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Ever feel like piles of paperwork are taking over your home? Use these nine simple steps to organise your paperwork fast.
THE FAST WAY TO ORGANISE YOUR PAPERWORK
There is a lot of advice on how to organise paperwork, but this is the guide you need if your paperwork is currently in a mess and you want to get it organised fast and efficiently.
As I see it, if you don’t get the job done fast, you are in danger of shoving it back where it was in a bigger mess than when you started.
My tried and tested and super fast approach to organising paperwork that will help you to do the following:
- Tackle the critical paperwork (e.g. the nasty stuff you’ve been avoiding!)
- Store all important documents securely so they can be found without major panic and are protected from disasters.
- Reduce the amount of incoming paperwork
- Keep on top of all remaining incoming paperwork from now on.
The key difference about this approach to organising your paperwork is that it is not about filing every last bit of paper in perfect order!
It’s all about focusing mentally on the critical and important paperwork.
HOW TO ORGANISE PAPERWORK FAST
Work through the steps outlined below until your paperwork organisation is totally under control.
1. SET UP AND INDEX FOLDERS
Before you start to get to grips with organising your paperwork, you need to set up folders and put a simple index at the front of each.
You can use ring binders with tabs, plastic wallets or a filing cabinet with hanging folders if you have one.
I suggest you start with six folders, one for each of the following categories:
- Financial and tax – bank letters, statements, credit cards, business paperwork, tax returns, pay slips
- Health and personal – passports, marriage or civil partnership certificate, birth certificates, health insurance, life assurance, employment contracts
- Utilities – gas, electricity, water, council tax, broadband, mobile phone, TV
- Property – property deeds, mortgage certificate, house survey, mortgage statements, household insurance
- Household – receipts for big items, warranties, instruction manuals etc
- Kids – childcare, schools, clubs, health records etc
Start using your folders straight away! Set a reminder once a week to check and file any mail you have received.
2. ROUGH SORT URGENT PAPERWORK
Gather together all the random piles of paperwork from around your home and put them in one place, either in a giant pile or a spare box.
Possibly the most important task you will do is sorting out a pile of paperwork that needs dealing with urgently. For example:
Accounts that need updating – with a new address or new information
Tax returns that are imminent or overdue
Policies that need updating
Credit cards that need paying
3. TRASH AS YOU GO
Have a recycling bag to hand and immediately trash any paper you don’t need. For example:
- Marketing catalogues
- Junk mail
If you have time, list all the unwanted mail you want to stop, email the customer service department of each company, and tell them to remove you from their database. This is a great way to stem the flow of unwanted junk mail through your letterbox.
Do not let yourself get distracted from the main job at hand. Not even for a really cool magazine or catalogue!
4. TAKE CARE OF THINGS THAT NEED ACTIONING URGENTLY
This step is super important. Procrastinating over paperwork is one of the biggest issues. So you must seize the moment and immediately deal with all the urgent actions you have uncovered.
You might find yourself dealing with some uncomfortable emotions at this point. For example, frustration, anger, sadness, or fear.
The main thing is that you stick with it. Things will only improve if you work through everything that needs doing.
Do not do further sorting until you have addressed all the urgent actions.
5. GO PAPERLESS
As you deal with each urgent action, the other important thing is to ask to be switched to digital billing or communications wherever possible. Most companies welcome their customers switching to paperless communications.
This is a great way to cut down on incoming paperwork. You will, however, need to manage your email inbox or app notifications effectively.
6. ROUGH SORT IMPORTANT PAPERWORK
Once all the urgent actions are dealt with, you can move on to sorting out a pile of important paperwork that needs to be kept on file.
The aim is to ensure that each document or letter is filed in a way that keeps it safe and easy to find when needed.
Here are some examples of important paperwork to keep on file:
- Birth certificates
- Marriage or civil partnership certificates
- Property deeds
- Mortgage documents
- Insurance policies
- Pay slips
- Employment contracts
- Tax returns and supporting documentation (need to be kept for at least five years in the UK
File these documents in your indexed files.
7. BACKUP IMPORTANT PAPERWORK ONLINE
It is essential to keep electronic backups of important documents in case of fire, flood etc.
Secure online storage of important paperwork means you can access it at work or on holiday without the risk of carrying originals.
I use Google Drive to store copies of all my important documents. You can read about how Drive protects your privacy.
Important documents that need electronic backup include:
- Birth and marriage certificates
- Deeds and mortgage statements
- All insurance documents
- Employment contracts
- Health records
- Basic tax records
At this point in your organising blitz, you should have achieved the following:
- A file of urgent documents you have actioned
- Indexed folders containing all your recent mail, important documents and paperwork
- Secure backup and online storage of important documents
- A remaining tub of other unsorted documents
8. MEMORY BOX
You may find that your big pile of papers includes stuff your kids have created, their schoolwork or important mementoes. This is where it is a good idea to create a memory box. Use my guide on how to create a memory box to get started.
9. SHRED AND RECYCLE
With identity theft so prevalent, it’s wise to shred any paperwork with personal details, from your name and address to financial and sensitive documents.
I have a Rexel Style+ cross-cut shredder which is GDPR compliant and thoroughly cuts documents up so they can never be pieced back together.
YOU ARE NOW IN CONTROL OF YOUR PAPERWORK!
By this point, you should feel fully in control of your paperwork.
You might now be tempted to create a place in your home where you store all incoming letters and documents. DON’T!!
From this point on, you need to vow to deal with all paperwork as it comes into your home. The only small pile you should allow yourself is for urgent paperwork that you need to deal with as soon as possible.
I have an intray on my desk for urgent paperwork and make sure that it gets dealt with on the day whenever possible and is then filed, shredded, and recycled.
Good luck with your mission to organise your paperwork. It really is very satisfying to be able to look around your home and see it free from piles of paper dotted around.
Luci is the founder of Mums Make Lists (Est. 2011). Over the last decade or so, she has used her experience as a mum to create useful guides to organising family life. During that time, she has found the most joy in creating lists of ideas and inspiration to make it easier for busy parents to plan and host kids’ parties and find great gifts. Read more.
Saturday 3rd of January 2015
These are awesome! I will be adding and updating my Notebooks! Thank you for tour insightfulness!!
Friday 7th of February 2014
Save your sanity and be organized. Haha, you’ve taken organizing into the next level! But those are excellent tips, Alice. You are probably the most organized person in this world if you can follow through on your advice. Ruby @ WilliamsDataManagement.com
Wednesday 15th of January 2014
Just when I think I've got a handle on it Alice, it seems to grow. I'm definitely trying some of these tactics this year. Thanks for sharing at Thriving on Thursday. I'm featuring this one at tomorrow's party.
Saturday 11th of January 2014
Great tips - thanks for sharing.
Saturday 11th of January 2014
Thank you for this REAL look at organizing paper work!