What do you do with all your paperwork? I'm drowning in it!

(47 Posts)
Jemster Sat 12-Jan-13 19:36:48

I'm on a declutter mission at the moment and have done quite well this week.
I'm now trying to sort out mountains of paperwork and just not sure how to deal with it. We have a table by the front door that gets covered in school letters and post. Then we have a kitchen table and a sideboard that are covered in all sorts of paperwork. I do have a filing cupboard for all important docs, bills, medical stuff etc. so that's all ok but it's the odd things I just don't know what to do with.
For example tonight I found receipts, school letters, thank you cards, opticians reminder, stuff that needs actioning, stuff that needs reading and so on.
We have a small house with two children and lots of toys so any ideas what I should do with all this to keep it tidy?
It's overwhelming me now, I feel so disorganised!
Many thanks for any suggestions

LaCiccolina Sat 12-Jan-13 19:41:37

Gosh sounds like our house. Basically sits on table til done or so old will be shredded. So much needs filing. Never do it. Must have 2-3 bags of misc paper work knocking about in cupboard embarrassing

PigletJohn Sat 12-Jan-13 19:43:50

at the very least, you need
- a box for stuff that's been dealt with, to file or bin
- a box for stuff that has to be read or dealt with
- a box for stuff that's in process

SausageSmuggler Sat 12-Jan-13 19:46:02

God sounds like our house. The important stuff gets filed eventually but then the 'to be sorted out' pile just gets moved around to different places! Could you get a 'misc' box to shove everything in that needs to be kept rather than shredded?

TheJanuaryProject Sat 12-Jan-13 19:50:44

I'm a bit the same. PigletJohn - where do you keep your boxes of things to read/being processed? My problem is stuff lies around for ages, then it gets stuffed away somewhere so I never get round to dealing with it. I'm a bit out of sight out of mind when it comes to these things.

WhateverTrevor Sat 12-Jan-13 19:54:50

You only need the current school newsletter. I immediately put everything into my diary on my phone/iPad and then get rid of letter/newsletter.
If something important or needs saving, I photograph it on my phone and then throw away.

munchkinmaster Sat 12-Jan-13 19:55:11

Go paperless on statements
Be ruthless with cards etc
Reminders straight into diary
Don't keep catalogues, leaflets, vouchers you won't actually use
every night sort and deal with. File weekly
I have a to do folder with bills I need DH to pay etc
If I can fix it that night I do

Once I get a heap it's too late as I give up.

BackforGood Sat 12-Jan-13 20:02:40

Put EVERYTHING straight on the calendar as you read it.
Get rid of envelopes and envelope stuffers straight away.
If you receive something you need to keep in it's envelope, write on the outside of the envelope what's in it "Car Insurance 2013" or "Pension Statement 2012" etc.
Get a folder for each place tons of letters come from... eg 'school' /swimming club / guides.... or 'dc1', 'dc2', 'dc3' 'us' so when you need something, you know where it will be.

PigletJohn Sat 12-Jan-13 20:06:40

I actually use shelves in a narrow wall cabinet. I used to use filing trays, which are reasonably tidy but not out of mind sight.

I have a filing cabinet as well with a folder for gas, one for electricity, one for council tax, one for car insurance... etc

things can only be filed when they have been dealt with

a friend takes one old page out of the folder and shreds it each time he puts a new page in.

another way is to start a new folder each year and throw away the old folder, or put it in the loft for your kids to throw away after you die.

ClareMarriott Sat 12-Jan-13 21:33:20

Right now , what you could do is remove everything to just one place/ table then just go through everything very quickly and sort them into piles. By doing that you will have instantly decluttered other places the post etc ends up and may have a pile that you can instantly get rid of/ shred. In the light of day and if you have the time, then sit down and go through everything else, it should then only take you about 3/4 hours

BoffinMum Sat 12-Jan-13 22:07:25

Household Captain's Log

Gets a lot of hits on my Austerity Housekeeping blog.

[http://austerityhousekeeping.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/making-an-entrance/ Making and Entrance]] Read the bit about clipping things to the A4 diary in this post.

BoffinMum Sat 12-Jan-13 22:07:52

[http://austerityhousekeeping.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/making-an-entrance/ Making an Entrance]]

BoffinMum Sat 12-Jan-13 22:08:53

Ah bollocks. Trying to read the subtitles on Borgen AND type.

Making an Entrance

BonzoDooDah Sat 12-Jan-13 22:14:25

OOoh I need help here too <marks place>

Jemster Sat 12-Jan-13 22:35:13

Thanks for the suggestions. I see the sense in having separate boxes but I don't really have much room to put them. I was thinking of putting an in tray on the hall table but then the paper will just pile up in there and any visitors will be able to read it which isn't ideal.
I do read and bin the school newsletter but we seem to get bits of paper home every other day about something or other. There is a parent email system so I don't know why we still get so much paper but there is lots!
Boffin will have a look at your link now, thanks.

BadPoet Sat 12-Jan-13 22:36:05

Like you I have a filing cabinet for the important stuff but the paperwork you describe that needs to be more accessible (school newsletter, school dinner menus, appointment reminders, invoices from the electrician, homework project worksheets that are meant to be completed over a week or two) go in one of two places.

I have a large magnetic pinboard near the family desktop computer and the school project sheets and my own study deadlines list go there. In the dining room I have a desk with chequebooks, envelopes, paper etc and above it a row of three a4 clipboards, a bit like this on Pinterest but as I say I only have 3 . I covered plain brown boards in nice wrapping paper and just clip up whatever I need to hand.

I am the least crafty person in the world! But this has proved a really good solution.

tribpot Sat 12-Jan-13 22:49:57

I attempt to go as paperless as possible (which is obviously not very when you have to deal with school and the NHS on a regular basis).

I'm still working my system out but here are the basic principles:

1. Some paper needs to be retained but its content does not to be instantly retrievable (for example, insurance policy).
2. Some paper may be retained for a period of time (but likewise its exact content isn't important) - for example, I keep credit card statements for 3 months because this is the period of time they are useful as proof of ID.
3. Some paper has content which needs to be retrievable but the paper doesn't need to be retained (for example hospital appointment letter).
4. Some paper needs to be retreivable and retained (for example, statements connected with DH's tax return since I have to do the bloody thing for him).
5. Some paper needs permanent storage - this goes in a fire safe (e.g. passports).

The idea is:
- open the post / book bag in the kitchen right next to the bin. Everything of no value gets chucked immediately.
- anything that needs to be retrievable gets stored in Evernote. DH likes to scan these in beautifully, I just take a picture on my iPhone instead, since the scanner is clearly not in the kitchen!
- anything which needs to be retained goes into one of two folders, rolling file for 3 month stuff or 2013 file.

Instant action items is what I'm still working on. School newsletters get dealt with on a Friday night and then binned. The newsletter is also accessible electronically so even more reason just to bin the bloody thing.

Things requiring action after the fact get Evernoted. Haven't really decided what to do with the paperwork in the interim.

I have informed DH will be doing a flow chart on this system in due course! He was, of course, delighted ...

We too drown in paper. The thing I find most useful is a calendar with a pocket per month, so that things for future months such as appt etc can be placed in the appropriate month's pocket.

tribpot Sat 12-Jan-13 22:55:38

Btw I will say for anyone getting a lot of paperwork from somewhere like the NHS (so the content is relatively complex, there can be instructions about changes to doses, future plans and all sorts) Evernote is a godsend for keeping it all together and searchable, and accessible from different locations as well. This is particularly useful if the household manager (i.e. me) is out of the house a lot of the time.

All budget stuff is electronic, we use YNAB to manage our finances so don't retain bank statements for the few places that still send paper ones (exception being anything related to DH's tax return again).

Calendar is electronic, we have a shared one in Google.

Still need a drawer for envelopes, pens, cheque book and assorted stuff for school.

Monty27 Sat 12-Jan-13 22:57:20

Rip up or shred every single thing that comes through the door that isn't needed for a start.

Agree with piglet. 'Dead' 'Needed' 'Alive'

I hate paperwork so much but it won't beat me.... Oh no it won't.

<replaces armour>

wasabipeanut Sat 12-Jan-13 23:02:02

Best tip I found on MN - if you can't action or bin it then take a pic of it with your camera phone and bin original.

I do this with the "what we're doing this term" letters so I can refer back to them .

Monty27 Sat 12-Jan-13 23:02:14

Plastic wallets, for stuff like hospital appointments etc,....

O I'm getting myself in a tizz thinking about it.

It won't beat me.... Oh no it won't.

Lever Arches I have for instructions to gadgets, tv's etc together with the receipts and warranties etc. Another one for bills, (all paid direct debit anyway), and another one for banking and insurance shit

It won't beat me.. Oh no it won't.

Bin crap as it comes in the door. Did I say that already?

Can you read Newsletters etc on line?

<wipes sweat>

wasabipeanut Sat 12-Jan-13 23:03:32

Sorry just realised Tribpot has already suggested this!

kickassangel Sat 12-Jan-13 23:04:10

I find it's the stuff you know you'll need in a couple of weeks so don't want to put in the 'proper' filing cabinet, but don't want left out either. We're about to re-organize the study, the playroom and every bit of paper in this house as we never get round to filing so we have piles in the study and now I don't even know where half of it is meant to be going.

Dh is blissfully ignorant and happily playing on his iPad right now. Ha ha , I have plans for your Saturday evening, mister.

Maryz Sat 12-Jan-13 23:06:03

I file it.

In shoeboxes.

On top of my cupboard.

And then when they get full I sort of empty them into bigger boxes and hide them around the house.

But I intend to sort it all some day soon.

tribpot Sat 12-Jan-13 23:08:39

kickass - I would think what you need the paperwork for in a couple of weeks. Some of it is unavoidable, like the guy who services our burglar alarm sends the paperwork out before he comes round, then fills it in when he's here. Thus meaning I have to try and keep track of it instead of him! <curse you, alarm man>

I keep some of this stuff on the fridge in a magnetic clip, but really I think it should go into my rolling file, where anything older than 3 months get binned.

Anything where the paper itself isn't important: take a photo and dump. Use a digital camera if need be!

kickassangel Sun 13-Jan-13 04:35:49

dh is scanning loads of it and storing it, but we live in the US, so have to have paper copies of things for both UK & US tax returns. Plus DH has somehow managed to have a pension with every scheme that ever went wrong - miss sold personal pension, companies that went bust, his employer doing dodgy non-payment then 'making it up' with funds later. He has a ridiculous amount of folders full of the stuff.

I just want to get all my money and all my papers into ONE box, and stuff it under my bed. Sick of bank statements, tax returns, pensions figures etc etc, which we have to keep for about a gazillion years in case we get audited for tax.

One day, it will all be stored on a chip in your left ear lobe, and doing your taxes will just mean walking past a scanner and paying enough money to buy a kidney.

tribpot Sun 13-Jan-13 07:51:44

Sure - keeping paper for tax returns is one of the burdens. But this falls into the category of content is more useful than actual paper. I find if I try to devise a more sophisticated filing system I am less likely actually to file anything at all, which is why I now try and keep it as simple as possible. This means there would be more work to do to assemble the relevant bits of paper if we were audited but the chances are not high (DH pays about £13 a year in tax - that is not a typo! I would pay HMRC £20 to avoid doing the return!).

So I would focus on streamlining. The paper needs to be kept. It doesn't need to be curated in-depth. One folder or box per year, tossed after 7 years?

kickassangel Sun 13-Jan-13 17:02:21

I would love to do that - dh is the kind who has a perfect, highly complex system, but then only gets round to doing stuff about once a year. So I am taking over. I will be throwing out a LOT of things, and he can then grab a file to scan when he gets off his arse has time.

Then I will know where everything is, and can just deal with it asap.

now I just need to teach dd how to be tidy ...

tribpot Sun 13-Jan-13 17:06:00

Small steps smile

This is my problem with high complex systems. It may mean you can find any paper within 5 seconds but only for the stuff you have managed to force into the system. I prefer something that takes a bit more work if and when you need to find a particular piece of paper but is low maintenance the rest of the time.

I have one of these for all my actionable paperwork or anything that I think I might need soon, or indeed anything that I don't know quite what to do with (eg a newsletter which I may need to refer to)! I have it on the wall above the desk in my office, but it can go anywhere convenient really as it hardly takes up any space. You could label each of the tiers if you want but I haven't bothered. Once something is actioned it goes in a labelled box on the shelves if I might need to refer to it again. If it's finished with I throw it away.

When it starts getting full I go through it and anything that's out of date or no longer needed gets thrown. This is an essential step or it could easily get out of control again.

A combination of this and labelled boxes on shelves for stuff I need to keep has honestly revolutionised my paperwork storage (I'd like to say it's revolutionised my life but that's probably going a bit far!) Previously I had a bunch of carrier bags and a huge mountain of paperwork on the desk. Whenever I needed something I had to go through the whole lot until I found it. Total disorganisation and mess. Not any more!

kickassangel Sun 13-Jan-13 18:06:53

Right ladies, I'm going in. I may be some time ...

UnderwaterBasketWeaving Sun 13-Jan-13 19:19:37

Thanks for this thread. smile

I spotted it in actives this morning and was inspired to sort out The Paper Cupboard of Doom.

just set up evernote too! grin

TheJanuaryProject Sun 13-Jan-13 19:59:11

Some great ideas on here. I like the idea of using Evernote - Tribpot, can you create reminders from Evernote.

That ikea newspaper rack - does it hold A4 size? I think that could work for us. I have somewhere in the kitchen it could live, and I like the idea of dealing with post each night in the kitchen. We have too many places where we can stuff paperwork in an 'out of sight out of mind' kind of way and I'm desperate to get on top of it.

kickassangel Sun 13-Jan-13 19:59:56

Right then - new system.

1. Drawer at back door (where we come in) for 'immediate action', e.g. things to fill in & send back to school, write a cheque for etc.
2. Pile by scanner to scan for almost everything else.
3. Pile of scanned things to file. The filing system remains complex, but as it will all be on evernote we can just search it & print it. Only if the IRS or HM gov come calling will we need the originals, but then we should be able to find them.

doing the filing is now on the 'weekly jobs' list along with the laundry.

It can't possibly go wrong.

tribpot Sun 13-Jan-13 21:23:40

Why not leave the actual filing to your DH, since it's his complex system?

kickassangel Sun 13-Jan-13 23:22:33

Cos he will do it once a year and it will drive me crazy. I like my house to be tidy and organized so I do that. Any personal crap belongings of his get stuck where I don't see them and I refuse to tidy them

HellesBelles396 Sun 13-Jan-13 23:46:05

Agree: bin what you don't need.

Dates straight on calendar.

Imminent and important on fridge (family), tucked into diary (work) or pinned to board in study (uni).

anything for storage but not needed: dropped straight into box file. when full, dated for day it's full and popped into loft.

clear popper files for: work related certificates, scout related certificates, product instructions, id docs (replace the proof of addresses quarterlyish

I thought they were a bit pricey so I am going to make my own but at least it gives you an idea

Yes, the newspaper rack holds A4. I like it because it can hold quite a lot of paperwork, but not so much that it becomes overwhelming to deal with it. After writing my last post I spent 5 minutes clearing I spent about 2 minutes quickly going through it and throwing out stuff like old newsletters, filing some post etc. I also tend to put stuff that I'm going to need really soon (eg a bill that needs paying) into one of the layers vertically so it sticks out of the top and acts as a visual reminder grin

TheJanuaryProject Mon 14-Jan-13 12:41:11

Thanks - a trip to ikea for me then!

I got some pretty box files and keep on top of shredding etc. also keep DH away from all paperwork! That way I know where everything is.....grin

Maryz Mon 14-Jan-13 13:19:20

I'm going to go to Ikea rather than sorting my paperwork today.

I think I'll have some meatballs and a cup of coffee, and possibly replenish my supply of candles.

Jemster Mon 14-Jan-13 13:22:43

Thanks for linking the paper rack. That looks like just what I need and it will just fit in my kitchen! Sending dh off to ikea this week!

UnderwaterBasketWeaving Mon 14-Jan-13 19:27:12

It's wrong that I'm disappointed there wasn't any post to put on Evernote, isn't it.

<sad case>

Ineedacoffee Fri 18-Jan-13 18:32:12

A Magazine file for DH and myself - my kids are tiny but when they're at school I will do theirs too. These take up little counter space in the kitchen but hold quite a lot then all post that needs to be kept/delt with goes in our individual file. I then file/deal with mine properly about once a fortninght and DH --less ften! This has revolutionised piles of post though. they the big key is having the filing cabinet in the utility room instead of on the top floor so when I do file thiongs I don't have to walk upstairs. This seems to be working very well so far - I basically do everything except DHs personal banking/phone etc. If his file is too full he has to deal with it or I threaten to shread everything!

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