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Paperwork Hacks: Managing all of that household paper

All this week, we’re going to be talking about paperwork – the kind that accumulates in your home and can take over if you let it.

Before we get to the types of paperwork to keep and toss, let’s talk about creating a couple of places to manage and keep your paperwork.

Create a household mail station

Does the mail come into the house and just get tossed willy-nilly anywhere there’s a flat surface? If you live with other people (or even if you live alone) this could be because there’s no official “mail station”.

What’s a mail station?
This is the first stop when you get into the house. The place where you will process and sort the mail. Set aside an area of the kitchen or a home office for your mail station.

You’ll need:

  • Bill sorting system. This can be a file folder with dividers 1-31 on them (the day of the month the bills are due).
  • In box for each member of the household
  • Letter opener
  • Recycle bin
  • Shredder

Setting aside 15 minutes each day to attack the mail will keep down the clutter.

  1. Recycle junk mail immediately – toss it right to the recycle bin.
  2. Open bills/letters (addressed to you)
  3. Sort the bills according to date due
  4. Anything else that you’ve processed or read that has personal information on it, shred it

Create files for your paperwork

This week, we’re going to cover the types of records you might be keeping paperwork for. Each one will need its own file (unless it’s something like a passport, that you keep in a safe or a safety deposit box). 

Start with the end in mind. When you go through your paperwork, it’s going to need a place to live.

If you create files according to a category, instead of a more specific title, you’re more likely to find those files later. 

Example: the category “Car” would hold all information about your car – like the car warranty and purchase documents.

Each day, I’ll give you a list of categories that you might want to consider.

Household manual

This was one of the best things I ever did when I bought my home. I created a binder called the “house manual” and this is where I kept all the information about the house that would stay with the house if I sold it.

Example:

  • Appliances manuals & warranties
  • Garden layout and names of plants/trees
  • Names and phone numbers of the neighbors
  • Locations of the nearby fire and police stations

Don’t put your financial information in there like your closing papers, mortgage information or receipts. Those stay with you. 

Dawn Dugle is a professional organizer and a time management and productivity expert.

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