no more clutter logo no more clutter newsletter for September/October 2008

Paperwork - Phase Two

The last newsletter looked at how to declutter your paperwork. (If you missed it you can still check it out here) Now it's time to deal with the fine tuning, filing and storage.

Getting Organised

Here are four key points vital to your success in managing your paperwork...

  1. Keep as little paper as you possibly can - this way you reduce the storage space and time needed for filing. All those ancient phone bills, email print-outs and ripped out holiday articles from 1992 really don't add anything to the quality of your life!
  2. Don't procrastinate. Unfortunately paperwork won't go away just because you find it tedious. As someone with a tendency to put off unpleasant jobs like preparing my accounts, I do sympathise. In the end, though, I have to accept that it's a dull part of life that needs to be dealt with. The best way to stop things getting out of hand is to allocate a regular slot in your diary once a week when you can turn on the radio and get things sorted.
  3. Keep any filing system simple - you don't need to find the perfect solution or filing system - you just need to find a basic one that works for you and is easy to use.
  4. Be very clear when handling a piece of paper whether it is important or not. One way to judge this is to ask yourself what would happen if you didn't deal with it. If it's a notice you haven't paid your congestion charge then the consequence will be an increased fine and ultimately court proceedings - so it's important. Whereas it really doesn't matter whether you look at a catalogue - either recycle it or put it aside to look at one slow evening.

Now let's look at how to deal with one category of paperwork:

Example - Gas Utility Bills

  • Gather all your gas bills together in a folder - I like transparent plastic ones that open at the top and side, as these fit easily into box files or inside hanging files in my cabinet.
  • Now decide how many you want to keep. If you work from home and they form part of your tax records, then you need to speak to your accountant, but otherwise this is an entirely personal decision. People often tell me they like to keep a record in case they want to change energy providers so 2 years worth is enough for this.
  • Now organise them into date order with the most recent at the front and the oldest at the back.
  • Label this folder "Gas Bills" and either place it in a box file marked "Utility Bills" or put it in the household section of your filing cabinet.
  • Next time you pay a bill, put it at the front of the file and take out the oldest one at the back and shred it. That way you never have to sort this file again!

Here's some other ideas that will help smooth your way

  • Paying by direct debit is one way to reduce the time taken by paperwork
  • In many areas it is now possible to deal with paperwork online - so do tell your bank if you don't want a monthly paper statement.
  • Stop junk mail wasting your time by contacting the Mail preference service If you have already ordered a product from a company you will have to contact them individually to stop their catalogues. The same goes for charities you donate to - perhaps they could contact you by email instead.
  • Before you buy any storage materials assess what you have already in place. If you have a wonky old filing cabinet with drawers that stick it is probably time for an upgrade, but do your decluttering before you decide on your next one. You may find once you chuck out the dated stuff you need a lot less storage than you think. I like box files too for bulky items like household manuals or tax records.
  • Put aside a chunk of uninterrupted time - ideally at least an hour. Otherwise you may find you are making little progress if you have to keep stopping and starting mid-task.

Paperwork is a huge subject but I do hope this has inspired you to take your courage in your hands and start getting on top of it. If you need more help do have a look at the paperwork sections in my books, Chapter 6, in no more clutter and Chapter 12 in Hoarder to Order. Or contact me to arrange a session of professional organising help that will get you on your way.

September/October tip

A change of scene can help you fast-track your paperwork.

Have a great sort out this autumn!

Best wishes.


Contact details

Sue Kay
no more clutter
14A New Quebec St.
London, W1H 7RS,
t: 020-7616-9465
m: 07974-076-675



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