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Handling Mail Overload: The Hard Copy Edition

Handling Mail Overload: The Hard Copy Edition

    Checking my mail is part of my daily routine, rain or shine. I’m not talking about all those messages on my computer, either. I’m talking about the paper stuff that the mailman brings by every day but Sunday.

    I don’t know about you, but I still get plenty of the paper stuff. I keep wondering why all these catalogs keep showing up in my mailbox when emailing me about new products is so much cheaper. But I still wind up with more paper than I can handle.

    There are a few steps I’ve taken to get my mail under control.

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    Put a trash can near the front door

    As I get my mail, I immediately sort into three piles — to throw away, to shred and to open. I know plenty of people might need more specific piles, but I’ve found that keeping things simple helps.

    I don’t want to bring junk mail further into my home than I have to. If I’m not careful, I’ll wind up setting down the mail before I get a chance to throw away the junk. Then I just wind up with more paper cluttering up my place that I have to sort through before I can throw away. My trash pile barely makes it past the door.

    Go wild with the shredder

    I fully recommend investing in a decent shredder — cross cut lasts longer than diamond cut, for what it’s worth. I have a policy of shredding everything that comes into my home that has my address on it — down to the covers of catalogs.

    Before you think I’ve slipped over into crazy paranoia, though, allow me to explain: if you shred only sensitive material, someone with serious dedication and lots of time could probably piece it back together. But every piece of noise (or less sensitive paperwork) that you add to your pile of shredded material makes putting any of it back together that much harder. Catalog covers and empty envelopes make for great noise.

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    Stop at least some junk mail

    There are lots of companies that will take your money to help you stop receiving at least a portion of your junk mail. There are several free services that can help, however.

    Start with the Direct Marketing Association. You can list yourself with the DMA’s Mail Preference Service. Many direct marketers use the DMA’s list to check that recipients haven’t opted out of receiving direct marketing. This tactic won’t eliminate all your junk mail, but it can put a dent in it.

    Your second stop should be OptOutPreScreen.com. This site is operated by Equifax, Experian, Innovis and TransUnion — the four major credit reporting bureaus. Opting out through this site will remove your name from many of the lists that credit card, insurance and mortgage companies use to send out offers.

    Lastly, you may want to contact companies directly if they continue sending you mail you don’t want. There is one catalog company that was surprisingly persistent, despite the fact that I never requested a catalog nor purchased anything from the company, but when I called up and simply asked to be removed from the company’s mailing list the problem was solved.

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    Reduce your real mail

    With all the identity theft problems I’ve heard about, I’m not precisely happy with having my bank statements and other financial information in my mail box. I have a locking mail box, but I’ve gone to check my mail and found it hanging open more than once.

    Luckily, many banks and other companies handling your financial data are making online billing an option. Bank of America, for instance, allows you to receive your statements online. They never reach your mail box. For most programs, you can just change your account settings online.

    The package question

    One of the things I like about my apartment complex is that the apartment office accepts packages for residents. I’ve lived plenty of places where I’d routinely come home to a box at my front door — or learn about a missing package a week later.

    Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple solution to accepting packages unless you’re planning to stay home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Packages remain one of my biggest concerns, mail-wise, and I haven’t found a simple solution yet.

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    Ditch hard copy entirely

    Rather than dealing with your mail yourself, you can outsource the task. Companies like Earth Class Mail will accept, scan and then either store, shred or forward your mail as you choose. There are even companies that will handle your outgoing correspondence, as well — although these services are more for birthday cards or mass mailings than anything else.

    I haven’t tried this solution myself — if you have, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. I do like the idea behind it, especially when I travel. Just the thought of not having to sort junk mail myself is pretty tempting.

    Hack your mailbox

    Just as you can set rules to deal with your email, you can set rules for your paper mail. They aren’t automatic, but you can go through your mail just as quickly if you have a process to follow. You can get your mailboxes, physical and electronic, under control.

    The only problem I have with my mailbox lately is that it’s often empty. Sometimes I go and write letters, just to make sure I have some mail to look forward to.

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    Last Updated on August 6, 2020

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

    “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

    Are we speaking the same language?

    My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

    When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

    Am I being lazy?

    When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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    Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

    Early in the relationship:

    “Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

    When the relationship is established:

    “Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

    It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

    Have I actually got anything to say?

    When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

    A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

    When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

    Am I painting an accurate picture?

    One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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    How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

    Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

    What words am I using?

    It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

    Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

    Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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    Is the map really the territory?

    Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

    A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

    I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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