Category Archives: Office

Manage Your Mail

Manage Your Mail


Even in our largely digital world, mail remains a fact of life.  And without a consistent plan for how to deal with it, mail can be a major source of clutter in the home.  Even worse, important items can get lost or deadlines missed.  Here are three easy tips for creating a mail zone that will keep things flowing smoothing.

1) Choose a mail zone space and location that is convenient for your family.  Think of a place where the whole family will walk by on a daily basis – maybe that’s right when you walk in from your garage or other entry, or perhaps in the kitchen somewhere out of the way from spaces used for cooking.

2) Determine what mail categories suit your family, it might be one folder per family member or one for bills, one for things to act on immediately, and one for things to act on that are not urgent.

3) Create a sorting system and label it based on your mail categories.  Desktop file sorters are great for keeping things contained but accessible.  But stay away from inboxes or flat trays – they just invite piles and clutter.

Bonus Tip – Don’t even bring junk mail inside!  Immediately after you retrieve your mail, do a quick sort and dump any junk mail, unwanted catalogs, etc. right into your exterior trash cans.


top secret: the get-organized files

top secret: the get-organized files

Forget Halloween—an overstuffed filing cabinet can be even scarier. Luckily, October isn’t just about celebrating our favorite spooky holiday…it’s also National Clean Out Your Files Month! And chances are you’re among the many who could use some renewed filing finesse. After all, when was the last time you looked through all of those files collecting dust? Or gave your computer desktop a much-needed clean sweep? This month is about paving a new paper trail and starting out fresh with filing.

Allison’s Paper Trail Tips:

It takes two. Keeping efficient files means creating two designated filing areas: “active” and “inactive.” Active files are those you refer to and/or update regularly (such as bills), while inactive files are important papers that may prove handy in the future (like mortgage documents). Keep the former in a desktop file sorter or inside your desk’s filing cabinet drawer, while the latter should be stored in your filing cabinet or a portable file tote.

Follow the four-month rule. To prevent file overload, give your cabinet a quarterly cleaning! (Translation: your shredder is your friend.) Reviewing files every four months will ensure that everything is up-to-date and that you’re purging unnecessary papers in a timely manner.

Keep piles at bay. Ever feel like your to-do list is piling up—literally? It might have something to do with those unorganized papers all over your desk. Go on pile patrol and create a “to-do” folder inside your active files where you can keep those papers in one handy place.

Allison’s Digital File “Dos:”

Start with a clean slate. Smart filing doesn’t stop with hard copies—it’s just as important to keep digital files organized on your computer! Do so by storing files in designated folders rather than cluttering up your desktop; not only will this approach make files easier to find, but it will also improve the speed and performance of your machine.

What’s in a name? A lot, when it comes to your computer. Help Sherlock find files quickly by making your file names specific and consistent. Having a system in place will help you deduce the contents of the document just by looking at the title—saving you time and effort!

Allison’s Must-Have Tools

File Cabinet: Say sayonara to the ugly, clunky metal cabinets of yore, and hello to lots of stylish new options.

File Tote: For those that don’t have enough inactive files to justify a whole cabinet, consider a portable file tote for easy access.

Desktop File Sorter: Keep active files at your fingertips with this handy filing tool!

Handy Hint

Take your digital filing a step further with a cloud-based service like Dropbox , which allows you to organize your files and easily access them from any device.

paper trail

The #1 problem I see when working with clients is an overabundance of paper and no efficient way to handle it. It usually stems from not wanting to pitch something you might “need” later or thinking you’ll just put in a pile “for now”—a bill, a receipt, a magazine, a business document, a child’s drawing. Here’s what you truly need: a system for keeping what matters and pitching the rest.

Allison’s Paper Trail Tips

Do it right here, right now. Time management expert David Allen is a big proponent of the “Do It Now!” rule. For any task that takes two minutes or less, he advocates doing it right away to dramatically cut down on the time it would ultimately take. This is a great lesson for reducing paper piles! Try following the one-and-done rule by handling each piece of paper the first time you touch it. Your options? Trash, recycle, shred, file or review.

Lights, camera, take action! Use a vertical paper sorter to house the papers you need to act on. (Avoid flat inboxes — they are too often breeding grounds for piles!) Divide the sorter into three categories: 1) Today: urgent papers that must be handled right away; 2) This Week: important papers that should be dealt with soon; 3) Someday: non-urgent papers you want to read or review. For the “Someday” folder, be sure to go through it every month and purge what you don’t need. If you haven’t gotten around to it in a month, chances are you can get rid of it!

Take note. Ahhh, notebooks – so useful, yet so easy to hoard! For keeping track of to-dos and other notes, I suggest keeping one small spiral-bound notebook that you can keep with you at all times. You can also go the paperless route by using a cloud-based app that provides easy access to your to-do list across your devices (smartphone, tablet or computer).

Allison’s Must-Have Trailblazers:

Paper Shredder—make life easier with a high-quality paper shredder! Store it near the place you review your mail so that you can swiftly shred any docs containing personal info.

Portable File Box—on-the-go organization that’s great for those who don’t have a dedicated workspace.

Desktop File—say goodbye to piles and hello to streamlining, thanks to this upright file box. Perfect for a dedicated workspace.

Customizable Notebook—corral your to-do list and make it your own by removing pages and adding dividers/pockets as needed.

Time Timer—wonderful for whittling down the time it takes to go through the mail and pay bills. Things tend to go more quickly when you’re on the clock! 

Handy Hint: I couldn’t just pick one this month! After all, there are so many great apps.

  • Purge the paper and adopt a virtual filing cabinet like Evernote.
  • Delegate your scanning to the folks at Shoeboxed! Once you sign up, they’ll send you pre-addressed envelopes. Send them back with all of the papers you want scanned, and they’ll do the rest—from putting them online to shredding the originals.
  • Got junk mail? Unleash Paper Karma on those USPS pests! Just take a picture of the sender’s address and Paper Karma will make sure you don’t get junk mail from it again.