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Home Management Tip: Household Inbox System

Posted By Tipnut On May 19, 2008 @ 9:33 am In Organizing | 4 Comments

There are all kinds of tools, software and gadgets available to help remind you about your household’s pending items and bills that are due, but here’s a simple system I use that keeps things running smoothly.

 Household Inbox

Household Inbox

Setup

  • Household Inbox: One basket or inbox that serves as the primary holding spot for all incoming and “To Do” items (bills, cheques, correspondence, etc.). I have this set on my home office desk but you can designate a spot anywhere that’s convenient for you if you don’t have a separate room.
  • Household Filing System: Have one central location (like a filing cabinet or file box) to file away all household documents, bills and receipts.

Step 1:

Mail & Incoming: Quickly eyeball each incoming piece of mail, task or correspondence, trash the junk and toss everything else that doesn’t need immediate attention into the Household Inbox. Do this as each piece enters your home.

Things I toss into the inbox: bills, receipts, school memos, general mail items, coupons, etc. Once you’ve placed something in the inbox, you can safely “forget about it” for now.

Step 2:

Designate one day a week to manage the household inbox, it can be any day that’s most convenient for you but it must be the same day each week. On your designated day, review each item sitting in the household inbox.

  • Pay all bills that are due before next week’s designated day and any other bill you have budgeted for that week. For items that are paid by cheque rather than online, fill envelopes and stamp so these are ready to be dropped off in the mail asap.
  • Complete pending correspondence, make appointments and calls as required.
  • File away coupons, paid bills, receipts, completed inbox items and any miscellaneous items that you want to hold onto. If time’s running short I’ll stick these items in a filing basket to do later.
  • Review checkbook/bank accounts and credit card statements if you have online access to these accounts.
  • Document all new appointments made and review your agenda/planner for the upcoming week.
  • For every task that isn’t completed, return to the household inbox to be reviewed on next week’s designated day.

Key Points

  • You’ll want to review your household inbox on the same day each week since you may have outstanding bills to pay or tasks to complete–you need to trust that all items will be handled on time with this system.
  • Every single “To Do” or pending item must be stored in the inbox as soon as it enters the home. You need to trust that all items that need attention will be reviewed on time and that they’re all located in one place rather than scattered around the house in piles. These pending items aren’t regular household chore To Do lists, just things like: Bills, correspondence, action items with a due date, etc.
  • If something comes in that requires your attention before the next designated inbox day, do it as soon as possible so it doesn’t play on your mind (worrying about forgetting). These are normally quite limited, you’ll find most things have more than a week’s time to review.
  • This isn’t critical, but I like to throw out the junk and non-keepers before it hits my inbox–less clutter to work through on my designated day.

This system works very well for me since I don’t have to hold onto any “mental clutter”, I know all items that need to be taken care of for the upcoming week have been done and anything new coming into the home doesn’t need to be tended to until I next sit down on my designated day to review it. I also know where everything is (it’s either waiting in the inbox or it’s filed away).

Each household is different, but I manage to complete my inbox work in about an hour–you may need more or less time depending on your situation.

Bonus: My mail pile is never backed up and out of control, it’s always dealt with in a timely fashion :).


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