Corral holiday clutter before it fills the house

Nicole Anzia / Special to The Washington Post /

Published Dec 8, 2012 at 04:00AM

Just as I was beginning to feel caught up on paperwork after Thanksgiving, the mail dropped through the slot in my front door. The enormous thud actually made me groan. In December, the constant stream of catalogues, bills, invitations, solicitations from charitable organizations, holiday cards and packages is relentless, leaving even the most organized among us wondering what to do with it all.

The key to making it through the month without feeling like you’re buried in paper is to take time to “process” your mail each day. Here are some tips for how to manage almost everything your mail carrier delivers.

Catalogs

Even though we all receive fewer catalogs than in the past, the stacks still pile up daily in December. Take a quick look at each day’s arrivals. Recycle as many as possible and set aside only those that you know you will look through. Many people are nostalgic about holiday catalogs and find them difficult to discard, but try not to get too attached. Many retailers send almost the same catalog each week, and you can always find what you need online.

Holiday cards

Cards are definitely the most fun thing to open this time of year, but they also pile up quickly. After you admire your cousin’s new baby, make note of the return address and recycle the envelope. All of the cards should be kept in one place. Don’t leave them scattered throughout the house.

Bills

Open them. Ignoring them will not make them disappear. Discard everything except the statement and the return envelope (if you plan to mail your payment). Place all the bills in one place, pay them every two weeks and file at the end of the month. Because we can pay bills from almost anywhere now, it is easy for statements to end up in a purse, on a bedside table or in the car. Try to pay and save them in one location.

Solicitations from charities

As 2012 draws to a close, charitable organizations are making their final push for donations, and all of those solicitations are arriving in your mailbox. If you’re stalling because you don’t have a record of your giving throughout the year, take some time to find records of your previous donations. Look through bank statements, your email inbox and your credit card statements. Log them all into one document. This will make your final giving decisions easier.

Invitations

During the holiday season, paper invitations to special events and parties will arrive in your mailbox. You have probably received a few already. RSVP to them immediately. Don’t forget to put the details on your calendar.

Packages

Gifts from family and friends will also start appearing in the next week or two, as well as some of those cyber purchases. As you unpack the boxes, keep the receipts and instructions for making returns so you are all set in case you need to send something back. Place all the paperwork in a large manila envelope.

Coupons

Carefully consider mailers that contain coupons or discount certificates from retailers. They are so tempting to keep “just in case,” but chances are you won’t need them. If you do receive a coupon that you know will be useful, either put it in your wallet so you have it when you go to the store or place it next to your computer.

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