How to Make Sure Your Neighbors Get Their Mail If It Ends Up in Your Box


Introduction: How to Make Sure Your Neighbors Get Their Mail If It Ends Up in Your Box

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:
-A home
-A mailbox

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.



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    20 Discussions


    1 year ago

    I get my neighbor's mail on a daily basis and I usually just put it in their box but now they are threatening to sue me for tampering with their mail because my boyfriend found some mail from a couple months ago mixed in with a pile of papers so my boyfriend put it in their box and I am unsure of what to do at this point.

    Apon stumbling across this like you, I found myself rather dumbfounded/stoned as to WHY this is here? -Punk P.s.: Next time I hope he shows us how to go tell the neighbors to turn the musac down at 4am, and how to do it nicely.

    I'd have more fun drilling/punching a hole through the wall and poking them in the face with a wooden dowel. shows you how to put unreadable magazines down outside someone you don't like's door... I actually liked it. Maybe now i should stop stealing people's mail.

    Thanks. Yeah, you should probably stop stealing mail. In the off chance that one of your neighbors pops by your apartment one day and notices that you have four months worth of her Teen Vogues, it's safest just to break that habit...

    Wow, I was surprised to see all the *grouchiness* in many of the comments here. Hopefully people are not so grouchy in real life!

    This is just general etiquette when dealing with misdelivered mail. If the purpose of this instructable is to be neighbourly, then why not include a note with your name and apartment number on it and an invitation to your community pot luck dinner or movie night at your church or whatever?

    If you do this you can make it more possible that your neighbours will think to give you your mail if Canada Post delivers it to them in error.

    Just put it in the outgoing mail slot; the Letter Carrier will take care of it the next day. I'm a retired mailman so I know whereof I speak.

    why not just keep a roll of tape in your box then if you get someones mails stick it to the front of their box (note if it is large like a magazine then just post a note saying that you have it and ask them to pop round and collect it)

    2 replies

    If you're posting the note, why not go all out and just post the whole damn thing? Unless you're planning to lure them into your lair? many ideas.

    yes that would work with letters (even magazines if they will fit) that would fit in the mail box slot but not for packages or thing that would not fit in the box thats all

    I usually highlight the address and put it back in the mailbox -flag up. Sometimes I write "mail person: please re-deliver" or something to the like on it. - Especially If they're someone a few houses down or a wrong street - things like that.

    Most centralized mailbox clusters have an outgoing mailbox with a slot in it. I drop mis-delivered mail into the outgoing slot. My reasoning is this: 1) It's the Postal Service's responsibility to deliver the mail. Postage pays for delivery from sender to addressee. If the Post Office screws up, they should have to do it over until they get it right. If it's a chronic mis-delivery scenario, I'll mark the address, circling or highlighting the error, with a message that gets more pithy the more frequently the particular error is made. 2) I'd hate to feel responsible if I screwed up playing amateur mail carrier and caused someone to miss something important by sticking their mail somewhere they don't find it because they don't expect to see it there. Better late than never, for most mail. 3) If the item looks really time sensitive (e. g., late drivers license renewal notice) and the intended recipient lives nearby, I'll make an effort to knock on the door and hand it to them personally, along with an explanation why I'm there. Then we both call the postmaster and give him/her an earful. Failing this, it's back to step 1 and cross my fingers. The only thing is, I don't really know if errant mail gets re-delivered in a timely fashion. Any postal-type folks out there care to comment? Does the P.O. have an approved procedure for this?