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Even my paperwork has paperwork!

A word that strikes fear into the hearts of many...paperwork, it builds up quickly and feels like such a mammoth task to get through it all! This post deals with two things, how to deal with new things as they arrive and how to get through any existing plies. Don't let your existing pile of paperwork stop you from putting a new process in place. If you kick off with a new approach it will minimise what you are adding to the pile and hopefully in time you will feel ready to tackle the back log.

Identify theft protection stamp

Paperwork Process

✔ Always open your mail when it arrives; make a quick decision if it is something that needs action / more time to review or if it can be thrown away. If it can be thrown away then do it! This is where an 'identify theft protection stamp' (as pictured) comes in useful as you can just roll over it and then throw it in the recycling! Alternatively you can shred it (but you may not be able to recycle it then). If you think it needs more attention put it to one side in a designated spot / file / folder to do in a batch.

✔ Once a week (or every other week depending on how much you have) set 15 - 30 mins aside to review and action. Once you have done that, either throw away or pop it somewhere to file (if you need to keep it).

✔ Once a month (or every other month) put aside 15 mins to pick up your filing pile and put it away. You don't need a filing cabinet, you can use a folder with plastic inserts or a concertina file it just depends on how much you feel you need to keep.

✔ Once a year give yourself half an hour to go through your filing, throw away all the things that have expired leaving you with just what you need. This should keep your paperwork to a minimum.

Existing Paperwork

There is no shortcut to getting through any existing paperwork, the only thing you can do is give yourself a small pile to do every so often (rather than trying to sit down and do it all in one go). You will get distracted by things that spark memories and it will feel scary to get rid of things, but your main goal should be to slim down to the absolute essentials.

Filing cabinet

What you need to keep:

✔ Passport

✔ Council tax bill is always useful for proof of address - but again if you don't have one or loose it you can request another one.

✔ House deeds / a copy of your mortgage statement.

✔ If you file your own tax return you need seven years of financial documents / if not then three is the maximum.

✔ You might find it useful to keep hold of a document to remind you of your policy number etc (so one gas bill, or life / car insurance document).

✔ Keep receipts for a month in case you want to return something (but if you use the system above most of these shouldn't make it into your filing).

What you can get rid of:

✔ Bills and bank statements are available online (so you can throw those away; if you ever need copies for a mortgage application etc, you can request them).

✔ And pretty much everything else!

Finally, look at everything that comes through your door; do you need paper versions of your bank statements of credit cards bills etc? If you can reduce the amount that comes into your house in the first place, you will be onto a win already! So request to go paperless, opt out of mailing lists etc.

I know it can feel frightening looking at a pile of paperwork to sort and eventually throw away; I can assure you every client I work with feels like this as we stand over the recycling bin but they always send me a message a day later expressing how liberated and light they feel. So go ahead, lighten your load and reduce your paper mountain.

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