my moment to use my Anthropologie birthday discount.

This way of managing your life actually makes organizing the center of your focus to the point that it takes precedence over enjoying those few moments of relaxing into your home after a long day or taking a few more breather minutes on your break.

I have a different perspective: Organizing’s sole purpose is to support you in living your most vibrantly effective life.

But it is not the point.

So how do you manage the incoming flow of mail into your home without drowning in paper + packages AND without it dictating how you will spend possibly the next hour (or more) of your life at its very own fickle whim?

You set up a system that’s easy to manage in REAL LIFE.

Here’s what I do:

  • Open my pressing mail first. If it’s something I MUST take care of that instant I deal with it. But most likely I either add it to my “To File” clip (see photo below) or just put it on my desk
  • Then, I toss the junk. I have a basket that’s pretty and easy to get to that this type of stuff collects.
  • Once a week I go through the items on my desk. Just about every weekend I either take action on what’s there or stash it in a metal “mail-file” next to my desk if I can deal with it later. Then I toss what needs to be tossed and clip the “To File” items.
  • About, once a month is when I get to the clean sweep. I’ll sort through my stash and make sure I’ve dealt with everything that needs to be dealt with and I’ll take everything in my “To File” clip and file it away exactly where it belongs. Again I’ll keep adding paperwork that can be thrown away to my beautiful basket that I lovingly call my ‘shred bin’.
  • Finally, whenever the basket fills up its time to shred! Mine is getting full now so I will have a shredding session or two very soon. In the past, I’ve also taken stuff to be shredded to a local FedEx/Kinkos where they do it for you!


This is the simplest way I’ve found to manage my mail-flow without it becoming a big project and without it taking over my space. Simplicity is the way to go.

The point is, I’m not letting the goal of organizing my mail set the tone for how enjoy those few precious moments I walk through the door and say hello to my home. It has its place and the to-dos it dictates will be taken care of at an appropriate time. But more importantly I allow myself the space to breath in and take solace in my space.

And that’s the kind of organizing advice I cling to.

What’s your take?

Any organizing advice that you just can’t stand yourself? Share your perspective in the comments below.

AND if you want to learn even more actionable organizing tips, I invite you to join my facebook group. I’ve just started posting weekly challenges every Monday to help you start and stick to the organizing process – plus do it in style! Click here to request to join.


4 Comments on The One Piece of Organizing Advice I Can’t Stand (and what I do instead)

  1. Michelle Burnes
    April 17, 2015 at 10:47 AM (4 years ago)

    Hi Jessica! Just wanted to say how much I loved this article! The beautiful basket idea is awesome for shred papers. That’s a great way to eliminate the out of sight, out of mind issue and stay on top of things. I also dig your metal wall file with magnetic clips. I have four kids living at home under the age of 16. As you can imagine, there are a lot of papers flying through my house! Currently, I have a wall file bin for each child, but not one for ME! I’ve been slacking with the clearing out follow-up part, so your article was just what I needed to inspire me into action by setting aside some time weekly and monthly to clear out the bins with the kids, and get myself one. Love what you’re doing! Keep’em coming!

    • Jessica Newell
      April 18, 2015 at 10:00 AM (4 years ago)

      Thanks Michelle! Glad that you got some good ideas out of the post and were inspired into action! I’ll keep it coming :)

  2. Anna E. Lee - ID
    July 22, 2015 at 11:45 AM (4 years ago)

    I totally agree! I think tackling all of your mail when your first get home is simply impractical. If it’s urgent I’ll attend to it right away, the rest I deal with before bed that night.

    • Jessica Newell
      July 24, 2015 at 12:14 AM (4 years ago)

      Thanks for the comment Anna! I’m so glad a fellow pro organizer agrees! It’s not about letting organization ruling your day, but about using it to help you enjoy your life :)


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