It’s no secret that paperwork can quickly become overwhelming, especially if you don’t have a system for organising it. While most workplaces have a system of organising paperwork, at home it can get out of control fast! Thankfully there are some simple ways to organise paperwork at home.
This guide will help you with decluttering paperwork that you don’t need, go paperless where you can and tips on how to organise paperwork so that you can keep your home clutter-free!
Organising Paperwork At Home
How many times have spent far too long searching for a document that you know is somewhere in your house? Or, even worse, you can’t find it at all! This is a frustrating experience that we’ve all had at one point or another.
Or do you have an overwhelming pile of paperwork or an overflowing drawer that you keep meaning to sort through, but you never seem to find the time?
If either of these scenarios sounds like you, then it’s time to get your paperwork organised! Having a system in place for your paperwork will make your life much easier and help you to stay on top of things.
It also means you’re less likely to miss important due dates for bills and other essential appointments.
Whether your goal is to switch to a paperless system or simply get your paperwork under control, you can be ready to say goodbye to paper clutter!
How Long Do I Need To Keep Paperwork?
Before we get into the decluttering and organising side of things, we should cover the basics of what you need to keep and what you don’t.
Gone are the days when we needed to keep every payslip, every bill and every statement.
Depending on your situation, there may be certain documents you need to keep for a specific length of time, such as employee tax records. Although in most cases, this applies more to businesses than to personal documents at home.
For businesses, refer to your local taxation requirements. Typically you will need to maintain records of 5 to 7 years.
The exception of course is that you need to keep the original documents of items such as birth certificates, passports, wills and any other irreplaceable paperwork in a safe and secure place.
The other thing to keep is the receipts for big-ticket purchases in case you need them for warranty claims.
You might also like to keep original medical records, insurance documents and tax documents.
Aside from these, most other documents can be stored digitally or thrown away once you no longer need them.
Other documents like bank statements and utility bills can be kept for 12 months if you choose as these companies will have a history of your account documents on file. In most cases, you can access them online and print them as needed.
How To Declutter Paperwork
The first step to fixing this problem is decluttering your paperwork. You don’t need to keep every single document that comes into your house!
Compile All Your Papers
To declutter paperwork in your home, collect every document and piece of paper clutter you can find.
Look in drawers, on desks and tables, on the kitchen counter and anywhere else you know it has accumulated and bring it all together in piles of papers that are ready to sort.
Get Rid Of Any Unnecessary Paperwork
One of the best ways to reduce the amount of paperwork you have to deal with is to get rid of anything that you don’t need. This might seem obvious, but it’s amazing how much stuff we keep “just in case”.
You can start by getting rid of the easy stuff such as:
- Junk mail
- Old catalogues
- Expired coupons
- Warranties and manuals for products you no longer own
- Old school papers
- Magazines and newspapers
- Anything else that you don’t need or use!
While it will be a personal choice whether to keep things such as bank summaries, invoices or bills if they are available in your online account for each of your services, you may still choose to keep 12 months of records for such items.
Anything older can go in your declutter pile.
RELATED: 150 things to throw away or donate today
Dispose Of Personal Documents Securely
The best way to dispose of personal documents is to shred them. This will help to protect you from identity theft and prevent any sensitive information from getting into the wrong hands.
You can get a small, inexpensive paper shredder for home, such as this one.
If you do not have a shredder, you can chop your papers into small strips using scissors instead.
Never just throw your unwanted paperwork into the recycling bin without destroying it first!
Once you’ve decluttered your paperwork, you can start to organise it so that it’s easier to find what you need, when you need it.
How To Organise Paperwork At Home
Organising paperwork at home is not one of those one size fits all situations. Like any storage system, what works for one person might not work for you.
Think about how you use your paperwork and what would work best for you in terms of accessibility and ease of use.
If you manage most of your life digitally, such as using a digital calendar, online banking and photos, going paperless with your household documents might be your perfect solution!
It can be a really big transition if you don’t typically live a digital life, but there are many benefits to going paperless.
You can say goodbye to mountains of paper clutter, you’ll always be able to find what you’re looking for and it’s more eco-friendly.
There are a few steps to help you to go paperless at home:
- Switch to electronic for everyday documents – Most banks, utilities and other services allow you to now receive all your documents via email. To make this transition, simply update your communication preferences with each company.
- Create email folders – For the documents that you receive via email, create folders within your inbox to file your documents. Consider creating subfolders such as bank statements, household bills, loan statements, etc. Alternatively, you can create a folder per year instead if this system is easier for you.
- Scan everything else – You will need a home printer that is capable of scanning. Something that is easy to use and reliable will help you to keep up with your scanning.
- Use an app or software to store documents – If you need to keep certain documents for tax purposes or other legal reasons, you can use a paperless filing system such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or Dropbox.
If you do plan to go paperless, a cloud storage service is far more reliable than just using your computer storage since it can malfunction at any time. The last thing you need is to lose everything!
Cloud storage will allow you to access your documents from anywhere in the world and on any device and it is stored securely.
If you want to stick with a free option, you can get an external hard drive to back up your files instead. This isn’t a guaranteed option either, but having your documents saved on a hard drive and on your computer is better than just on a computer.
Physical Filing System For Storing Paperwork At Home
If you do need to keep some paperwork at home, using a physical filing system might be more your style. Thankfully there are plenty of different options to suit your filing style and the space you have.
Compact Filing System
You can use a simple lever arch file or box file with hanging files and labels. These are two of the easiest ways to keep your paperwork organised at home.
There are so many stylish options for hanging files these days, from decorative file boxes that match your home decor to wire file racks that can sit on your desk or shelf for easy access to your documents.
If you have a lot of paperwork or you want to be able to lock it away for security, using a filing cabinet is a great option. You can buy one second-hand quite cheaply if you don’t want to spend too much money.
The key is to keep your paperwork filing system simple, regardless of whether it is digital or physical. If it’s too hard, you won’t maintain your system!
Secure Document Storage
For all your important documents, such as birth certificates, passports, family death certificates, insurance documents, etc it is best to keep them in a secure, fireproof box.
You can get small-sized fireproof document boxes or a larger fireproof safe if there are other valuables you wish to store in there as well.
This will protect them from any damage and you can be sure that they are safe. Most of these document storage boxes will also protect your papers from water damage in case of floods also.
Folders Or Binders
Alternatively, you can go for a pretty solution and buy a set of matching folders to keep your paperwork looking chic! Use a hole punch to put your paperwork within the correct folder, as soon as it comes in the door!
If you do not get a huge amount of paperwork into your home, you may consider adding your physical paperwork to a section inside your home management binder as a great way to keep all your financial documents and personal documents with your household information.
Get my Home Management Binder Printables
You can get my home management binder kit – The Simplify My Life Home Management Binder printables HERE!
With over 80 pages of printables to help you manage your home and your life, this is the perfect way to create your home management binder – without having to make all the pages yourself!
This printable kit is undated so you can use the pages year after year and you can print them as often as you need them or skip a page if it isn’t relevant to you!
It includes all the family budgeting, meal planning, cleaning checklists, life planner, calendars, home maintenance and health pages to help you stay more organised at home!
Extra Tips For Organising Paperwork At Home
These extra tips will help you maintain your paper organisation system for important papers and insure that household paperwork doesn’t fall through the cracks!
One of the riskiest parts of paper clutter at home is accidentally misplacing an important document or missing the due date on a bill.
To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, take action as soon as possible.
As soon as a document comes in, pay the bill if required and file it away in its correct place. If it is a bill that you cannot pay immediately, set yourself an alert or planner reminder (that you will see) to pay it on a specific date instead.
Then file your paperwork straight into your home filing system or digital storage.
Don’t let it build up or you will get overwhelmed!
If you do plan to scan the documents that come into the home, but know you won’t always have time to deal with incoming papers straight away, set up a tray system that you action each week or fortnight as part of your regular household routine.
You can either have a paperless tray or a physical tray.
The paperless tray is an email inbox or similar that you file all your documents into as soon as they come in. Then, each week (or whenever you have time), you action the items in your tray by scanning them and filing them away.
Receipts for big-ticket items can be kept from the date of purchase in case you need to return them or make a warranty claim.
Instead of storing them in a drawer where they may get misplaced, staple them to the inside cover of the product manual and file them into your filing system. This makes it easy to find both the receipt and the manual if there is an issue.
However, receipts are known for fading quickly, so if you do make any large purchases and need to retain a copy, always scan or photograph your original receipt and store this in a cloud-based folder so you don’t face the issue of it fading beyond recognition.
This also means you can get rid of the original receipt instead.
Annual Paperwork Declutter
At least every 12 months, go through your paperwork and declutter what you no longer need.
Shred or recycle any old documents that are no longer needed and update your preferences with any bills that you can instead have sent digitally. This will help to keep your paperwork organised and tidy all year long!
Use A Label Maker
For physical paper storage, consider using a label maker to easily identify what tab or section is for what type of documents. This will save you time and energy when looking for specific documents, as you will be able to see at a glance where everything is.
I love my Dymo label maker for this purpose and many others.
If you don’t have a label maker, simply write out labels by hand and tape them onto the front of each file or box.
If you have kids at home, you know how much extra important paperwork and other random papers come into the home. One of the best ways to manage kids’ school papers, school certificates, ribbons and favourite drawings is to set up a file for each child.
I use a large plastic folder that stores up to 100 pieces of paper. This has been great for putting all their awards, recognition, special drawings, photos and cards that they might like to keep.
It has become a special keepsake that they sometimes flip through and it will be something they can take with them when they are adults and ready to move out too.
If you struggle with what to do with all your child’s artwork, take a photo of each piece and create a photo book each year with all their drawings and paintings. This is a fun gift idea at Christmas time or as a special keepsake for you to see how their artistic skills grew along with them.
This way, you don’t have to keep every physical piece of art but you can still look back on it and enjoy it whenever you want.
Paperwork doesn’t have to be a pain! By using these simple tips, you can easily keep paperwork organised in your home and avoid it taking over your life. This means less clutter and less stress since you know where everything is, when your bills are due and how to manage the new paperwork coming in the door! You’ve got this.
Do you have any other tips for how to organise paperwork at home? Share them with us in the comments below!
You might also like these tips for home organisation:
- Meal planning for beginners
- How to create a cleaning schedule that works
- How to deep clean your entire home
- How to create a home management binder
- Declutter your home without feeling overwhelmed
- 30-Day decluttering challenge
- Easy ways to simplify your day
- Tips to simplify your before school routine
- Ways to reduce cleaning time at home
- Refrigerator organisation tips
- Party organisation tips
- How to plan a life admin day
Monday 17th of August 2015
A shredder was one of the best things I ever bought! I used to spend hours on filing each month...but now most stuff is available electronically (and filed that way) OR is not really needed, and can be shredded. It is very liberating to just shred and toss. I keep one pocket folder for each family member for each year - special or sentimental documents (invitations, certificates, programs etc) go straight into that.
Wednesday 19th of August 2015
Your system sounds fantastic. So light & organised. A shredder is a great option. I visit mum for shredding but it's definitely an important part of paperwork disposal!
Saturday 15th of August 2015
It's so easy to fall into those bad habits and then spend an hour trying to find something important because of it. Oops!
Saturday 15th of August 2015
So many of us are guilty of it. I have a tray that piles up but have since emptied my filing cabinet to improve my ways ;) it will save time & mess in the long run.
Kirsty @ My Home Truths
Wednesday 12th of August 2015
Having a system is so important. We have a set of filing drawers but where I fall down is not filing as I go - hence I end up with piles of paper and hours of sorting. I need to just do it as I go!
Saturday 15th of August 2015
Me too. Once I sort the current pile, hopefully I will keep on top of it lol just have to teach the hubby to do the same!
Tuesday 11th of August 2015
I am a big believer of creating a system haha Great post!
Wednesday 12th of August 2015
Systems definitely make things easier in the long run. Less stress too when you can find what you need easily. I still remember growing up mum had a draw full of paperwork and if they needed something urgently, the whole pile got tipped on the floor and the hunt began haha