Organising your household paperwork

Many of us have busy lives in one way or another, but perhaps sometimes we make ourselves busy as an excuse not to do those tasks we really don’t like or know where to start. The vast majority of people have something that they are always going to get around to or have something that gets transferred from one weeks ‘To do’ list to the next!  Organising your home paperwork is a great example of this and yet it’s probably the most important set of papers you need to have at hand, safe and secure. This blog post shares a quick, easy process and system to help you put an end to having papers you can’t find, lying around or getting lost amongst all those other papers shoved in a box or kitchen draw.

Overview

  1. Finding a system that will work for you and the people in you live with (Hd3)

  2. Retention of paperwork

  3. How and where to start if your paperwork piles go back years

  4. Suggested ways forward for storing your household paperwork

  5. Action needed / To do pile

  6. Passwords

  7. Becoming paperless

  8. How Busy Lives! can support you

Please note: If you have less than a couple of years paperwork to sort, you may wish to skip section three.

 

 

  1. Finding a system that will work for you and the people in you live with

You should never feel embarrassed if you have paperwork hidden away somewhere or shoved in a box! If you haven’t got a system that works for YOU it isn’t going to work and more importantly you won’t be able to maintain it over time.

What you need is a system in place that’s quick and easy to access it for YOU. Keep this in mind when reading and considering the rest of this content.

The other factor which is important to consider is who else needs to access and maintain your household paperwork. If it’s others in your household in addition to you, I highly recommend you discuss the different ways forward and agree on which system will work for everyone involved. The consequence of not doing this is you either end up back at square one will piles of papers dumped in a mess or you’re the one that always ends up doing the filing into the system!

 

  1. Retention of paperwork 

How long paperwork is kept and stored for has reduced over time in some instances. Much more household paperwork now available electronically, Section 7 of this blog post goes into more detail about electronic storage for this.

Important paperwork to keep and not destroy:

  • Bank / Credit Card Statements – Keep the original joining information and then the last 3 or 6 months depending on your preference.
  • Car Documentation – For the current car/s owned by the household. This should be the registration certificate. I also keep the purchase or lease agreement. It is useful to have a printed copy of your latest insurance certificate including your no claims bonus as if you change insurance companies many still request proof of no claims bonus. I also keep records of services and work carried out whilst owning the car as proof that it has been well maintained when selling.
  • Certificates – Birth certificates / Marriage or Civil Partnership certificates / Exam and qualification certificates.
  • Memberships – Such as for a gym, keep the original as it will have your number on it.
  • Medical Information – Medical information worth retaining includes your NHS number, European Health Insurance Card, Vaccination record all need to be kept. If you have any medical condition records that would be important for a physician to know keep. Latest glasses prescription is useful to keep. Letters or cards of previous doctor or hospital appointments can be shredded.
  • Mortgage & Life Assurance – Paperwork and any signed agreements relating to this. If you’ve paid off your mortgage it’s important to keep the Deeds and original survey you had when you purchased your property.
  • National Insurance – Depending on your age this will either be on a piece of paper or card. You need to keep this.
  • Savings information & Certificates – Keep the original information and statement/s showing the last six months. If you have Premium Bonds ensure you keep the certificate somewhere safe.
  • Pensions – Keep the annual statements. This is especially important if you change jobs and have more than one pension in place.
  • Pet – Keep details of their birth documentation / adoption, Microchip number and vaccination records
  • Receipts, Warranties & Manuals – I keep receipts on any purchases more than the excess on my home insurance as a rule of thumb. Warranties speak for themselves, there’s no point keeping them if they have expired. Manuals tend to be for appliances and are worth hanging onto, especially the boiler one!
  • Stock and Shares – Paperwork can be quite frequent so I suggest you keep your original statement, the latest one, then one from either every six months or year.
  • Utility Bills – Keep the original joining information and then the last 3 or 6 months depending on your preference. If it’s an annual statement such as water rates, council tax or TV licence it’s your choice again if you just keep the current one or last three years.
  • Wages & Tax Statements – I keep all my P45 & P60’s for tax purposes. This is especially useful if you change jobs and have been placed on the wrong tax code by HRMC. In terms of wage slips I suggest you keep the last six months. Large employers have large numbers salaries to cross check each month and mistakes can be made by error occasionally.
  • Will & Last testament / Power of Attorney – Really important to keep the final signed copies of these. Draft copies can be shredded.

 

 

  1. How and where to start if your paperwork piles go back years

If you’ve accumulated more than a couple of years’ worth of paper hidden in various different places you need a strategy to help you make a start and move forward. This isn’t a procedure to rush as it may result in you recycling papers such as those listed above which you need to keep.

Step 1

  • Have a clear space next to your pile of papers – a table, the floor, or a kitchen worktop are the best ones.
  • Get either three pieces of paper or post-it notes and write the following three words on as large as possible:
    • Keep / Need to organise
    • Recycle
    • Shred

Important 

Anything with personal information on about you or your family needs to be shredded. It’s far too easy for someone to steal your identity from your recycle dustbin . If you don’t have access to a shredder ask your family or friends if they have one you can borrow.

  • Look carefully at each of your papers and place just under the appropriate label you’ve just made.
  • This may seem a daft tip but go and put the recycle pile of papers straight in the bin! You’ve decided to recycle it, so do it!
  • Shred pile of papers. Either sit and shred straight away so it’s done or put in a plastic bag and write Shred on the bag. Think carefully where you then put the bag, as you don’t want to find it in a few years’ time when you’re having another tidy!

Step 2 

  • Again start with a clear surface next to your ‘Keep / Need to organise pile.’
  • Using blank pieces of paper or post-it  notes write the new headings on each piece as large as possible:
    1. Bank, Savings, Portfolio’s & Loans
    2. Car & Bicycle Details
    3. Certificates & Passports
    4. Children / Pets
    5. House related & Bills
    6. Job related, Pension & Wage Slips
    7. Legal Power of Attorney & Will & Last testament
    8. Medical & Health
    9. Mortgage & Life Assurance
    10. Purchases, Receipts & Warranties
  • Look carefully at each of your papers and place just under the appropriate label you’ve just made.
  • Repeat this until your unorganised pile has diminished. You now have ten clear areas where your paperwork relates to a common theme.

Top tip 

If you find you’re running out of time and need the surface for another use such as cooking the dinner! Carefully stack each pile on top of each other either inserting a coloured piece of paper / newspaper or silver foil in between each section. This will save you time starting from scratch again the next time you continue.

Step 3 

  • Take one of your ten areas at a time (i.e. Bank, Savings, Portfolio’s & Loans) and repeat Step 1 again, this time paying more attention to the date of the documentation when considering if it needs to be retained.
  • Next, again with each area, sub-divide it further into sub-sections. For example:
    • Bank Account
    • Access Account
    • Joint Account
    • Bank Loan
    • Savings Account
    • Stocks & Shares

Top Tip 

For each sub-section always have the latest date on the top. This makes it easier and quicker for filing new paperwork.

Step 4 

  • Purchase 10 folders. If possible use hardback ones as opposed to the flexible plastic ones. This stops all the folders collapsing like dominoes when you pull one out when filing a new piece of paper.
  • Each of your 10 areas from Step 2 above now becomes the label you write down the spine of each folder.
  • Using either file dividers or plastic wallets with a piece of coloured paper in, now insert your organised papers from that pile into sections into your folder.

Top Tip 

Have an A4 Hole puncher with the pull-out arm set for A4 paper near to your folders. This makes it always quick and simple to file new paperwork straight away as opposed to dumping it and creating a disorganised pile again.

 

  1. Suggested ways forward for storing your household paperwork

We are spoilt really with the different types of storage now available on the market. What I would stress here when deciding what to buy, is to reflect on which system is going to work efficiently, quickly and easiest for you. To some extent it may also depend in the amount of space you have in your home.

These are my top three:

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Hard back Ergogrip Binder

+ Hardback durable folders which stand up on their own without needing support on your shelf looking professional and smart. Very quick and easy to file new paperwork into the sub-sections you create. I’ve recently reduced my ten folders down to three – the secret of course being clearly labelled file dividers.

– Quite expensive compared to other folders on the market you can buy.

 

 

  1. Under desk small filing pedestal cabinet

+ Can fit under your desk or at the side blending into your chosen colour scheme as they come in a range of wood and spray paint finishes. They also come with 2 width options which is good if you’re short on space. Paperwork goes in the bottom drawer, with middle draw useful for storing paper / plastic wallets and the top drawer your stationary.

– Can be a disaster if you don’t buy the correct file dividers and label them correctly.

 

  1. Concertina Folder

+ Quickest and easiest for filing new paperwork as it comes in if you have the sections clearly labelled.

– Avoid buying a cheap cardboard one as with the volume of papers going into it there tend to tear. If you file everything alphabetically as some are labels you end up with some sections not able to hold everything within it. Write your own headings on if you go for this.

 

Top Tip 

File new paperwork once dealt with as it arrives if possible. Have a system with bills etc that when a new one goes in the last one comes out and gets either recycled or shredded depending on its content.

 

  1. The Action Needed / to do pile

Some new paperwork as it comes through the post will need acting upon. The danger here is if you file it straight away you forget to action it or if you leave it lying around it gets lost. I simply use a brightly coloured document wallet in put the papers needing action in there – this works really well and as soon as I’ve carried out what was needed I file the paper accordingly or recycle/shred if no longer needed.

 

  1. Passwords 

We all have so many different important passwords for things which we’re meant to be able to memorise. The most important thing if you can’t like me remember them is to never store them in the same place as your paperwork and in a different location. If you do have them written down in a book ensure this is stored somewhere safe and if possible with locked access.

A second place where you can store them is your phone but I wouldn’t recommend that unless you have a tight level of security on it in addition to 2-factor-authenication when switching it on.

The best place for storing passwords is in an electronic online password manager programme such as ‘LastPass.’

 

  1. Becoming paperless 

Many homes are becoming ‘paperless’ and save everything electronically. Some paperwork some as bank statements can be accessed automatically online so that you no longer need paper copies.  Other documentation still comes through the post. The way around this is to invest in a scanner, many printers come with them now and are easy to use.

Top Tip 

If you do decide to become paperless and save all you paperwork electronically create the same folders and sub-folders as you would have done with a physical folder and label each document carefully including the year.

Important 

I would highly recommend you don’t do this if you have not got a high level of security, anti-virus and back up on your machine and it’s storage. If all these are in place you’re away!

 

  1. How Busy Lives! can support you

Busy Lives! was created when I left a busy career which left me time poor and unable to give appropriate priority to what really mattered to me. I have provided services like these for the self-employed, retired and for people with highly demanding careers.

I am happy to help with organisational support including optimising the space and storage you already have in your home.

You can go out to work and return with the chaos sorted! Why not let me make it easier to find what you want straight away throughout your home from that important document to your favourite items of clothing.

This work focuses on the logistical re-organisation of any existing storage used in any part of the home, together with the creation of new storage and filing systems where needed, so that space is optimised, and you can access what you need in a systematic and orderly manner.

Small business owners who work from home may have different needs can help with, such as setting up your home office with a manageable filing system to assist you.

I can help by:

  • Design a system that will work for you with how you store and stay on top of your paperwork.
  • Create clear and effective filing systems for your household utilities and other home documents.
  • Provide the additional option for me to revisit on a quarterly basis to file new papers and maintain your system.
  • Enabling you to become paperless if you have the proper securities in place electronically by scanning, creating and saving your electronic home paperwork systematically on your behalf.
  • Setting an excel document up to track your household income and expenditure on a monthly and annual basis.

 

Find out more about how I can help you with wider aspects of home organisation

Let you help you gain precious time back. Ring Busy Lives! 07565 722 031

Or Email: karen@busylivesnottingham.co.uk