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  • Writer's pictureNicolle Green

The lazy girls guide to organised paperwork

My quick and easy guide on how to get (and keep!) on top of your paperwork once and for all! Say hello to your new favourite low maintenance paperwork filing system.

We’ve all been there. We’ve bought the a4 wallets, the files and the cabinets. Confident that we have finally found a system that will keep the mountains of mail from piling up on the kitchen table.

But as hard as we try its only a matter of weeks before we are drowning again in a tidal wave of paper. Important letters misplaced, receipts lost forever, confused as to how our no-fail system has, well, failed us.

Up there with kids toys, feeling overwhelmed by the mail that flows into our homes on a daily basis is a major stress inducer amongst my clients.

So why do our well thought out systems not stand the test of time?

What i often find is neglected when implementing any kind of new organising technique within the home, is realising the amount of time that our new approach will take to maintain. Whilst your organised, part time working friend and mother of one, may find that dutifully sliding papers into an array of rainbow wallets, held in place by colour coded labelled binders, a therapeutic and easy weekly task, as a mother of three under the age of 5, any snippets of quiet time is unlikely going to find you doing the same.

There’s certainly no ‘one size fits all’ method when it comes to organising paperwork. But what you must always consider is the time it will take to maintain on a daily or weekly basis.

As with all aspects of home organising its important to remove as many barriers to our systems as possible. These barriers act as extra steps we need to complete before the task is done and the item has been stored away. When we are short on time we will often not put the item away at all because the thought of having to negotiate these necessary steps feels fussy and time consuming. If you’ve ever implemented a new organising system in your home that hasn’t stuck around for more than maybe a few weeks, this is likely the reason why.

If you love your rainbow wallets or have found a fail safe system that works for you, great! For those of you that are still searching for a no fuss, lazy way to keep your paperwork in check, read on!

As with every system in my home I find the fewer steps needed, the better. That’s why I find the drawer method to storing my mail so simple.

Any shallow multi drawer unit will work but my absolute favourite are these metal units from Ikea. You can find similar ones on Amazon and for a cheaper version the plastic units work in exactly the same way.

What is also great about this system is that you do not have to wait until you have purchased the drawers to get started! In fact, I would recommend organising your paperwork first so you know how any drawers you need your cabinet to have.

For a no cost alternative to the paperwork drawer system and to organise ahead of purchasing the drawer unit, collect up a few empty cereal boxes. Make a diagonal cut from the right hand side of the box, about halfway way down, up to the top left corner on both sides. What you’re then left with is something that resembles an A4 magazine file like this.

For now, these will replicate your drawer system.

Now I wont lie, if you have mountains of paperwork to organise this step is going to take a while. There’s no need to complete this in one go. You can either set aside 30mins per day to work through it slowly, or bag it all up, working through a bag at a time.

The amount of categories you need will depend on what kind of mail you receive. A previous client of mine had 4 children, three of which had complicated medical needs. As such, each needed their own medical drawer to hold appointments and reports.

If you run your own business you may want to have a current tax year drawer to store receipts and other paperwork relating to the this financial year. With another drawer for past paperwork.

For now, I’ll talk through the categories most of us will be familiar.

I find my 6 drawer unit sufficient to hold information for a family of four. I’ve found that the fewer the drawers the deeper they are. You may, like I have, want to store multiple categories in each drawer. If you have space available for a taller unit with more, shallower, drawers each category can be stored separately.

My drawers are labelled with the following:

Utilities: Tv license / electric/ water / council tax/ phone / broadband

Banking: all of our accounts plus savings. I keep my business banking separate.

Home, insurance and health: appointments / GP letters / dental / opticians / medical cards.. All documents relating to the home and personal and property insurances.

School and clubs: (education) School letters, reports and activity clubs info

Pets and car: Again, very self explanatory!

Everything else: monthly subscriptions, warranty’s, anything else that doesn’t need its own drawer!

So why do I love this approach to paperwork organising so much? Because it takes care of itself.

Once you have initially separated your papers into the corresponding drawers in date order, they will stay date ordered as you add the weekly mail to the top of the pile. If like me, you have multiple categories per drawer it still reduces the amount you need to search through to find what you need. Now of course, you can always go one step further as I have and separate the grouped drawers by keeping each letter type in a cut flush plastic wallet (the ones with two open sides) For example. All current year papers I keep loose inside the drawer. Past years that I need to keep are stored inside a wallet. This approach means I only have to sort through my paperwork system once a year, discarding the oldest from the back of each wallet.

I am always able to find exactly what I need in a matter of seconds and filing mail away takes just a few minutes a week. In the meantime, I keep a basket on the top of the drawers for incoming letters that need reading, actioning or filing. This is also a great spot to empty my purse and bag each week of receipts that I don’t want to lose! Everything in one, easy to use, easy to maintain space. Its easy to see when the basket is reaching full capacity and there are letters that need filing. Ensuring that all mail is kept in one place will not only keep the rest of the surfaces in your home clear but you’ll also be able to find exactly what you need when you need it.

Give it a go and let me know how you got on!

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