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Despite the rise in companies providing statements and paperwork digitally, most people continue to receive vast amounts of mail to their homes each year. Keeping on top of paperwork is one of those tasks that we forget to prioritise.
Not dealing with post when it arrives or not sifting through old paperwork can create a towering stack of admin for you to work through. We all have that drawer. A place where we stuff in our unopened mail, take-out menus and paperwork that needs to be dealt with and filed. In our busy lives, we put this off until another day as it not usually anyone’s top priority.
Think about how organised your important paperwork is and what would happen in an emergency or death. How easy would it be for someone else to make sense of your home life and locate your paperwork? If you feel overwhelmed and disorganised, someone else will have an even harder time trying to make sense of it all whilst dealing with a crisis.
Consider how you would cope if you needed to quickly pick up the pieces on behalf of a family member. If their admin life is organised chaos, you will have a long road ahead with trying to find what you need, before you can begin to help.
We share our top 10 tips for organising your home and important paperwork. Completing this on a regular basis can help you be prepared for whatever the future may bring.
Tip #1 Create a system
First you need to decide on a system that is going to work for you. If it becomes an easy and logical process, you are more likely to maintain this moving forward.
It may be helpful to purchase a folder with document dividers that you can slot documents in to. The Sunset Plan has a digital vault service to provide you with structure for arranging your physical and digital paperwork.
Break down the types of admin you receive into sections. Everyone’s sections will depend on your own circumstances. As a guide, your sections may include finance, utilities, household information, legal information, insurances, pensions and investments, vehicles, family information and employment details.
Tip #2 Gather all the paperwork in your home
Go around your home and collect all of your mail and important paperwork. Organise these documents in to the sections you have decided and divide your paperwork in to its relevant section.
Now take each section in turn such as insurance documents. Place what needs to be retained in your filing system in date order. Documents you no longer need should be placed to one side.
If you have lots of paperwork to organise, don’t try to complete the whole process in one day. Set aside 15 minutes each week to work through this until you have your filing system organised.
Tip #3 Separate your important documents from your day to day household file
Keeping your important documents separate from your day-to-day admin file can help avoid them being thrown out by mistake. Store your family’s birth, marriage, adoption and death certificates along with property deeds and passports in a different folder and location.
Make sure these important documents are stored securely. If you have a lockable safe in your home, this may be an ideal place to keep them. Consider other risk factors such as fires and floods. If your storage container can be fire proof and documents kept off the floor, this can help save them, should the worst happen.
If possible, make scanned copies of these documents and securely store them electronically. This way you can easily produce copies if you were to lose the originals.
Tip #4 Inform people where to locate information
Let your loved ones know how and where to locate your paperwork. If you are using a lockable safe or drawer, make sure someone knows where the key or access code is when they need it. If you live alone, tell someone you trust where your information is kept.
Tip #5 Organise your online documents
If you receive lots of online paperwork, create sub-folders in your email inbox. This way you can quickly locate documents when needed.
Remember to review and delete expired paperwork online such as old renewal quotes or policies that have since expired.
If you have electronic copies of documents that other people may need access to, create an online shared file of this information. Ensure electronic files are password protected.
Tip #6 How long should you keep paperwork for?
How long you keep documents for will depend on what the document it is. Legal, financial and business information may need to be retained for 7 years. Documentation relating to your children, dependents or medical conditions may need to be kept for longer.
If it is something that has since expired, there is no real value to keeping that statement. Take for example TV licence renewal statements. In reality, you only need to keep the latest statement that shows your account details. If for any reason you need to reproduce old statements, the company would be able to use your account details to locate your information and produce older statements as needed.
If you no longer have an item but still have paperwork relating to it, then clearly that no longer needs to be retained.
Tip #7 Magazines and newspapers
If you like to keeping old cuttings from magazines or newspapers because there is something in there you like, why not cut out the article and create a scrap book instead? The rest of the paper or magazine can then be discarded.
If you have lots of old magazines, ask yourself if you will ever read them again. If not, can you pass these on to someone else who may find them useful – such as a local club? You may find that the same content is online and can be located instantly – without needing to clutter your home further.
Tips #8 Securely dispose of your paperwork
When you have a pile of paperwork that needs to be discarded, think of your data and security. Use a home shredder or use a confidential waste disposal service.
If the items don’t contain any personal or sensitive data such as newspapers, magazines and blank envelopes, make sure to recycle where possible.
Tip #9 Opt out of unwanted mail
Do you receive promotional brochures from companies that you signed up to years ago? If this communication is no longer relevant, drop them an email and ask to be removed from their mailing list. Again you may find it easier to access their brochures or information online instead.
Request to stop unsolicited mail, if you want to reduce what is coming in to your home.
If you regularly receive post that is addressed to former occupants, mark them ‘Return to sender’ and place them back in the mail. Hopefully the senders will take action and update their records. If you always throw it out, the senders will not know they are no longer there and will probably continue to send that mail indefinitely.
Tip #10 Moving forward
Now you have an organised system in place, keep it up! Open and file incoming mail on a regular basis. Take an hour each year to go through the file and discard any older items that are no longer needed.
Practical end of life planning resources
Want to find out more about practical end of life planning? The Sunset Plan provides affordable resources that give structure and support for planning ahead.
Organising your home paperwork on a regular basis can help you feel in control. It can give you peace of mind knowing that it will help others one day.
Do you know someone who could use some help to get motivated and organise their home life? Why not share this post on social media to help them get started? It may just be the nudge they need to get organised.