Do you have a pile of mail on your counter? Or maybe on the table next to the sofa? Or the front seat of the car? Or maybe all three???
Mail organization is the bane of many households. It can benefit from today’s tip:
Handle things once — or as little as possible.
If you only handle the mail once, then as soon as it comes from the mailbox you will be sorting through it and chucking all the junk. Right away, into the trash.
You will have a set place to put the bills (I keep mine in my home management center). You don’t necessarily have to open them right away, although you could. But since you know you will HAVE to handle the bills again to pay them, you can open them at that time.
(I’m not one who says you should pay the bills as you get them. I don’t think that’s an efficient use of time. More on that in my post about my simple household paperwork organizing system.)
Any coupons will get torn off and put into your purse. I have a specific envelope to put them in. Having them in my purse means they are always with me when I shop. See How to Organize the One Thing You Use the Most for more info.
If it’s an invitation, put the date and other details in your planner (because you are now writing everything down, as we talked about on Day 6!) and either put the invitation with the bills (cuz if you’re like me you’re gonna want to look at it again to make sure you didn’t miss anything) or throw it away (if you’re the confident type).
If you like to scan the grocery store ads, then you can either do that right away, if you have time, or have a specified spot to lay them aside (NOT on the counter) until you have the time to do that. I prefer to subscribe to emails from the grocery store and get them in my inbox. So I will put the grocery flyer from the mail down by our woodstove to use as a fire-starter, lol. Or you can chuck it, or put it in your recycle bin, or whatever. JUST NOT ON THE COUNTER or any other open surface where it might attract more of its kind. Because it WILL do that. 🙂
The mail is perhaps the most obvious use of the “handle as few times as possible” rule. But there are others:
When your kid hands you the math test they just finished, grade it and put it away right then. If you are in the middle of something else, then have a specified spot that THEY can take it to.
I have a TO BE GRADED inbox on a shelf near the computer. The kids handle it until it goes into that box, then I handle it when I take it out by grading it, recording the grade, and filing it.
NOTE: Once you touch that math test, do the whole shebang for it — grading, recording, filing — at one go. Grading a bunch of things, then recording all those grades, then filing all those papers may seem smart, but it does mean handling them all several times. If you KNOW you have a large block of time, then that may work. But usually we can count on being interrupted or distracted, am I right?
So doing one test at a time from start to finish means it’s being handled once and is now able to be completely put out of our mind. The rest haven’t even been started yet, so we won’t have to come back into the middle of a process and waste time trying to remember where we were or what each pile means. You know what I’m talking about. 🙂
Here’s an example of a time where handling only once actually DOESN’T make sense, but it can be adapted so you handle something as few times as possible: when you are picking up the living room. If you handle everything only once, then that means you will be making MANY trips back and forth. You pick up your son’s sneakers and take them to his room. You then come back to the living room and find his sweater, so you take it to his room. Back in the living room again, now you find your daughter’s reading book, so you schlep it one door further down the hall to her room. You see what I mean? This is not an efficient use of your time or energy, even though you are following the “handle once” rule.
Here, it makes more sense to make a pile of your son’s things and a pile of your daughter’s things as you pick up the living room — then grab those piles on your way out and make one trip down the hall. This way you are handling those items as few times as possible.
Of course, you could have your kids come pick up their stuff, and then you wouldn’t be handling it at all, lol. Always the better option. 🙂
You could, however, use this idea for all the things that need to go upstairs or downstairs. Make a pile at the bottom or top of the stairs and then grab the whole pile when you are finally actually going to go up or down.
When you put on your jammies, put the clothes you just took off straight into your laundry bin (or the pile on the closet floor that substitutes for one). Don’t leave them on the bathroom or bedroom floor to be picked up later. Handle them once. And voila — your bedroom stays cleaner.
When you are done measuring honey for your favorite cookie recipe, don’t put the measuring cup back down on the counter where you are working, unless you will need it again. Put it straight into some hot, soapy water in the sink. Technically, handling once means you would put it directly into the dishwasher, instead — but if you’re like me, you want to clean out some of that honey before putting it into the dishwasher, and a short soaking will do that for you.
If you collect all your dirty bowls and utensils from the cookie baking exercise in that same sink of hot, soapy water, putting them in there as soon as you are done using them, then by the time the first pan of cookies are in the oven, all of your dirty dishes are now ready to be hand-washed or to go into the dishwasher. You have handled them as few times as possible for the best possible outcome.
There’s a word for when you choose to set aside something to deal with it later; it’s called “procrastination.” Why think twice about something when you don’t have to?
We get used to procrastinating about making decisions about things, thus making ourselves handle things many more times than once. The thing is, that means our brain also has to handle them that many times. And that makes for a cluttered brain, as well as a cluttered house — both of them full of piles of decisions that need to be made over and over again.
Keep your brain clear by deciding what to do with something as you handle it the first time — and then actually doing it. Your decision might be to use a TEMPORARY (like less than an hour) holding place until you can handle a group of like items, and that’s OK.
Once you start doing this, you’ll see so many more applications of it. I delve into one very specific application on Day 18, so be sure to come back for that. 🙂
I know that you are probably already familiar with many of the organizing tips in this series. Or they seem so simplistic that you wonder if they will really make a difference. Trust me when I tell you that they will. It’s a cumulative affect over time — as you start to apply these strategies, you will see more and more ways to do so, and eventually, with practice, you will see yourself gaining much more control of the day-to-day.
So start handling things once — or as few times as possible — and see if it makes a difference. I think you’ll find that it does. HUGS!!