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Staying Organized With ADHD: The Mail Center

If you are a highly dysfunctional ADDer you may have reached the point of giving up organizing, but let's give it another try. Start by considering what "organizing" means. We tend to think that "getting organized" is the task we want to achieve, but the real problem is "staying organized".

Forget about "getting organized" and take a look at what you need to "stay organized".

To stay organized you need to manage new stuff which comes in the mail or is brought in by you or others and old stuff which has a place in the filing system but which has been pulled out for some reason and not put back. All this stuff arrives and settles in hot spots like the kitchen table, your desk or the living room sofa.

To stay organized you need a routine. Yes, yes, I know, routines are boring, but they really do work if, like brushing teeth, they are simple, automatic and don't require too much thinking. Try this: create a mail center. It works for me; it will work for you too.

The mail center should be at or near the door where it arrives; it should not require a detour to place the incoming mail in the Mail Center.

To stock your mail center, you will need:

  • a letter opener which feels good and works efficiently
  • a colored envelope for bills (decorate it for fun)
  • a waste basket (decorate this too)
  • different colored plastic folders. (You need one color for each large category of mail which you receive. Don't get complex. I use green for active projects, blue for personal correspondence, red for To-Do stuff and one yellow folder forstuff to-be-filed.)
  • a To-Do list which won't get lost
  • decorative post-its to label the individual folders
  • a container for the plastic folders (I use a wooden bucket with a piece of cardboard to support the plastic folders so they stand up. I can easily grab the folder I want or drop it in when I'm finished for the moment.)
  • a place for magazines and newspapers to be read

Here's the process.

It shouldn't take more than a few minutes. If it takes longer you are too involved!

  • Open the mail every day or at least every two days
  • Bills go into the decorated envelope
  • Advertisements and empty envelopes go into the waste basket
  • Magazines and newspapers go in the designated spot
  • Letters, or papers go in a folder of the appropriate color which you then drop in your bucket.
  • The what-do-I-do-about-this category requires a bit more attention.

Ask yourself why you want to look at it again? Do you have to make a decision (aye, aye, with ADD, that's a big undertaking)? Look for a date by which whatever has to happen. If you still have to deal with it, write it into the To-Do list now with a date to-do by and file it with To-Do stuff.

  • Take the yellow folder, the to-do stuff, and file where it belongs. (You could do this once a week or once a month depending on how fast the yellow folder fills up.)

Now here's the icing on the cake: apply this same process to all the lose papers on your desk -or wherever they are- and you'll have your place in apple pie order - surprise.

When you are ready to work, take out one folder. When you are finished put all the papers in the folder and drop it back in the bucket. Celebrate!


1. Remember that this is a sorting process, not a doing process.

2. Keep it simple.

3. Spend no more than 5 (maximum 10) minutes a day.

4. Letter openerFree Articles, plastic folders adn other material should be at your fingertips.

Article Tags: Mail Center, Stay Organized, Plastic Folders, To-do Stuff, Yellow Folder

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Sarah Jane Keyser worked for many years with computers as programmer, analyst, and user trainer, but her struggle with inattentive ADD kept getting in the way of her plans and dreams. Once ADD was identified and the great need that coaching filled, she added ADD Coach training (ADDCoach Academy) to complete her preparation for a new career as ADD Coach.

For a free coaching session, contact me at

Learn more about ADHD at or

sign up for Zebra Stripes, a free E-zine for ADHD at

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