I have previously written about how to greatly reduce your pile of snail mail by opening the envelopes, removing the fluff, and unfolding the important papers. (See Honey, I Shrunk the Mail.)
In that organizing tip, I coined the term “paper thickness”. A single piece of paper is one paper thickness. A piece of paper folded in thirds, such as when inserted into a business envelope, is three paper thicknesses – three times as thick as when it is unfolded. An envelope is two paper thicknesses. So a standard business letter, unopened, is five paper thicknesses — five times higher than if you simply took out the letter and unfolded it.
A great way to reduce the pile of paper on your desk is simply to open up the mail and discard all the fluff. Here’s an egregious example that I received the other day.
My cable bill from Time Warner arrived with the following items included:
- My one-page bill, folded in thirds (3 paper thicknesses).
- The envelope (2 paper thicknesses).
- A reply envelope (2 paper thicknesses) – redundant for me, since I use Autopay, and they know it.
- A video-on-demand brochure (4 paper thicknesses). I have never ordered video on demand – and they know that, too.
- An insert about Samsung Smart TV and Xbox 360 (1 paper thickness).
- The 2013 Customer Information Guide – including channel lineup, pricing, and “additional information” (8 paper thicknesses). I never refer to the paper channel lineup because you can get a more up-to-date listing just by turning on the TV.
- Grand total: 20 paper thicknesses.
The only pieces of paper that were really necessary were the bill and the envelope (total: 5 paper thicknesses). The packet they sent me was thus FOUR TIMES as thick as it really needed to be.
I recycled all the fluff and unfolded my bill, and I was down to one paper thickness, reducing that bundle by 95%. (Tip: be sure to flatten the piece of paper and get rid of the folds by folding it back the other way).
Companies make a big deal about getting you to sign up for electronic billing because it’s good for the environment. The bill even says on it, “Did you know that you can sign up for free Paperless Billing?” If they were really concerned about the environment, they wouldn’t put in four times as much paper as is necessary.
It’s enough to make even an old-fashioned girl like me sign up for automatic billing!