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Things you can do today so you can start feeling on top of your paperwork

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your ever-growing mountain of paperwork?

Is filing always on your to do list but one of your least favourite admin tasks?

I’m imagining many of you said “yes” to the above questions and whilst you might think it doesn’t matter if your paperwork is more ‘shoved on a shelf’ than filed in an organised manner, think about that “what if I were hit by a bus moment.”

Without wishing to sound over-dramatic, if suddenly something awful were to happen to you, the last thing you’d want your loved ones to have to do is to need to trawl through piles and piles of paperwork looking for passwords, PIN numbers, bank account details etc. Afterall, they’re the ones that are going to have to close accounts, notify people etc, so why not make it straight forward and as stress free as possible. Especially at such a dreadful time.

That aside, don’t forget that having your paperwork in order also makes your life far easier too – no more searching for ‘a recent utility bill’, or your car insurance documents – in fact, no more searching for anything if everything is filed properly!

I’m not suggesting that you tackle everything in one go, the key is to simply make a start.

Here are a few tips to get you started on the road to being on top of your paperwork.

1. Make sure you have one place to file everything - it could be a filing cabinet, a concertina file, a box - anything that works for you, but the key thing is to have one place for all your paperwork.

2. Check the location of your existing filing - is the filing box/cabinet accessible? This is really important because when new paperwork arrives you should be able to file it easily. Don’t give yourself an excuse to have a ‘holding place’ for your paperwork - file it straight away.

3. Gather together any paperwork in the house that is currently 'unfiled'. Look in cupboards, drawers, surfaces and put it all together. Start going through it and create 3 piles:

a) Action/urgent pile (for all things that you need to deal with right away) - hopefully this will be a small pile!

b) Filing (for all paperwork that has been dealt with and just needs to be filed)

c) Pending (for all non-urgent paperwork that is not ready to be filed just yet).

There will probably be a shredding/recycling pile too!

Once you have 3 piles, go through the Action/Urgent pile straight away - and deal with it. Then start sorting through the Filing pile.

Group the paperwork into sections, e.g. utility bills, bank related paperwork, mortgage/rental, pets etc. Once you've done this, it can be put away (as you file, review the paperwork that has already been filed - is it still valid, do you still have that particular bank account etc).

TIP: Be realistic with your expectations - i.e. if you have piles and piles of paperwork that needs sorting out, give yourself time to go through it - saying you'll do it all in an hour is likely to be unrealistic and even more likely that you'll not finish sorting it all out!

TIP: Once you have your piles of paperwork sorted, whenever you have 15 or 20 minutes do a little bit more - little and often - until you've been through it all. These methods make filing it really straight forward.

TIP: Once the filing has been done, keep on top of it - anything that comes in to the house should go into the action pile (to be sorted out asap), be filed straight away, or the pending pile (still needs to be actioned, but not urgent).


I mentioned the “hit by a bus moment” earlier. It pays to have paperwork in order, not only to relieve your stress so that you can live your life to the full, but to go a little way to ease the stress for those you leave behind when you die.

On that note…. (!), I’m so excited to announce that my lovely friend and colleague (Tracy Hammond) and I have written a book together – we’re very close to the launch date, so watch this space for more news.

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