Streamlining the Mailroom: A Tutorial
A mailroom can become the “garage” of the office – a place where “everything else” gets dumped.
This community-use office space is a flytape to abandoned office equipment, to projects that have “nowhere else to go,” and to extra supplies. Because of the variety of things that land here, streamlining the mailroom requires a discovery process that not only uncovers what’s important NOW; it also addresses the destination of nomadic items.
I recently completed a Mailroom Makeover that turned a haphazard space into a command center for the office. Staples provided all the products I needed to restore order to this critical office hub.
I’m going to share how I tackled every type of item in the room and give you some unique ideas on how to sort, organize, subdivide, and store mailroom materials.
When I arrived, this mailroom was stuffed:
- The floor was stacked high with yet-unpacked boxes full of paper supplies and swag (promotional items)
- Only half the counter surface was usable, as it was stacked with abandoned plastic items, award plaques the company had won, phone books (!), and ill-used trays
- The wall-hung upper cabinets were filled pell-mell with random supplies in no particular order
- Supply drawers were either stuffed or empty
- Lower cabinets were filled with unrelated items – some of which needed relocating throughout the office
Tackling a stuffed space can feel overwhelming. Here are some practical steps to help you in streamlining the mailroom.
When I previewed the project, I knew I would need help:
- After evaluating the piles of supplies and stuffed drawers, I knew I’d need organizing tools. So I turned to Staples, which sourced me for this mail room overhaul. From my sorting boxes to office supplies, they make it easy to affordably renovate any space.
- To get the project done in one afternoon, I brought one of our team members along– another professional organizing consultant with Restoring Order – for the support of assembling sorting boxes, unpacking materials, moving contents, labeling and more.
Depending on the size of your mailroom, evaluate the supplies you’ll need in advance and allocate about 4-5 hours with two people. This project took us 10 hours not counting prep.
The first thing we did was set up my Staples banker’s boxes – my favorite sorting tool – into which we sorted all the contents of the upper shelves and counter top. In order to overhaul your mailroom, you’ll have to remove everything and get back to a blank slate. I use a macro sort, followed by a micro sort. Then, I engage the decision-maker(s) in the process of pruning and clarifying what’s important.
Throughout this process, I discovered a cornucopia of items that had taken up residence in the mailroom. Here’s what I found and what I did about it:
Abandoned electronics – headsets, modems, and even a vintage (and dusty) Palm Pilot! Further proof that the mailroom is a flytape for “stuff” that has no home!
Through interviewing the business owner, we found another storeroom in the building that contained parts and electronics, so those items were relocated. When organizing a space, be sure to find new homes for “go elsewhere” items, or else you’ve simply relocated your clutter!
For those outdated items that you are ready to part with, make sure to recycle! Staples offers recycling services for ink, toner, batteries, and outdated electronics.
Binders and binder supplies were stashed wherever there was an open shelf. I reunited them into a banker’s box during the sort. As a solution, I placed six metal magazine files on their backs side-by-side (I used the Zigzag collection from Staples) to sub-sort
these frequently-needed binder dividers. I love how sturdy they are! The white color was such a nice upgrade for this mail room and metal is a lifetime product that won’t get abandoned later. I used binder clips to label the contents of each file. This solution allowed me to eliminate the stacks of random supplies that people had to shuffle through to find what they needed.
Magazine butlers aren’t just for periodicals! Setting magazine files on their back opens up wider and easier access for grab-and-go items like binder supplies!
New use for a common item: setting magazine files on their back opens up wider & easier access for grab-and-go items http://ctt.ec/U602C+
Award plaques were weighing down the wall-hung shelves. I recommended to the owner that employees be given the challenge of suggesting a plan to display/use/repurpose these heavy and dated wooden acknowledgements. In the meantime, the awards are neatly sorted into labeled banker’s boxes until the display solution presents itself.
Good organizing will wait for solutions to develop. Forced solutions don’t last.
Good organizing will wait for solutions to develop. Forced solutions don’t last. http://ctt.ec/pcbgo+
Paper supplies. Notepads and loose paper were also tucked away in various locations, which makes it hard to find what you need. After bringing all paper together, I could tell approximately how much shelf space they would require.
I determined I had 5 kinds of paper: notepads, half sheets, 3 hole-punched, glossy paper, and standard copy/print paper.
People associate stacking desktop trays with inboxes and to-dos. However they’re great for subdividing supplies, too! Use stacking desktop trays to sub-sort paper and letterhead.
I used Staples’ Zigzag letter trays – I loved how they easily linked one-to-another with a little metal channel. Easy on, easy off. They’re lightweight yet strong; they didn’t sag with a whole ream of paper in them!
Once you establish a new system, make sure to label to prevent future “stashing”. This is especially critical in an environment used by multiple people throughout the day. I labeled the new paper system with binder clips.
Outdated manuals (one from a Gateway 2000- the office’s first computer circa 1999!) Organizing is definitely an archaeological dig!
I advise my clients to let go of any manuals that can be downloaded easily.
Label supplies. The featured item in the mailroom is the postage meter, so access to labels close to the machine is important.
But, packages of labels were strewn in multiple locations and stacked on their side, so it was hard to know how much of each type were available.
Put items at their point of use to eliminate hunting. I used a few more of Staples’ Zigzag magazine files for separating the three types of labels I found: postage, file folder, and mailing labels. These are an attractive and long-term solution for any item you’d like to store upright! I put these right above the postage meter for easy access.
Letterhead and literature was found from another organization that also offices onsite. Most of the boxes on the floor of the mailroom contained “backstock” as well, so those boxes were unpacked and the quantity of items were evaluated. As the project progressed and available shelf space presented itself, I ultimately consolidated those boxes of literature and letterhead into one vertical “column” of upper and lower cabinets.
One of my foolproof organizing strategies is to let every project develop organically. It might feel like Jenga for a while, but eventually it will work out.
Foolproof organizing strategy: let every project develop organically. http://ctt.ec/b5e5d+
Files and filing supplies. The upper cabinets held a box of files. The lower cabinets held hanging files. One of the drawers held file folder labels. You get the idea.
I grouped all filing activity supplies together – and their ultimate destination became one bank of lower cabinets. The Staples’ Zigzag storage bin was perfect for containing the plethora of plastic hanging file labels floating around (that no one knows what to do with.) Hanging files – some letter and some legal – were stored in my Staples’ banker’s boxes that I had used for sorting.
Unite supplies by activity: having everything in one place helps users find needed items in a flash.
Mailing envelopes. Surprisingly, the most important supplies in this mailroom (envelopes of all sizes) were stuck in a lower cabinet and couldn’t be seen.
I re-purposed old stands that were already in the space to hold the envelopes and placed this envelope supply right at eye level.
Rescue frequently-used items from “underground” and move them to a prime “above ground” location. Studies show that 85% of us are visual – if you don’t see it, you won’t use it (or worse, you’ll assume you don’t have any and buy more!)
Office implements and supplies. The drawers in this office were either stuffed or empty. The drawer closest to the door was the most used (and packed). It held writing implements and everything else under the sun.
I sorted the writing implements and stowed them upright in four Staples’ Zigzag pencil cups. White, metal, and attractive, these cups subdivided extra implements by type for employees-on-the-go. These are now on the counter top for easy access.
These drawers were odd-sized and a little deep for a drawer organizer, so I used a couple cool tools to whip remaining supplies into order. I grabbed a couple Staples’ Zigzag storage bins for items I had a lot of – including rubber bands and labels. These bins are deep, unlike conventional drawer organizers and help store larger quantities of items.
Finally, I drafted a few of the Staples’ Sustainable Earth paper cups into service for the odds-and-ends like erasers, pencil leads, white-out and the like. They’re tall and infinitely movable within drawer space. These two tools allowed me to take advantage of the deep drawer space that you couldn’t capitalize on with a shallow drawer organizer. Take stock of the advantages of each space so you leverage them before you stow.
Cleaning and maintenance supplies. Envelopes need re-wetting solution for sealing. A whiteboard needs both pens and cleaning solution. But you can’t put these items in drawers because they are too tall and could spill. If you put these solutions in a lower cabinet, access becomes cumbersome. If they’re on an open shelf, they look random and junky.
So, I enlisted the Staples’ Zigzag desktop organizer (not just for desktops!) and stowed both white board pens and solutions, as well as postage solutions, together. Neat, eh?
PROJECT WORTH DOING! This has been a pretty thorough tutorial on making over any unwieldy mailroom. I couldn’t have done it without the help of Staples – a one-stop shop for everything I needed. The business owner didn’t need to renovate the space; just a few affordable and cleverly-used tools did the job!
I hope you’ve snagged for yourself some ideas you hadn’t thought of before to help streamline your own mailroom.
Optimizing this essential community-use space gets employees in and out fast with what they need at their fingertips.
It also helps you use up what you have and know when to reorder supplies.
Here’s to reclaiming your office!
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