Organising your paperwork can feel very daunting, especially if you have several years’ worth of filing piling up. But getting on top of it can save you time in the long run, and may free up space in your home/office. It also reduces the risk of losing important documents and information. Here are some tips to make it easier.
Firstly, a little bit of preparation…
It sounds obvious, but decide what you actually need to keep. If you run a company make sure you know your obligations around record-keeping (for example how long to keep financial records, and rules on storing personal information about your clients). At home think about what documents are relevant.
Agree on a filing structure. At home this would probably include:
- Financial statements (bank/credit cards/store cards etc)
- Household bills (insurance/water/electricity/gas)
- Car (insurance/registration docs/breakdown cover)
- Important receipts/warranties
- A personal file for each family member, with categories for health, work, school etc
- Instruction manuals
- Another file for miscellaneous correspondence.
Think about how you are going to store everything, and get it ready in advance.
Once you’ve done the groundwork the task of sorting your paperwork shouldn’t be too difficult, but it may be quite time consuming. Make sure you have a large area where you can sort things into piles without getting muddled.
When getting rid of unwanted papers, don’t forget to securely destroy any items with your personal details – don’t just stick it in the recycling! It is definitely worth taking the time to do this properly, as putting right identity fraud can be very costly and time intensive.
If you need to keep paperwork that you won’t access very often (if at all), why not archive it? In simplest terms this involves putting it in a box and storing it somewhere out of the way. However, accurately labelling the boxes will save you time in the long run, and also help you avoid throwing it away accidentally!
For your business records, you may want to implement an archiving policy so that you are consistent with what you keep and for how long.
Make sure you use your new system!