EASY Way to Stop the Junk Mail!

First, the pretty, okay, cute picture (not sure why this is so washed out). With the Stock Show in town here in Denver, how about a horse painting, colt really – my little watercolor entitled “Clementine”:

Copyright Denise Bellon West

Now, down to business. I offered to take care of my in-laws’ junk mail for them last year. Big mistake; it was way too overwhelming. They get more junk mail every day than my husband and I get in one month! No exaggeration. A friend of mine was lamenting about all the junk mail she gets, so I shared with her my system.

Follow these nine easy steps, and with only a few minutes’ work a day you will have taken care of 98% (for me, anyway) of your junk mail – let’s call the nasty stuff JM.

1. This is the easiest step and will weed out most of your JM immediately. Open your JM as it comes in, and if it has a local phone number or a toll-free phone number, call them and ask them to remove your name from their mailing list. Don’t feel guilty – they’ll happily do that for you. At the same time, do Step 2.

2. Tell each place ALSO not to sell your name. I discovered, accidentally, that with some of these sneaky places, they’ll take your name off their list but will still sell your name. So ALWAYS ask that they also not sell your name. Some will say, “Oh, that’s the same thing,” but some say, “Oh, I’ll mark that, too.” They’re nasty.

3. Of the JM that’s left, if it has a postage-paid envelope or a stamp, send it right back to them with the little “donation coupon” that they sent you (the part that shows your name and address, the way it is in their records – sometimes that will be on the back of an envelope). Next to that, write, “Please remove this name from your mailing list. Thank you!” The phone-call way is always best, because it happens real time. This way you just have to hope that someone will actually do it.

4. The only JM left will be the junk that makes you put on your own postage. Either put your own stamp on there and do Step 3, or take an envelope from one of your JMs that already has a stamp on it (you’re just going to throw it away anyway, so you may as well use it) and use that envelope to tell the different outfit to remove your name from their mailing list. Just put a sticker over the wrong “To:” address, and write the new name on the sticker. You’ll feel good that you didn’t have to waste a perfectly good stamp. Make sure that you put only a minimal return address, if any, on there. Remember, they’re sneaky and bloodthirsty.

5. EVERY time you order something, by phone or online, ALWAYS make sure you tell them not to put your name on any mailing lists, including theirs. They’ll say, “Oh, sure, I can do that for you.” Or let them leave you on theirs, if you really love it.

6. EVERY time you receive a gift that was purchased from a catalog or online, call the place immediately and tell them to remove your name from their mailing list and to not sell your name. This is easy stuff, folks. You just have to learn to think like a junk mailer, who is hungry for your money. As my husband puts it, “They want to make your money their money.”

7. If it’s a company you like, call the Customer Service or Mail Order phone number and ask them to send you catalogs only in the fall, or some such thing. Some do not have that capability. You can also ask them to take you off their list completely, and then you call them when you want to see a new catalog. You’ll have it within a week (but don’t forget to do Step 6!). You’ll save a lot of money throughout the year if you don’t have those shiny, new catalogs coming at you and tempting you all the time! They do that for a reason, you know.

8. If you have a charity that you always want to donate to at the end of the year, you have to do two things. One: call them and ask if they can mail you their solicitation only once in the fall. Some don’t have the capability to do that. For those places, have them remove your name and not sell it, but keep their envelope or address in a “donation folder” that you will use at the end of the year. The second step is:

9. When you write your donation check to send them at the end of the year, or whenever you donate, black out your name and address on both your check and the donation “coupon.” That way, your name won’t get stuck on a million lists all over again! And they won’t feel obligated to spend the stamp and manpower it takes to send you a thank-you. You know they appreciate your donation.

Really, the first step should have been DON’T READ IT! They will suck you in and make you feel guilty or make you want the prize or whatever they’re offering. You can get other tips online.

You will happily have your life back if you follow these nine steps, and don’t ever get lazy about them. Shredding your junk mail will not be your full-time, part-time job ever again!

Free at Last!!!!

(I’m writing this Thursday morning, and then I’m off to paint for the day.) The paper is off the floor and out of my life. Boy, that feels good! Here are the things I kept in mind:

1. Don’t read it or you’ll get hooked! Everything’s interesting; you have to be selective with your reading time. If it’s something that just came along and was interesting (don’t you just hate when things do that?), throw it away immediately. Read only things that you pursued – at least for now.

2. Rather than put it in a pile to file later, use the three-minute rule that David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, teaches. If it will take less than three minutes, do it now.

3. If you don’t have a place to put certain things, think hard about whether you really need them. If they’ll be of value to you in the future, make a file folder for them or label a drawer for them; just find a designated place for that type of item. You know, a place for everything and everything in its place.

4. If you have to think about what to do with an odd item (like a pretty blue bag that you could maybe use for…), throw it away as fast as you can! The more you think, the more creative you’ll tend to get, and the more time you will waste. It’s probably just junk, anyway, and you’ll never miss it.

5. Most importantly, never bring a piece of paper into your possession ever again unless you can decide beforehand that you really need it AND where it will go. Hint: “on the floor” is not a valid answer.

I am proud to say, that I didn’t bring one stupid piece of paper home from Hawaii with me. Normally, I would have come home with booklets and brochures full of pretty pictures and tons of information to read. But while there, every time I saw a piece of paper, I saw it as an evil temptation! All I could think of was another inconsiderate piece of paper, taking up space in my studio, looking so pretty, but that I would have to make a decision about someday. No, thanks!

Close, but no cigar…yet

I hurried and hurried but didn’t make my deadline of 5:30 p.m. However, I am determined to get the floor empty by bedtime (I’m writing this Wednesday night), even if I have to pick up what’s left and put it on my tabletops! (Don’t laugh – that’s probably what I’ll do.)

What I’m finding, though, is that with my deadline in place, I am really pushing myself. That is making me be very selective about what I decide to care about. Now, people like my husband don’t have that paper/love-connection gene and they have no problem letting go of a piece of paper. But, if you’re like me, you have a terrible problem with indecision.

That’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? We look at a piece of paper and have to make decisions about it: should I keep it, should I file it, where should I file it, do I want to think about it for awhile, do I need to act on it, do I want to read it, or do I dare to throw it away?! With my deadline looming, more and more of the pieces of paper are getting chucked in the trash. I figure if I have to think about something too long without making a decision, then it’s just not important.

Once the piece of paper is in the trash, it is totally out of my mind! Now, hey, isn’t that where it’s been for all these years anyway – in a pile and therefore out of sight and therefore out of mind? Duh! Why not just pick up the whole stupid pile and dump it in the trash? Fear, that’s why. There might be that little piece of information on some piece of paper. Well, you know what? I’m going to get bold and pick up a big pile and toss it without even looking at it! What’s the worst that can happen – I’ll be happy?

I’m really glad I’ve had this little talk with myself. It has been very enlightening, and in about five minutes, will have been very freeing… After I dump my paper, I will select what I want to paint tomorrow and what size canvas I will use, and then load the car for tomorrow.

Eeny Meeny Chili Beany

The laundry is done and put away, and now all I want is to dive back into my studio and tackle that looming paper “issue.” Then I remembered something very important. My Christmas cards (or maybe you’d rather I say “holiday” cards…), which are still hogging space on my dining room table, waiting to be sent. Eeny meeny, let’s see. Well, if I value my marriage, I’d better chose the Christmas cards over my paper. The paper isn’t going anywhere, right?

But I’d better make a plan for it. Deadlines are a good thing, so: I HEREBY PROCLAIM that I will have my paper cleared out of my studio by Friday at 4:00 p.m.! No, that’s not good enough. I HEREBY PROCLAIM that I will have all the paper on my floor dealt with by 5:30 p.m. today! Then, I’ll paint tomorrow……then I will have all the paper on my “horizontal surfaces” taken care of by Friday, January 25, at 5:30 p.m.!

Next week will be all about planning my studio time and setting some goals.

Not a Total Slob

This is travel-day filler…

Lest you think that I’m a total slob, no, it’s only with paper. Actually, I’m pretty much a neatnick. Thanks to FlyLady you can look in any drawer or closet in my house and it’s neat and organized and decluttered. (I admit, things have gotten a little out of hand over the holidays, but I’ll get back on track.) There’s one exception — as soon as you come to something that holds paper, look out!

I was looking for my diver-certification card over the weekend, and the last place left to look was in my nice, neat photo cabinets. (Hint: photos are made of paper.) I was in a hurry, so I had to quickly pull out every photo pile that has been safely hiding in there for about ten years. Now that it’s all out it’s too scary to deal with, so there it all still sits – cabinet doors open, piles of photos on the floor–a definite tripping hazard. And, no, the card wasn’t in there.

Art is the reason I got so bogged down with photos. I decided to organize my photos one time into a pile for each year. I noticed that each year, as I got more involved with my art, the piles of photos got taller and taller. Pretty soon, I had to have two and three towers of photos for every year. Digital cameras came along just in time and probably saved my marriage!

When we get back, I’ll set a timer for fifteen minutes and grit my teeth and tuck the photos safely away again. And maybe this will be the year that I weed out all my art-reference photos from the piles and put the rest into my nice, neat albums….

Pasha Hates Paper!

My little dog, Pasha, came into my studio this morning to visit and knocked down the two remaining paper piles I was working on. That took away her sleeping spot, so she left in disgust. I later found her on the stairs, looking thoroughly dejected:


I’m happy to report that she has her rug back. And she has forgiven me for letting my paper mess come between us.

Clearing the Outlook Inbox

Unfortunately, I was gone all day today and wasn’t able to work on my paper. I feel like I’m suffering withdrawal—but I still have one hour to work on it. Then I’m off to read more of Getting Things Done. I read it today while my car was getting new shocks, while I was waiting for my number to be called at a store, while I was waiting at the car wash (boy, did I need that!), and while I was waiting in a doctor’s office.

I have already read the book once, so I’m just hurrying through, trying to get to the good stuff, like, how to clear my Outlook Inbox. I actually had it totally empty last year, but then I went on vacation for two and a half weeks and never got back in the groove. I’m not saying it was easy to get it to empty. It was excruciatingly difficult! I had to be given a deadline of, for example, “4:00 p.m. Thursday.” I remember I was in a panic, sweating profusely, dry mouth, the whole bit, trying to meet the deadline (I’m embarrassed to admit that after days of whittling prior to my deadline, there were still over a thousand e-mails sitting there! Okay, maybe two thousand…).

Then, at 3:45 a wondrous idea came to me: put all of the e-mails that I couldn’t decide on into an Outlook folder that I named……??? See, I don’t even remember where I put all that stuff that was causing me so much anguish!? I hope I never find it. If I ever do I’ll have to have my husband push the delete button for me.

Moral of the story: don’t anguish over all that junk, just delete it! It’s like clutter. If you loved it, you’d have it in a loving place and you’d have a use for it. As FlyLady always says, “You can’t organize clutter; you have to get rid of it.”

The most amazing thing about today was that, for the first time ever, I came home with NO EXTRA PAPER! I brought home one teensy little business card with an appointment written on the back. The information will get entered into my Outlook Contacts, and the appointment will get put on my Outlook Calendar, with a reminder. Then the PAPER will go into the trash!

Back to painting tomorrow.

My Goal: A Paperless Studio!

This is my goal for 2008 – a paperless studio, where I can actually function and be creative and be productive. I’m cheating here, because this was the way it looked after getting some much-needed systems in place with the help of Alyson Stanfield.

Paperless Studio!

One of the books she recommended was David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. He had me pull all my paper into one place…and that’s when I got stuck. I am now blasting my way out!

Onward and upward for 2008!