Some of the most popular posts on our website are simple organisation systems to make life easier for busy families (especially mums haha), so I thought I would share with you a simple system that I’ve used for many years to keep the household paperwork under control.
Even in this electronic age and with credit cards and direct debit there is still bills and receipts and statements arriving almost every day in the mail. These can mount up and make it almost impossible to find something when you want it and makes tax time a nightmare. I’ve been using the same simple system for nearly 15 years to keep the paperwork under control.
I use a simple two-step process to control the clutter.
Step 1: Deal With It
Some paperwork needs to be acted on so I never put that away out of sight until it’s dealt with. I just use an in-tray which looks a bit messy but it’s less likely to be forgotten that way. Once I’ve dealt with a piece of paper it goes into a small drawer that I bought from an office store (or in a pile) until I am ready to store it away somewhere where I can find it easily again. If its not required for tax or its not important It gets trashed.
I should add that the most efficient way to reduce your paperwork is to set up a system of direct debit or automatic credit card payment so that you never have to remember to pay the bills on time.
Step 2: Store It
You may have a proper filing cabinet but I use a simple display folder from any supermarket which cost less than two dollars. Now admittedly the quality of these items has become pretty terrible in the last few years so can be worth spending the extra dollar to get a better folder which doesn’t come apart at the first knock.
The idea is so simple that it feels ridiculous explaining it, but I just dedicate one slip to each kind of paperwork that I receive. So for example each bank account gets its own slip and all the statements for that financial year go into that slip … Usually in order but I’m not always that organised. All I do is file the paper away once every week or two from my filing drawer into the folder.
Here are some of the standard categories that I use:
each bank account – I keep these separate in a slip each
superannuation – statements, small magazines
cars – services, registration, insurance, receipts
the house – rates, insurance, dump vouchers, receipts
purchases – receipts, warranty cards, small manuals
School – important documents, sometimes report cards
You can usually put two things in one slip if you just face them opposite directions. I put the landline bills facing up and back to back place my mobile bills for example.
I like the display folders because they can accommodate any kind of size paper from small receipts up to the standard A4 and you can even fold bigger pieces of paper to fit in if you need to. The great thing about this system is that you can see each financial year clearly and you can store the five or seven years that you need to keep for tax purposes in 30 cm of the shelf.
Spending 5 mins every fortnight keeping on top of this saves me hours of frustration and expense at tax time.
Check out our other paperwork idea too or share your own in the comments below.