Closed September 2017

Clutter Video Tip: How to Organize Your Home Office: Sorting Mail

Wait!! Oh yes, wait a minute Mr. Postman! Do you wish that you could pause your postal service for a few days just so you could get your mail pile sorted? Watch this video to learn how to more effectively sort mail, and soon you’ll be singing “Mr. Postman look and see if there’s a letter in your bag for me.”

(Click here to watch on YouTube if you can’t see the embedded player. Or watch the video at


Hi. I’m Lorie Marrero, creator of the Clutter Diet book and on-line program, and today we’re going to talk about how to sort your mail. Now, I know your mail pile can be very intimidating sometimes, and we want to help you get through it as quickly as possible so you can get on with your day.

The first thing you want to do with your mail is have a special place to bring it every time you come in from outside. And I use a basket like this. You can use a tray, whatever works for you. But know that everything in this in-box is stuff that you have “to be sorted”. You can put other stuff in here besides just your mail – receipts, anything that you pick up from a meeting, even objects that need repair or whatever, you can throw right in here so that you remember to sort through and deal with them. It’s all about making decisions.

So as you’re doing this, what makes it so overwhelming is that there are so many decisions about every piece of paper. And you can really get bogged down in that, and that’s why people avoid it. So what you want to do when you’re in decision making mode is limit your choices. So what we want to impress upon you today is that there are only three things that you can do with information. You can either take action on it, you can keep it as reference, or it will be trash. That’s it. This works for paper, this works for e-mail, or any other kind of information- Action, Reference, or Trash.

So remember growing up you might have played paper, rock, scissors. And that’s just a fun memory device that you can use to help you remember this little three-choice array that you have every time you go through your mail. So think about the symbol for paper, as you play that game, it’s like having this piece of paper right in front of you. Your work’s cut out for you, there’s something you need to do. That’s action. Then, the rock symbol in that game, you can think about it as representing grabbing onto something that you want to keep, something you want to hold on to. You can also think about that rock for reference, meaning that it’s a paperweight, and it’s holding down something you want to keep on your desk. And then the scissors symbol in paper, rock, scissors, represents trash. So you can think about cutting, deleting, shredding, all of that makes a lot of sense.

So this is just a way for you to remember. Also you can think about how it spells the word “ART.” A-R-T, Action, Reference, Trash. So what you want to do first is take out all of the reading material that’s very obvious from your pile. So catalogs and magazines, professional journals, things that you know obviously the action is you’re going to read them. So just pull them out, put them in your reading basket, and get them out of the way because then your pile is automatically less scary because it’s less bulky and you have just a few things left to deal with.

So here’s an example of an action that needs to be taken. This is a bill that needs to be paid. So I’m just going to put that aside, knowing that that’s action. I’m not going to do anything else with it right now, because I want to get through this pile.

This I see is reference material. This is a receipt from our vet that I might want to put in the pet file for our dog, so this proves when he got his shots. So, I don’t need to take any action on this, I just need to keep it. So that goes in my reference pile.

And then, this is a conference that I’m not planning on attending. So I can look at that and say, “Well, this isn’t pertinent to me,” so it’s trash. In this case I recycle, so I put it in the recycling bin under my desk, or you might need to shred it, so you would put it in a shredder in that case.

But that’s what you do. You go through everything in the pile, action, reference, or trash, quickly get through it, and then you end up with a pile of actions that’s obvious, “This is all I need to do, right here.” You’ve got your pile of reference that you can put into a to-be-filed basket or you can file it immediately. And then obviously you’ve got your shredding or recycling elsewhere.

So hopefully, this will help you get through the pile, be a little bit more confident as you tackle the paper and information in your life. If you want some more help I have an e-book, it’s called Home Office Rules of Thumb, Your Handy Guide to Organizing Time, Information, and Workspace. You can find out more about that at

See you next time, and may you always be happy and grateful for having more than enough.

You may have been searching for how to manage piles of papers or tips for sorting mail.

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Hi, Lorie, I do decluttering part time in the Boston area. Mail is a huge issue for many of the folks I’ve worked with. It is responsible for a vast amount of the ‘stuff’ in people’s homes. Thanks for the video.


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