Even though it’s the digital age, it’s still hard to escape paperwork, even at home.
And unless you’re organized about that paperwork, you could eventually find yourself drowning underneath it – or at the very least not being able to find documents you need urgently, or forgetting to pay bills.
But all you need to do is get organized. And here’s how…
1. Throw away
Put junk mail, unwanted catalogues, receipts you don’t need to keep etc. in the bin straightaway so they don’t add to your paperwork mountain.
Make sure you only keep documents for the time they’re valid - so if new annual insurance documents arrive, for example, throw away the old ones.
2. Don’t put all your papers in one basket
Buy (or dig out) four baskets for your paperwork, and label them: To Do; To Pay; To File: To Read. If they’re stackable baskets, put To Do on top, followed by To Pay.
3. Make filing a habit
Give yourself a short time every week to file papers in your ‘to be filed’ basket.
If you keep on top of it, it shouldn’t take longer than about 15 minutes a week.
4. Clear and separate
Using one or more filing boxes with coloured card dividers, or a filing cabinet if you have the space, file your paperwork into sections including:
- Employment: payslips, pension information, contracts and tax returns.
- Car: MOT, insurance etc.
- Finance: bank and credit card statements, loan agreements.
- House: mortgage information, insurance documents, maintenance information etc.
- Family: subdivide this into a section for each family member and include birth and marriage certificates, wills, passports, health information, school records and reports etc.
- Instructions: manuals and warranties (make sure they’re for appliances you still own).
- Bills: you could subdivide these into gas, electricity, council tax etc.
- Pets: vaccination details, worming and de-fleaing information, etc.
5. Get colourful
Different colour files or labels can make it easier to find different subjects.
6. Fireproof it
If you want to be extra-careful, buy a fireproof box to store irreplaceable documents such as birth and marriage certificates, passports and wills.
7. Be specific
Make your filing system specific and try not to have a ‘Miscellaneous’ file if you can help it, as you risk losing things in there. But at the same time, don’t be too specific and have separate sections for just one piece of paper, or you’ll have unnecessarily bulky (and confusing) files.
8. Separate the sentimental
Don't let sentimental items get mixed up with important paperwork. Dedicate a file or a box to each of your children, for example, and put old reports, schoolwork, drawings and memories in there.
9. Scan to your computer
If you want to be super-organized, scan important documents to your computer so you’ve got a back-up, and if you’re asked for copies, you can send them online without having to raid your paperwork.
10. Review and refresh
At least twice a year, sort through the documents in your files to see if any can be thrown away. A good time to do this is at the start of the year and at the end of each school year.
How do you organise things in your home? Let us know in the Comments section below.