I answered a question about dealing with household paperwork in the Planned & Present facebook group today from a member who was finding it a challenge and I know have emails I am yet to respond to on this question and questions from the reader survey, so I thought I would share my answer on the blog here too!
My basic philosophy for dealing with household paperwork is to keep it simple as possible and as minimal as possible. My key strategies are:
Don’t have too many storage areas or fancy filing items
The more area and fancy paper holders you have to store things, the more you will store! I did a Kikki-K worship on organisation a few years ago and bought some beautiful files, folders, etc. After about six months I began to realised that what was in those files had remained unchanged pretty much since I had set them up. Amongst other things I had set up a file for each child, but the issue was that this area was upstairs and out of the way from the day to day activity of the school life paperwork, so not very useful!
My home office upstairs had a huge amount of storage and I used it – filled it with stuff for home and work and I was the perfect example of the more room you have the more you will keep!
The photo above and below show what used to be my home office plus you don’t see all the cupboards that were full of papers and documents that I had collected over many years.
About 18 months ago I handed over that room to the kids and I just have a small desk downstairs which contains all my home and work paperwork!
The home office was great when I was working evenings and weekends when the kids were little. It was easier if they couldn’t see me and could just be with their dad. Now though I work school hours and I love my smaller space. It takes so much less time to dust, keep clean and organised and I have to think super hard about any paperwork I want to keep, because I simply don’t have the luxury of space any more – I can’t just shove it away and think I will make a decision on what to do with it later!
Go electronic where I can
You may be receiving paper bills, statements, catalogues etc out of legacy. It is worth while taking the time to fill in the paperwork or call the relevant companies and switch to electronic versions if you still need them, better still opt out if you don’t need them at all!
Covert paper to electronic
There is some paperwork that makes it into the house, regardless of how well you have tried to head it off at the pass! I am a big advocate for converting paper documents into electronic documents and recycling the paper version. There are many apps out there that you can use to do this, but I use the Scannable App which works in with Evernote. You can read more about that in these posts:
I work on the basis that I need to keep very little in actual hard copy.
There is still a fair amount of paperwork that comes home with the kids. It was with much excitement this year at one of the secondary schools that I could complete excursion notices and camp forms online! Hopefully in the not too distant future, there will be almost no paper work coming home from school!
But while there is still paperwork coming home from school in our house, the kids know where to put that each day after school (space on kitchen bench) and I action it when I do the kids lunch boxes at night. Note that I said space on the kitchen bench? I used to have a rack for papers to go into, but I have found if you have somewhere for paperwork to sit, sit it will. I like to have the benches clear of a night before I go to bed, so that is my trigger to complete the paperwork even though I don’t feel like doing it!
With the primary school paperwork often I will need to keep a slip from the note, e.g. from an excursion note which details what they have to wear and take, so it goes on to a bulldog clip on the fridge. This means the kids can read this on the day they have their activity and make sure they have everything they need and we arrive at the right time.
Touch it once
Double handling paperwork is a big time waster. When the kids come in from school and put down their notes, I am sometimes tempted to see what they are about, but unless I am prepared to action the paperwork I won’t handle it.
Through out my week I schedule time for what I call home admin. That is where for example I will go through and read all the school newsletters adding dates to my calendar and filling in forms as I need to. I will also pay any bills I need to, go through home admin related emails, book/plan kids activities if needed etc.
My husband likes to keep them for us personally and I have to keep them for my business. We have tried a few different systems but have come back to one we used a few years ago. We literally use a shoe box which is divided into two sections home and business and my husband goes through these once a month (yay it is him and not me!). Personal receipts are either recycled or kept if they are for more expensive items or warranty purposes. My husband scans these receipts and puts them in a Dropbox Folder we have for warranties etc. Stores seem happy to take scans of receipts, I have used them before to get a faulty item exchanged.
We are super fortunate to have no health issues with our kids, so other than their Child and Maternal Health Booklet and Immunisation Certificates we have very little medical paperwork to deal with. My approach to this would be to scan what I could and keep a folder for each child as needed. If you have a child with health issues I would love to hear your experience with this – please leave any tips or suggestions in the comments below!
Important documents folder
We do have an important documents folder to keep important paper work like birth certificates, baptism certificates, passports etc. But I have found that other than those type of documents, there really isn’t that much I need to keep in hard copy. The folder is separated so each member of the family has their own section, making it easier to find the right documents.
So how do you deal with household paperwork?
Want more tips and plans to help you get organised at home, so you can spend more time with the family?
Over my 18 years as a parent I have learned a tremendous amount and tried many things. Some have worked, some haven’t, some needed tweaking before they were quite right but through failing, learning, persisting and developing, I have created many plans and processes that have made our family life so much easier. Lots of this I have shared on the blog, but I wanted a way where I could collate all the key ideas into one place, in a logical order that other parents could follow and benefit from my hindsight.
The result is Planned & Present! A seven week e-course to take you from feeling our of control and overwhelmed to feeling planned and present. It is a step-by-step guide on how to organise the chaos of family life while still leaving space to enjoy it.
With the drive of wanting to be organised it can be easy to forget why we want to be organised – to be able to spend more time enjoying our family. The course teaches you how to establish plans and processes for those repetitive tasks of family life, allowing you to be more effective and efficient with your time, so you can be more present with your family.
Planned and Present includes seven in-depth lessons, for you to work through. And with lifetime access to the course, it’s okay if you fall behind.
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