How to make short work of your paperwork: A decluttering guide

When it comes to paperwork, everyone is in the same boat. How long do I keep it? What do I keep? What do I do with it? How can I organise it? Don’t worry and don’t stress out, we’re here to help.


Marie Kondo it up


Kondo is queen when it comes to decluttering. Her simple philosophy, ditch whatever doesn’t spark joy in you, is rock solid. Paperwork of course won’t necessarily ever spark joy in you, instead focus on what is essential. Most of the documents you have lying around are unnecessary, if you haven’t used them in the last year, you probably won’t in the next either. Research suggests that 80% of the papers we keep are never looked at again.


Don’t bin everything

Man throwing papers in bin

Okay, so there are certain things that you definitely cannot and should not throw away. Think about how easy to replace a document is when deciding whether to chuck it. Just to be clear, birth and marriage certificates, copies of wills, Premium Bond certificates, share certificates, mortgage papers and the like are all worth hanging on to. Trust us on this one and save yourself a lot of pain – we speak from experience!

If you get your bank statement every month (and probably also have it saved online) you don’t need to hang on to a backlog spanning the last 10 years. Likewise for insurance, if the policy has ended, bin the paper!


taxing work

Pile of documents/papers

Tax, don’t you just love it. It’s a paperwork dream (or nightmare). Most of all, it’s also a tricky one to figure out in terms of what you need to keep and what not. Payslips, P45s and so on should be kept for at least 22 months from the end of the tax year they relate to. So, as the tax year finishes on April 5, you’ll want to keep your relevant paperwork until at least January 31 two years later. Also note, if you are self-employed, you must keep your records for at least five years after the 31 January submission deadline of the relevant tax year.  That’s advice coming straight from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), so don’t take it lightly!


Go digital

Someone using laptop

You’re still receiving bank statements by post?! It’s time to move into the digital era. Most banks now offer to store your statements online, where you can always access and download them, in case you need them for anything important. This’ll save you tons of storage space, as monthly bank statements can take up folders and folders of room.

There are a lot of energy providers and banks that operate online only and are perfect for cutting down paperwork.

Also whenever you have to fill out an application or make an inquiry, check if you can do it online, saving your desk from wholly unnecessary clutter!


store wisely

Pile of documents/papers

So, we’ve established there are some things you cannot chuck. Identify these documents, and rather than having them scattered around your desk or office, create a dedicated area in your home for these documents. A small drawer perhaps. Get all the paperwork in order and sorted alphabetically ideally, then get it out of sight!



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