With the financial year ending, read our tips on staying better organized with your paperwork for the next financial year
A folder overflowing with everything from bills to be paid to your best friend’s husband’s cousin’s wedding invitation is a guaranteed way to lose track of things. Organising your paperwork may seem like a daunting task at first but once you get organized, it is actually not as tough as it looks.
Prep and List
Start with listing out major categories to file your paperwork under. You can stick to a few main ones like work, money, taxes, home and medical, or insurance.
Remember that within each category, you will be making sub-categories so start with the minimum number. Under money, for example, make a section for bank account details and statements (keep a separate section for each account), credit card, loans, etc. The work category can be split up into invoices, payment receipts, etc. while the home section can be split into paid bills by month, family information like birth and marriage certificates, wills, deeds, etc.
A sturdy file cabinet with hanging folders can do wonders for organisation. Colourful, stackable containers are great space savers while brightening up your space (see our story ‘How to make your own DIY storage basket’). Another good option is to get hard-cover ring binders in different colours for the main categories and plastic sheet protectors that fit inside for sub-categories. Remember to get tabs to separate sub-sections, labels to mark everything out and post-it notes to add relevant details.
Sort. File. Throw.
Sort everything out and start filing your papers under the categories you’ve listed out beforehand. Remember that you will keep a workstation for unpaid bills and temporary paperwork elsewhere, so put these in one pile. Set aside a container for sentimental stuff. Purge wherever necessary; keeping receipts for tax deductibles is necessary but you don’t need your grocery receipts or electricity bill from 5 years ago. Throw out all junk mail, flyers and unused menus.
Use the Walls
While paperwork that you don’t need on a daily basis can be neatly stored in folders or drawers, there are some things that require your attention in the current month. This is where a vertical workstation really comes handy. A wall magazine rack with multiple slots is a great way to organise those current papers like invitations for upcoming events which will eventually be thrown, bills that have to be paid in the current month, and papers that need to be filed. Each slot should be for a different category like ‘This Week’, ‘Pay’, ‘File’, ‘Read’ etc. Keep one slot empty in case you need to create a new category.
Set a Routine
Review the papers to be filed in your wall system at least once a week, don’t let them pile up. Set aside this time to track and pay your bills and file them away. A simple budget tracker or excel sheet works wonders to track payments. To help plan out your week, get an undated weekly planner that can be hung on the wall. Take 5 minutes at the end of the day to sort out any papers on your desk (see our story ‘Organise your study area’).
Opt for e-bills wherever possible (remember to make a digital filing system and back it up periodically). If you don’t have the space to keep all your sentimental stuff, scan things like kid’s artwork and create a digital photo album. This also works for menus, service cards and recipes that can be scanned into a digital folder.
After a few months, take a look at your filing system and see what works and what doesn’t. You might need to sort your papers differently if you see a category being over or under-used. You will also figure out what isn’t important to keep and can be scanned to your computer for future reference.