I thought I had our paper under control, we have a filing cabinet and a bureau and all mail is put in a box on the table in the hall. That should do the trick, shouldn't it?! Oh no! When I decided to try and sort out and streamline all our paperwork I was amazed at the amount of unneeded and unnecessary stuff we had decided, in our wisdom, to diligently file away!
Along side a 'Personal' file for each of us - (there are 5 of us living here) - containing pictures from primary school, letters, certificates etc, there were files for Utility bills (now online), mortgage statements dating back to the stoneage, payslips from every job we've ever held and files for vehicles, manuals etc etc.
So, I decided to get every bit of paperwork I could find and put it together to go through once and for all. I emptied the filing cabinet, the bureau, collected various envelopes and letters from the hall and kitchen, found paperwork in the dining room and dumped it all on the settee. Now you might be forgiven for thinking it doesn't look too bad! But those files, which are great at making things look organised were, what the youth might say ' A HOT MESS!'.
Now the How To Section....
First I grabbed some bin bags and boxes and our trusty old shredder. Then I wrote on some scrap paper (plenty lying around at that point!) and wrote the following labels:
1 Deal with it
2 Re-cycle / Shred
4 Discuss then Deal with it
Each label was then put on a bag or box and I began to sort through my pile. If I picked up something which needed some sort of action, like a vehicle tax reminder, it was put in the 'Deal with it' tray. Any obviously outdated and unnecessary paperwork was put in the 'Re-cycle/ Shred' bag, anything with personal details being shredded as I went along. The 'File' box contained those documents which we need to keep for legal reasons or if we need access to them like the current council tax bill or the manual for the television. I also like to keep certificates in the filing cabinet for peace of mind after losing all mine for several years! The 'Discuss then Deal with it' box was for items I thought needed to be seen by someone else before they were re-cycled or filed and the Unsure box was for those pieces of paperwork that on first viewing I wasn't sure if we needed to keep or not.
I need to say right here, if you think this job might take a couple of hours, then give yourself four!! When you embark on a project like this I find it always takes me longer than I anticipate. An old payslip can lead to a daydreaming session about old work mates and 5 minutes is gone just like that!
My Unsure box was, mercifully nearly empty when I finished. This box needs to be gone through again at the end and you will probably find that it is easier to process these papers once you have been through everything else. If not, it doesn't matter, file them in a file labelled 'unsure' and when you have the opportunity to speak to someone about them get them out and deal with them appropriately.
My final shredded and re-cycle bags and my Deal with it tray!
The after pictures of my bureau and filing cabinet, I still need to update the labels in the filing cabinet but this was full when I started!! Go me!
If you are struggling with paper clutter, plan time (then double it!), get your tools ready - scrap paper, pen, boxes, bin bags and if you have a shredder get it plugged in and ready to go. If it is too overwhelming contact me via my email - email@example.com or through the chat space on my website and I will contact you for a chat or a visit and we can do this together!
In my next Blog.....
How to stay on top of the streamlined new paper files and create a system that works for YOU.