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Organising papers.

Welcome to week 7 of Tidy 2020. Last week we went through our paperwork and decided what to keep and what to discard. This week we are looking at how we organise the remainder and how to keep on top of paperwork so that it doesn’t build up again.

Papers to be actioned; Once you have been through your papers, you may well have a pile of things that need to be dealt with. Deal with them NOW. In the future, it is helpful to have a tray where they can be collected to be dealt with, but do put aside time every week/fortnight/month to deal with them.

Papers that need accessing; for me, this is paperwork like the pony passports. They have to be taken with me whenever the ponies leave the yard in transport and produced for the vet every time they are vaccinated etc. Other examples would be the red books that children in the UK have their details kept in up until they are 5, or certificates for your car’s MOT. You have to find the right place to keep these! Some of ours are kept in a filing cabinet with, but others, such as the pony passports, are kept in a drawer where they are more easily accessible rather than trooping through the house in muddy boots. A single space to gather together papers for your tax return is a good idea too.

Important papers; there are some papers that you need to keep pretty much forever. Birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports etc. I like to keep these, together with the most recent insurance certificates, in a grab folder in a safe place. So that in case of emergency, this whole folder can just be grabbed and everything in it is ready. The folder is waterproof (but sadly not fireproof!). Whilst I’m hopefully unlikely to ever need to do an emergency evacuation here in rural Aberdeenshire (on the top of a hill, so no flooding!), I’ve lived in some very unsettled places in my life and a grab folder has been useful to have.

Papers for archiving; These are important papers, such as the deeds for your house (although many people store these somewhere safe such as the bank!), certificates for things like damp work or building regs that might need to be produced in the future, but really don’t need to be cluttering up your easily accessed things. These need to be stored somewhere that is safe and dry, but can be put away somewhere like the top of a cupboard. I would always hesitate storing these in the attic for fear of damp.

Papers to be kept for a specific length of time; you’ve filed your tax return and you are hugely unlikely to need your paperwork again, but you just might, so you need to hang on to it until you are out of the tax liability phase. With this paperwork, I like to gather it all together and place it in a file that is marked with the date that it can be destroyed. There is no need for divisions within the folder, although it’s helpful if the paperwork is ordered in type and date before it’s put in, just to make it easier if you do need to access it. Once it is all gathered and filed, it can be stored somewhere out of the way and when it comes to the date, it can be destroyed without needing to go through it again. This can be stored in an attic or basement.

Future papers; Right, so your papers are now organised, your bills are up to date and you’re feeling (rightly) pretty pleased with yourself. How are you going to keep it that way? First, move as much as you can online! UK residents can follow this advice from the CAB:

Unsubscribe from catalogues, and open your post over the recycling. Keep a pair of shredding scissors by the recycling to deal with any information that you don’t want landing in the bin. Open all of your mail every day and see what needs to be acted upon and what needs to be filed.