Paper Management – Part 1: Reduce the Influx

The influx of paper into our homes on a daily basis can be overwhelming. We get more mail in a single day than our grandparents got in an entire year! If you hold on to even half of it, you have the makings of a serious paper crisis on your hands.

And paper comes to us in even more ways than through the mail. There are the papers you bring home from the doctor’s office, from your church, from meetings, or school. There are ads you pick up and receipts you bring home. There are magazines and promotion material and business cards. If you live anywhere long enough, these items can really pile up.

How can we control this avalanche of paper?

  1. Mail – reduce your junk mail     
  • – started in 1917, the Direct Marketing Association has made it possible to opt-out of mailing lists through its Mail Preference Service
  • – a free service that sends merchants your catalog opt-out request on your behalf
  • – to keep your name off prescreened lists which will cut down on credit card offers
  • – will help you evaluate charities and when combined with Direct Marketing Association can help you opt out of getting some of the donation solicitations 

We enjoy some of the mail that comes in like letters and cards and perhaps some of those catalogs. But enjoy them and then let them move on. Of course, some cards and letters you may wish to keep, so place them in your memorabilia box but don’t keep them all. I have seen clients with trunks and dressers filled with old cards, many of them with no special notes but just a signature.

Some bills will come in and those you must deal with but consider paying on line and after paying a bill, decide if you really need to keep the bill.

   2. Items you pick up and bring home – do you really need it and what do you plan to do with it?

  • Recipes – I strongly suggest that if you bring a recipe home, you try it out within a week to see if it is worth filing away
  • Coupons – know yourself – are these coupons you will really use and how do you plan to keep up with them? – each time you look through your coupons, discard any that have expired
  • Special interest material – if you are collecting information on interests like health, home decorating, landscaping, or vacations – plan a special place to store them and at least once a year look through what you have saved and purge the ones you no longer need
  • Receipts – know why you have kept them – if it is something you plan to return, keep it with the item – is it for something you will get reimbursed for? A charge you want to keep until you reconcile your charge statement? A business expense? A large purchase for your home? Have a plan for storing those you feel you need to keep and let the rest go.
  • Business cards – let go immediately the ones you no longer want – pull information from others by scanning or entering the information into your phone
  • Magazines – read them within the month and let them go – if you can’t find time to read them, stop getting them
  • Computer print outs – read them and then decide what action needs to happen – then either do the action or let the print out go
Bottom line – a lot of the paper clutter we have lying around is there because we have not taken the time to decide on what to do with it. It is a deferred decision. Don’t let any of this junk paper linger. It will make it so much easier to find the papers that are really important if the unimportant is gone.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Free Holiday Cards, Gift Wrap, Calendars and More!

This time of year junk mail really revs up. I really hate it  when charities I give to send me free holiday cards, gift wrap, and/or free calendars. All of these items either end up in my recycling bin or are given to an older friend who does enjoy them. I hate that the money I donate is being spent on sending me items that I do not want.

Unwanted catalogs, credit card offers, and donation requests swamp us at this time of year and if you are not vigilant they can really clutter up homes and offices. Yesterday alone 6 catalogs, 3 donations requests, and a set of free holiday cards came into my home. Some of the catalogs and donation requests came from groups that I have never used. Many companies send this mail because they have bought our information from a data broker.

More than 100 billion pieces of junk mail are mailed to U.S. households each year, including 12 billion catalogs! That’s a lot of trees! Over 100 million trees are cut down each year to produce our junk mail and 44% of junk mail is thrown away unopened and only half that much junk mail (22%) is recycled.

So, what to do? I always recycle but that is not enough. There are several sites to help you stop your junk mail. Catalog Choice helps stop catalogs. You have to set up an account and it is easy to use but takes a bit of time to find your catalog in their long lists.

Another option is to call the number on the back of the catalog and ask them to remove you from the list. By law, they must honor this. It would not take too long if you did each one when it comes through.

Charites are more difficult. It helps to donate to charities with a demonstrated commitment to donor privacy. Find charities that make a promise not to share, sell, or trade your personal information. Also look for charities that are financially efficient. If you support a charity that sends out too many mailings, call that charity and tell them how often you want to be contacted. Audubon now only sends me a donation form annually. I have another charity that automatically gets a monthly payment.

It is a good idea to pick a few favorites and give more heavily to them and refuse the others. I love to support wildlife and nature organizations. Consequently, I give to way too many. Now is a good time to really study each of those groups and decide which one or two I want to support.

It can seem overwhelming but even if we just take action to eliminate some of them the world would be a better place.

Jonda S. Beattie

Professional Organizer

Junk Mail- Just Stop It!

Your name, address, and buying habits are tracked by companies and sold and traded on the open market. It’s usually a dead giveaway when some group misspells your name and then 20 more solicitations with the same misspelling crop up. For those mass lists, here are a few tips to keep from being on shared lists. 1. Whenever you donate money, order something, or fill out a warranty card, write in large letters “Please do not sell my name or address.” Some organizations have a box to check. 2. When you donate to groups like the Audubon Society, you can request that they only send out an annual renewal reminder. 3. If you get information from your investments via mail, you can request on-line reports or CDs instead. 4. Avoid filling out warranty cards if you do not require them. They are often for obtaining information and targeting direct mail. 5. If making a phone order or donation, retest that your account is noted that your name is not traded or sold to other companies. 6. Avoid “contests” where you fill in entry blanks. 7. If something comes to you via first class mail, cross out the address and barcode, circle the first class postage, and write “refused: return to sender.” 8. For credit card offers, call 1-888-5 OPT OUT. 9. For catalogs, call the company’s 800 number. Have your catalogs in front of you when you call. 10. For much junk mail, send a postcard of letter to Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Assoc., PO Box 643, Carmel, NY 15012-0643. Include your complete name, address, zip code and a request to “activate the preference service.” This will stop mail from all member organizations that you have not specifically ordered products from. It takes some investment time to clear the junk from your mailbox. The amount of junk mail sent is staggering – some 4 million tons, nearly half of which is never opened. Even reducing some of it helps our environment. Would love some input on how others stop junk mail.
Jonda S. Beattie
Professional Organizer