Is your paperwork storage solution working for you? Or are piles of paperwork building up around your home?
We are often asked to help clients to come up with a paperwork storage solution. Therefore, we have compiled the list below of the best ways to organise paperwork. Hopefully, this helps you to find a system which works for you.
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Having your paperwork in order really makes you feel on top of things. It takes away those sub-conscious worries that there may be something urgent you have missed in amongst your paperwork piles. It can also help to increase your productivity. You will also save yourself time and energy by not having to spend ages searching for documents when you need them.
Reducing your paperwork
When organising your paperwork, use this as opportunity to let go of anything you no longer need or want. If you are unsure of what to keep and let go of, check out the Gov.UK website and / or ask your accountant, solicitor or financial advisor. Remember to shred confidential documents such as financial statements. Remove your name and address from any papers you put into recycling. This is the advice from the police surrounding identity theft in the UK - you can read more about this here. Decide whether the piece of paper should be: recycled, shredded, kept and filed or actioned.
Do a sweep of your home to collect papers which have collected in corners, bags, counters etc. Some people like to do a blitz of sorting through paperwork all at once. However, you may have too much paperwork or not enough free time to sort through it all at once. In that case, we recommend breaking down the task into small chunks to fit around your schedule.
Sort paperwork into general categories such as finances, home, health, employment etc. Then divide paperwork in those categories into sub-categories e.g. in finances, pull out papers for each bank account or investment. If you come across any paperwork which needs to be actioned, keep this to one side. This can be stored in an in-tray for you to tackle later.
You can then decide how best to organise the paperwork you are keeping:
1. Document wallets
Do you dislike hole-punching documents? If so, document wallets make a great choice for a simple filing solution. You can use paper wallets with a flap to close them or plastic wallets which close with a popper.
Document wallets can be easily labelled. You can write on paper document wallets or use a label stuck on the front of the plastic wallets. You can use them for broad categories. For example, you could have one wallet each for finances, home, health and then have plastic folders inside each one to keep sub-categories together. So, under “health” you could have a labelled plastic folder for GP records or health insurance. Or you can use one for each sub-category (although be careful not to end up with hundreds!)
You can store them on their own standing up on a shelf. However, we recommend using book-ends to keep them upright. You can use magazine files to give them structure (see below) or keep them in a filing cabinet.
2. Magazine files
Magazine files are another easy way to keep your papers organised. A system which works well is to use a magazine file for each broad category (e.g. finances, home, employment). You can then organise paperwork in each category in plastic wallets or document wallets. This allows you to have sub-categories of papers in each magazine file so you can easily grab the relevant folder. For example, you could have a document wallet for your current account, one for your savings account and another for your premium bonds stored in the magazine file labelled “Finances”.
You can store magazine files with the tall back facing outwards on a shelf so the papers are not visible. Alternatively, you can store them with the shorter front facing forwards so you can see what is in them. It is up to you! Store on bookshelves or inside cupboards on shelves.
3. A4 lever arch files
A4 lever arch files work well for people who get satisfaction from hole-punching and putting papers away! If you are quite organised with your paperwork and enjoy filing then this a good paperwork storage solution for you. Use an A4 file for each broad category e.g. e.g. finances, home, health, business. Then use dividers labelled for each sub-category within these. The plastic dividers have much longer longevity than the paper dividers which tend to break (albeit you can buy hole reinforcement stickers). We like to use the small font section on our DYMO label-maker to label each plastic divider. Or you can cut down white address labels and stick them on the divider tab and handwrite the label. If you are using the paper dividers then you can just write straight on the tab.
We don't recommend using plastic folders between each divider UNLESS you have an original signed document which should not be hole-punched. For example, a birth, marriage or death certificate, passports, identity documents and deeds to a house.
4. Box files
Box files are rigid files which open like a box. They are made of strong cardboard and can usually hold a large quantity of documents. The only thing that can be a nuisance with box files is the push button feature to close them. The elasticated band box files can be easier to keep closed so it just depends on what you prefer.
Use a box file for each broad category and then you can keep sub-categories within plastic wallets inside with labels so you can easily find what you are looking for.
5. Filing cabinets and hanging files
If you want to be able to keep paperwork hidden from prying eyes, then a filing cabinet or lockable cabinet can be useful. There are lockable cabinets such as this one which can hold A4 lever arch files or box files. There are even filing cabinets which have narrow drawers. If you don’t have too much paperwork you can use each drawer for a category, keeping the most recent paperwork on top. Alternatively, you can use plastic wallets for dividing sub-categories in each drawer.
For other filing cabinets you can place documents directly into hanging folders (aka suspension files). Or you may prefer to file documents into regular folders and place them into the hanging files or just place them straight into the drawers (although they will flop around). We do not recommend using these kinds of filing cabinets to store big a4 lever arch files. They will be difficult to get out to file away paperwork.
When using hanging folders in the file cabinet drawers, make sure the side hooks catch on the drawers. Hang the folders with the tabs facing out. The folders have a plastic pocket (a 'tab') which lets you insert or remove labels as you see fit. You can insert the tab anywhere along the hanging folder, allowing for customisation.
You may want to arrange in alphabetical order or by category e.g. all your financial paperwork folders together. Different coloured hanging files can differentiate between categories as well. For example, use green hanging files for all financial paperwork.
Need a helping hand?
We hope that helps you to decide which filing system will work best for you! If you need a hand reducing your paperwork or deciding on a paperwork storage solution, find and book one of our amazing team of organisers to help you here: https://www.declutterondemand.com/organisers/.