One of the hardest things to keep under control in your home is paperwork and bills. Even if you have minimal accounts and basic bills you can end up with a stack of mail every week from 6 different superannuation accounts and medical propaganda from that doctors surgery you visited ten years ago. The hardest part of dealing with the mountain of paperwork is the fear… the fear of throwing away that super important document that you might need. The truth is, most documents are replaceable. Even birth certificates and passports. Obviously it’s better to have important documents handy but sometimes the trouble is that we can’t identify the difference between an important document and one that can be thrown away. Here’s a little guide to help you sort out your paperwork and get your life back on track.
How to Conquer That Horrible Pile of Paperwork You’ve Been Ignoring
Have folders, files or filing cabinets for the different documents that you need for different areas in your life. For instance when I was studying I had folders with plastic sleeves in the following categories. Tax, Centrelink, Teaching, School, Household, Car and Personal but you can be more general or more specific with your categories depending on your needs. Here’s an example of some general categories that most people can use.
Tax – For receipts for claimable goods, previous years tax returns and tax file number information.
University – Enrollment details, copies of permission forms, transcripts, class schedules and assessment schedules.
Work – Payslips, annual leave claims, personal leave claims, signed employment contracts, working with vulnerable people checks.
Car – Insurance information, receipts from services, proof of ownership documents and license renew notices.
Personal – Medical bills, gym membership information, X-rays, scripts for medication and glasses.
Once you have your folders set up you can simply file all your paper work away as it comes in. Half the problem with paperwork is that most people don’t have anywhere to file it away. Kikki K have a great range of folders designed for exactly this purpose so make sure you check them out.
These are existing folders that I have in my home. They contain documents that only exist in hard copy form like cheque receipts and signed leases.
Email or call your bank and have them send your statements electronically. Pay as many bills as you can online and save the PDFs in files on your computer. Have a main folder on your computer labelled Paperwork and have sub-categories like the ones I previously mentioned. That way if you ever need to find a document, you can just search for it on your computer. Easy.
I usually save important things to my desktop and then spend one day a week sorting the items into their appropriate folders and trashing anything that’s unnecessary.
Keep It Simple
If you have a physical or digital folder labelled ‘Car’ just put all your car related papers in there, without thinking too much about the system within the system. There’s no need to go crazy with sub-sub-categories like insurance/car services/accident reports/accident photos. Chances are you’ll never even need anything in that folder so just dump it all in there. You can spend an extra 5 minutes searching for a document IF you need it. There’s no point in getting too finicky about your filing.
Develop a System
You need to find a system that works for you. It might work best if you have an in tray for your paperwork that you file from time to time. You might benefit more from filing your papers as soon as they come into your home. The only thing is that you have to file them eventually or you’ll end up in a mess. Just decide if you’re going to it every day or every few weeks. It’s also a good idea to have a digital inbox. Mr Smaggle has a folder labelled ‘inbox’ where he dumps documents until he’s ready to file them. I like to keep important documents on my desktop where I can see them and where they annoy me so I end up filing them regularly. Just do whatever works best for you.
If you keep an inbox on your desk you can simply throw any important documents in there until you have time to file them into your folders.
Ditch the Clutter
One of the main reasons that so many people find themselves in a hell of paperwork is that they’re too afraid to throw anything away. I hardly keep any hard copies of paper work. Seriously, it has to be practically lined with gold leaf for me to even consider it. For example I get sent my car insurance bill in the mail but I pay it with Bpay and then I get emailed a receipt. So what’s the point in the keeping the bill? There’s no proof on the physical bill that I paid it so it’s basically a redundant piece of paper. Just ditch it. If you’re too nervous to do this then simply scan or take a photo of the bill and add it to the appropriate file on your computer. Easy.
Important: If anything important gets sent to you by email, there’s no need to print it
In some cases, there’s no need to even file it. If I get sent a receipt for paying a bill I just archive the email. If I ever need to see the receipt again (which happens only about 1 time out of 10) I just search through my email archives and find it. You can also simply save the PDF to your digital filing system on your computer.