Last week, we looked at how you can declutter your paperwork, by focusing on what you need to keep and for how long. This week, we’re going to organise the paperwork you have left, so that you can lay your hand on any piece of paper, at any time you want. To do this we’re going to:
- break things down into categories
- choose a filing system to match the category
- sort your paperwork into these files by working down each hierarchy
Categorising your paperwork
How you organise and categorise your paperwork will depend largely on what you have, and this will be different for each one of us. The categories you choose should be hierarchical, so that they build up into a filing system that works for you. In our house, there is a category for each person, and a category for joint items such as the house. My paperwork is then divided into personal and work/business categories.
Alternatively, you may simply need to create a basic hierarchy suitable for your own needs, for example:
Sorting your paperwork
Once you have the categories sorted, then you can start by actually sorting through the paperwork that you have and putting them into piles. Start with the top of the hierarchy. In my case, the first set of piles is simply mine, husbands, joint and child’s paperwork. Once I have these 4 piles, I tackle each on in turn.
My son doesn’t have much paperwork, so all his stuff is filed together in one ring binder, with file dividers.
Everything related to our house is filed in a concertina box file. There is an area for each bill: rates, water rates, electricity, phone/broadband etc. I also keep any receipts for large insurable items in this file.
My paperwork is first separated into 2 piles: personal and work/business. As my business is made up of different passive income streams, there is a section for each one, with each divided into income and expenditure. This then makes accounting for each area at tax time much easier.
I let my husband file his own paperwork. He is after all, creative, resourceful and whole.
Choosing a filing system
If there is an awful lot of paperwork that you are required to keep, then you may well require a formal filing cabinet. If you do need one, ensure that it is lockable and fire-proof.
The rest of us probably don’t need a filing cabinet, but a range of files that cover the different needs of each category. Personally, I’ve colour coded the files, so that blue files relate to my husband, red for me, purple for my son and green for the house. This means we have an immediate visual clue as to the contents of each file. With mine, I label my folders person or biz, so once I’ve sorted my pile of paperwork into two sub-piles, then I can actually start filing them away.
Decluttering your paperwork takes time, and once done, you need to organise what you have left. The main secret to a good filing system is to keep it simple. If you have too many categories, you’ll never file anything. The golden rule to keeping tidy is:
a place for everything and to everything it’s place
Once your system is set up, file whatever comes in on a weekly basis and have a clear out on a quarterly basis for example the beginning of January, April, July and October.
Like everything, it will take effort to start off with, but you will find that this effort will pay off big time when you need to put your hands on something immediately. In addition, if you have a business and need to use an accountant, having a filing system that saves them time, should be reflected in the bill you receive at the end.
Take care for now