Even if you’re an anti-clutter superhero who doesn’t even let clutter into the house in the first place and does everything humanly possible to get off mailing lists, clutter still has a weapon to use against you: the mail. And this is why you need a front door inbox.
You can choose to go paperless for bills and bank statements, but it won’t stop all the mail. It comes from your employer, your medical insurance, your friends who still send paper invitations. It comes from your kids’ school, the vet, banks and doctors. And it has to be dealt with, or at least shredded if it has personal information.
And then there are the packages. We order things online and the boxes keep piling up. Sometimes you want to hold onto them for a few weeks to make sure you don’t need to return the item.
The main problem is that you don’t always have time to deal with mail and packages at the moment you bring them into the house. So you need a system to manage it instead of letting it pile up somewhere in your home.
The Front Door Inbox System
This is the simplest system. Using cardboard magazine holders that cost $1 at Dollar Tree and any table or surface, you can set up a clever organization system that will help keep your home decluttered.
You could definitely make a prettier system if you want, using one of the fancier-looking magazine holder options on Amazon. But you don’t need to spend a lot to make this work. You can even make magazine holders from cereal boxes.
Sorting the Mail
In this example, a table sits next to the front door where we bring in the mail. Each magazine holder is for one person in the household. Whoever brings the mail in sorts it quickly to each person’s box. And there it sits until that person comes to get it and deal with it.
You could also use inbox trays You can buy gorgeous ones to go with your decor, or you can save money by getting the cheapest ones. Another option is to buy cheap ones and decorate them with paint, stickers, etc.
One thing to consider: you may not want this system in sight of visitors if they come in the same door you use to bring in the mail. You can place the table somewhere else handy, or turn the boxes so no one can see any identifying or private information on your mail.
Shredding the mail
Somewhere near your inboxes, keep a shredder so you can shred junk mail as you go. This Sentinel Shredder has way outlasted other shredders we’ve tried.
You can also use a heavy marker, like the Sharpie Magnum (pictured above), to mark through personal info so you don’t have to shred.
In the picture above, you can see two of the Magnum markers, a box cutter (for packages) and scissors in a pencil cup. That’s a good way to keep tools for dealing with mail and packages handy. Instead of buying a pencil cup, we used an old candle holder. Any old mug will work too.
The main point of the system is to have one single place where the mail belongs, and not to put it anywhere else.
Packages are a pain because they generally need to be broken down. If you often bring them in without opening them immediately, designate a place for them to be and a time each day to open them.
Keep box cutters nearby. When you open the package, if you’re sure you’re not going to return anything in it or reuse the box, go ahead and use the box cutter to cut the rest of the tape so you can break it down flat.
Have a place to store the flat boxes until you’re ready to take it to the recycling bin. Under the table is a good option. You can even put them in another room if that makes sense. If you’re keeping a box temporarily, you should have a place for that, too.
Other Uses for Your Inbox
- You can also put a small bowl near your inbox for your keys and/or cell phone, if you’re in the habit of dumping them somewhere once you walk in. Especially if you misplace these items sometimes, this can be a real time saver.
- Collect coupons in something near your inbox – another box, a coupon wallet, etc. That makes it easier to remember to take them with you whenever you leave your home.
- Put family communications near the inbox. You could post a calendar near the inbox, and everyone could jot notes about their schedules on it. You could also have a place to put sticky notes about tasks that need doing, or appointments that need to be kept.
- You may decide you need a different filing system: say, one box for bills, one for correspondence from friends, one for junk mail that might actually be worth a look. Whatever works for you.
- Keep a family binder on the table, if you have one. These usually contain all your contact information for doctors and contractors and information you need to run the household.
- Add baskets for recycled papers and trash. This is a great way to sort recyclable paper mail from non-recyclable. Then you can take everything to the bins in one trip a week.