This is a guide to contributing to a culture of respect in your building by making sure your neighbors get their mail if it winds up in your mailbox. It's one of those unbelievably easy things that most of us don't bother to do, but goes a long way towards making your building more neighborly, and thus a better place to live. Plus, a neighbor who returns mail is more likely to have their mail returned as well. And heavens knows you would hate to miss your US Weekly because your neighbor got it instead.
This Instructable is based on an item from Neighbors Project's Neighbor's Checklist.
If you live in an apartment building, you're probably used to getting your neighbor's mail in your mailbox or finding random pieces of mail on the ground. Not all mail carriers are as diligent as they could be about matching names and apartment numbers, particularly if your building gets a lot of people coming and going.
To do this Instructable, you will need:
Step 1: Open Your Mailbox and Take Out Your Mail
Open your mailbox and remove your mail. This step needs no further explanation.
Step 2: Look Through Your Mail
Before you go inside, do a quick search through your mail to see if you've been given pieces that don't belong to you. I've found that if I go inside before looking through my mail, I'm much less likely to give my neighbors their mail in a timely way. I'm lazy that way.
It takes very little time to do a quick sort through your mail. I find that it's also a good way for me to pause and relax before I go home after work; it helps me switch from frenzied work and commute mode to hang out and relax mode.
Note: even though you may get a lot of junk mail that you'd prefer not to have to carry into your home and then recycle, do not try to pawn it off on your neighbors as if it belongs to them. Junk mail often has no address, so you could pretend that it was meant for your neighbor, but this is really tacky, so just keep it and deal.
Step 3: Put It Where They Will Find It
Apartment setups vary, but usually there's a place that you can put your neighbor's mail that they will have no trouble finding, and that won't damage the mail:
-For apartments that have accessible, open mailboxes, just put the mail into your neighbor's mailbox and move on.
-For apartments that don't have accessible or open mailboxes, place the mail in front of the door to your neighbor's apartment. If there's an external door that you can't get through, place it just in front of that door. If you can access your neighbor's internal apartment door, then put it in front of that door.
-If your neighbor lives on a different floor and you don't feel like walking out of your way, then leave it on the steps of the staircase leading up to their floor, on a communal table inside the building, or on a radiator or some other prominent piece of furniture in the entrance to the building.
-If you have mailboxes that form a shelf on top of the boxes, then you can prop the mail on the shelf so that it is visible to anyone. This really only works indoors, though, since wind or rain or snow usually blows mail away, creating street trash. This also doesn't work if the shelf is too narrow or nonexistent. Don't try to lodge the mail into any slats in the fence or stuff it into the locked compartment slot of the mailbox.
Your neighbors will appreciate it if you don't leave their mail exposed to the elements, so err on the side of leaving the mail indoors or in a protected outdoor space. Imagine getting a letter from your estranged wife that's been completely soaked to the point that you can't tell if she wrote that she "must love you forever" or "must leave you forever." You'd make your neighbor cry!
Step 4: Go Home
Once you've dropped off your neighbor's mail, go home and watch reruns of The Hills. Or whatever else it is you do behind closed doors.
Step 5: What Not to Do: Throw It on the Ground
Don't throw your neighbor's mail on the ground in front of the mailboxes. It creates an atmosphere of disrespect in the building that makes it easier for someone to blare German opera at 4 am without thinking twice. And if your mailbox area is outside, it's likely to create street trash that you'll just have to pick up later.
Step 6: What Not to Do: Steal Mail
You may be really amused to discover that the mousy old lady next door to you subscribes to the New Yorker, Star and FLEX magazines, but please don't deprive her of her weekly fix of celebrity gossip and body builders by poaching Star and FLEX for your own reading pleasure. Most people don't seem to steal New Yorkers; you either get it for yourself or you wouldn't be caught dead with it.
Step 7: What Not to Do: Read/deface Mail Before Delivering It
Similarly, don't go through your neighbor's magazines and letters before delivering them. As tempted as you may be to rip out a hot photo of your favorite body builder, declare your unwavering support for Britney or find out what sort of cell phone plan your neighbor has, restrain yourself. Besides being illegal and tacky, that may have been the pin up photo that your neighbor has been waiting for her whole life. And she, like the rest of America, may hate Britney.