Household Paperwork Management Tips

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Blissfully Organised Paperwork Management

The volume of paper coming into our homes seems to be ever increasing. I am often asked to support my clients to organise their household paperwork.

I wanted to share with you some of the benefits of having your paperwork in order and how to set up an effective management system.

What are the benefits of effective paperwork management?

1. Save time: With everything filed effectively you can easily find what you need.
2. Save money: disorganised household paperwork may subject you to late fees/penalties. Dealing with paperwork promptly means that you have time to find the best deals and budget ahead.
3. Less stress: Unmanaged paperwork can feel like a burden and overwhelming to know where to and how to manage it.

Why do people hold onto paperwork?

1. To refer to it at some point in the future (legal documents, flyers, letters from school etc.)
2. Keep track of spending /saving (banking/investments etc.)
3. Proof of purchase (receipts, warranties etc.)
4. Identity proof (birth certificates, driving licence, passports utility bills etc.)
5. Subscriptions (magazines, newspapers)

How can you reduce the volume of paperwork coming into your home?

1. Go online: manage your banking, utilities etc. with an online account
2. Go digital: you can scan in important documents and receipts
3. Review your household subscriptions. Do you have time to read everything that you subscribe to? Could you set up an online subscription that you can access the same content when you need it?
4. Reduce Junk Mail:
a. Get a letterbox sticker ‘No Junk Mail’
b. Sign up to the Mail Preference Service: Its free service set up by the direct marketing industry to help people who don’t want to receive junk mail.
c. Door-to-door opt out: You can reduce the amount of ‘unaddressed’ mail you receive by registering with the Royal Mail’s door-to-door opt-out service. Go to
d. Contact the sender: Under the Data Protection Act 1998, any organisation must stop using your personal information for direct marketing purposes if you ask them to do so.

How long do you need to keep paperwork?

Paperwork that needs to be filed can be split into 2 sections, Life-time and fixed-time paperwork.

Life-time paperwork
This includes important paperwork that you need to keep in a safe place.
• Certificates: birth, marriage, divorce degree and death certificates
• Wills and Powers of Attorney
• Investments and share certificates
• Pensions
• Passports
• Driving Licence and motor vehicle documents
• House Records (Deeds, mortgage, rental agreements etc.)
• Medical records/health insurance

Fixed Term Paperwork
This is paperwork that you need to keep for a limited amount of time.
• Utility Bills: 1 year
Tip: It’s often useful to refer to your current policy when renewing or changing a supplier.
• Bank Statements (non-business) 1 year.
Tip: You should get into the habit of checking your statements regularly to review your direct debits/standing orders and identify any unusual behaviour.
• Receipts: keep for purchases until the returns policy has expired (usually 30 days). Valuable items keep until warranty runs out
• Insurance documents: keep for the period of coverage e.g. house and vehicle
• Business/investment paperwork: general rule is 7 years
• Contract of employment: for term of current employment

Creating an effective paperwork management system

• Identify the areas in your home where paperwork builds up. This should include all visible piles of paperwork and hidden paperwork stored in cupboards, bags and boxes.
• Collate all paperwork into one place to sort
• Filing/Storage Zone: identify an area to set up your filing system and where you will store important paperwork that you do not need to reference (loft/garage). You may want to scan in important documents as a backup.
• In-tray: Set up a system for in-coming mail. I would suggest purchasing a shallow A4 in-tray to put all incoming paperwork. You might want to include 2-3 plastic wallets for school paperwork and any appointments scheduled in the diary etc. The tray should not be too deep otherwise it will be too overwhelming to sort.
• Paperwork Sorting: Divide the paperwork into 3 sections:
a. Action (respond to a request, schedule bill payments, book an appointment etc.)
b. Purge (junk mail, subscriptions etc. paperwork (menu’s, subscriptions etc.)
c. File (create a pile for each company i.e. utility bills, insurances, investments, medical etc. This will make it much easier for you to file paperwork later. Learn to love filing. Don’t fill up bags with unopened letters, as there may be important items that you need to action and you may end up getting rid of important documents.
• Filing system: The filing system you set up does not need to be complicated but simply makes it easier for you to find what you need. Where you set this up and how it works will depend on the space that you have in your home. A two-drawer filing cabinet with clearly labelled drop files works very well. Any important documents that you need to keep but don’t need to refer to can be kept in a plastic box in the loft or garage.

• Maintaining Order: Set aside 20 minutes each day to review incoming paperwork. Identify any actions that need to be completed, create a pile for filing and recycle any unwanted mail. You should allocate 30 minutes twice a week to file any paperwork that you need to keep. When you add new papers to your existing files check if any papers can be purged.

I hope that you found these tips useful. If your paperwork is piling up and you don’t know where to start, please contact Blissfully Organised and I would be very happy to support you to get organised.

Lets get organising!


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