If it were “allowed”, would you too chase away the mail carrier by barking and growling? Would you sacrifice the possibility of receiving checks and beautiful cards if it meant you would never again have to deal with the mail? You are not alone. In fact you might be surprised to know how many of my clients struggle with the mail. I have seen coping strategies that include leaving it in the mailbox until nothing else will fit, going to the mailbox every day and only pulling out the interesting pieces, putting all the mail in a bag or box and putting it in the closet, and leaving it all in the car. The interesting thing about these strategies is that none of them involve throwing out, recycling, or shredding. None make an attempt to reduce the amount of mail that comes in. Fortunately, most of my clients have already established electronic bill paying so there are not financial consequences to their disdain for and avoidance of the mail.
Why would some people choose barking and growling at the postal workers to keep the mail away? It’s fear – fear of making the wrong decision about what should be done with the mail. Can the junk mail be recycled or does it have to get shredded or thrown out? The retirement fund constantly sends prospectuses and notices of privacy practices, so they must be important, right? Am I the only one who doesn’t understand all the numbers other than the part that says what I used to have and what I have now? And the coupons! Am I going to go to that store or restaurant before the coupon expires?
Imagine being afraid of making the wrong choice and not knowing if there will be dire consequences. It’s paralyzing. Now imagine that the thing igniting your fear happens every day…except Sundays and national holidays.
What can you do if you are a person who cringes at the sound of the mail truck?
- Recognize your fear. Don’t try to be less afraid, and don’t berate yourself for it. Just notice it.
- Establish some guidelines you will follow. For example, shred anything with your social security number or account numbers; recycle anything addressed to “neighbor’ or “resident”; and keep anything tax related.
- Realize that even if you discard something you shouldn’t have, the consequences are not usually dire. Unpaid bills generate second notices, and you can request a copy of many other documents.
- Establish a home for papers you need to keep long-term. Scan and save an electronic copy or establish a filing system.
If these step are too challenging for the level of your fear and avoidance, ask for help. Sometimes having another person review your decisions for a while can make it easier. Seek out professional help if the anxiety is debilitating, and consult experts in record retention guidelines. Take steps to reduce incoming mail by getting important information sent to you electronically and getting your name off junk mail and catalogue mailing lists. If all else fails, ask a friend to mail you cards or notes of encouragement and compassion. It might just have the same effect as a mail carrier giving the barking, growling dog a bone.