How to organise your paperwork 
“Oh the joy of paperwork” said no parent ever.
If you’re like most of us, you will possibly have
- a pile of post and letters from school on the breakfast bar or kitchen counter,
- a pile on the dining table (things moved from the breakfast bar or kitchen counter when you’ve sifted through them),
- a pile in the vicinity of your laptop (things moved from dining table when you’ve sifted through them), and
- a pile in an over flowing box (bought in an attempt to get organised) to be “filed”; and let’s not forget
- the pot of pens that don’t work. The one you always grab a pen from, remember it doesn’t work and put it straight back in there!
There will, of course, be additional pieces of paper stuck to the fridge, sat next to the sofa and by your bed; not forgetting the letters and notes stuck in various handbags or coat pockets after you’ve been to yet another appointment.
As you wade through the various piles searching for that elusive appointment letter or report, you swear “I’ll get round to sorting this one day” but that one day never comes. Something else takes priority, or you are just so exhausted after being awake for most of the previous night, that all you have the energy to do is curl up on the sofa to watch Homes under the Hammer or Jeremy Kyle.
So where do you begin?
The first thing – Don’t Panic. Katie and I have shared images of our own collections of paperwork so that you can truly appreciate we are in this with you.
The very thought of beginning can be so daunting; in fact the sheer size of the project can put you off even starting. I had put this off so much, it was starting to take over the house and to be honest, I was really worrying about what needed doing. There was so much paper, I was sure each piece brought a piece of work with it; so “Homes under the Hammer” and “Loose Women” suddenly seemed much more appealing.
New Year, New Beginnings
As one of my goals for this year is to be better organised, I know that means putting in a bit of prep work now. So join me as I work through the chaos.
We can do this. Honestly.
This week, aim for just 15 minutes a day. Set a timer. None of us have lots of spare time but we can all squeeze 15 minutes in somewhere. In that 15 minutes, grab a pile of paperwork and sort it into new piles (see, more piles of paperwork, that’s not too difficult is it?)
- one pile for paperwork that needs action(appointment writing into diary, form to be completed, phone call to make, email to send, etc)
- one pile for filing (IEPs, school reports, health appointment reports, DLA or benefit awards)
- one pile for shredding or burning (old appointment letters, take away menus you know you will never use, envelopes, out of date coupons, etc)
- one pile for anything to do with finances – receipts, bank statements, DLA renewals, child tax credits, Direct Payment – anything which involves money in any shape or form. This also includes user guides and guarantees.
- one pile of things to read (magazines, catalogues, newsletters, publications, leaflets you have taken away from meetings but never looked at, etc)
Do this for 10 minutes each day and then spend 5 minutes going through the paperwork for shredding or burning. Check if it contains names, telephone numbers, email addresses that may be of use. If so, add them to a contact list – we have produced a download if you wish to use that.
You may also find it useful to write down when appointments were (if your diary isn’t up to date) and when the next appointment is due. Eventually, these can be added to a list of “to chase” but for now, again, we have produced a quick download for you to use – just click on the image to go to the pdf.
Piles of paper
You should eventually have 5 piles of paper (or 4 if you have already shredded the ones you no longer need) and one sheet with contact details plus one with appointments.
Keep these to one side, safely out of the reach of children who scribble on anything and everything – usually with an indelible marker. Each day, go through another pile of paper (just grab a chunk every time you have a spare 5 minutes and keep adding to the “to do pile”, the “filing pile”, the “finance” pile and adding dates to the sheet of old appointment dates and contact details to the contact sheet.
If you spend 15 minutes each day doing this, you should be left with 4 structured piles of paper, but if it takes more than one week, guess what? You are not alone, so stop worrying. If it takes two weeks or one month, just keep going.
One last quick job
Get that pot of pens and an old envelope. Check which pens work and throw away the ones that have given up the ink forever!
Do you have a tip?
If you are the Paperwork King or Queen and have any tips for those of us who are not quite so gifted, share your top tips with us. Any ideas or suggestions will be hugely appreciated.
Next week, we will look at what to do with the “to do” pile. Don’t worry, the filing is on hold for another week – relax! Don’t forget to sign up for updates direct to your inbox so you don’t miss the next instalment.