Not everybody needs a home office, but everybody needs an organised office system. An organised office system is a way of taking control of your household paperwork, with an efficient filing system that cuts clutter and stress from your hectic life. An organised office will help you become more aware of your home finances and going-ons – something that will save you money (and headaches) when it comes to switching suppliers, finding correct documents or working out costs.
Here are some helpful organisation tips to help you run your own organised office, whether you have room for a desk or not.
A console table (aka a hall table) is perfect for organising your mail as soon as you walk through the door.
Put the Non-Urgent paperwork to sort in one of the two drawers in the hall table and put keepsakes (postcards/take-away menus) in the other drawer.
Pop the magazines/newspapers into a magazine rack or on the coffee table in the lounge. Rubbish is thrown in the recycle paper bin straight away.
Deal with the bills straight away and leave the cheques on the console table so you remember to bank them next time you’re on your way out. Alternatively set aside bills on the console table to sort at a particular time – make sure this is the same time every day/week so that you’re less likely to forget.
Set aside the same day every week/month in which you take out the Non-Urgent mail and sort through. This is where a desk and/or a filing cabinet comes in handy.
Investing in a filing cabinet is a great way to free up space in your home office, and helps ensure your important documents are not lost or stolen. Here you can store everything from your birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports and car titles.
Once you have your stand alone filing cabinet (or deep drawer in a desk), start the business of filling it! If you just throw paperwork in there you might as well have not brought a filing cabinet in the first place! Use hanging folders for main categories and subdivide. Come up with a system that organises your files best for you, whether that’s colour coded, alphabetical or numerical. Here’s an example:
This includes all important documents such as house deeds, passports, payslips, tax documents, pension statements etc. Keep Tax Returns forever if you have the space, if not then chuck after seven years. HMRC recommends keeping payslips for at least 22 months but if you have the space keeping for 7 years means it’ll be easier if you ever have to back-date. Keep all your P45s indefinitely as this proves any pension/national insurance payments you’ve made.
Subdivide for each account you have. Note, doing most of your banking online will help keep your paper statements from overflowing!
Subdivide into each utility/product Water/Gas/Electric/Boiler/Broadband/Car/Mobile/Gym etc. It’s recommended to keep utilities bills for at least a year in order to track if your spending too much (or being overcharged!) on utility usage. Keep them for longer if you have the space in order to back-date payments.
It’s up to you how much control you want over your spending. Subdivide for Grocery Shop/Restaurant/Holidays/Clothes/Electronics etc. so you can keep and easily find those pesky ’30 days return’ slips, guarantees and instructions for various appliances. Keeping receipts also helps you mange your finances if you’d like to know how much you spend every month/year. You can set aside an hour every quarters to get rid of any out-of-date warranties and bin anything you no longer need to keep for comparison.
Here you can keep personal letters/postcards, record of achievements, certificates and other qualifications.
Having a desk, preferably with your pc or laptop means you can do all your online banking, shopping (or any other household chore that can be done digitally) within easy reach of your files. Whether you have a filing cabinet next to your desk or you use your desk drawers, you’ll be able to work on tedious to-dos with an unbreakable flow. Avoid the stress and annoyance of filling forms online only to find you don’t have the correct information at hand. This disrupts workflow and encourages you to give up all together as you try to remember where social security numbers or the postcode of your last house or even the correct date you left a job a many moons ago.
You also waste valuable time whenever you have to root through your desk or get up and walk to your filing cabinet to search for supplies you use regularly. Even if your desk is relatively clean to start with, it won’t stay that way for long. Every time you pull out a supply you need and then leave it on your desk, you’ll be adding to the clutter. How to fix this? Always keep your most important tools close by. Put up a shelf behind or beside your desk to store your essentials, including calendar (unless you have a digital one). You can also fit your top desk drawer with a caddy tray or other organiser or small containers in which to hold your pens pencils, rubbers paper clips, sticky notes, tape etc. Before you run out and buy a ton of stationary though – make sure you throw out any pens that are broken or out of ink.
Hopefully these tips will help you create a more organised office. Please send in pictures of your office ‘bits’ whether it’s a hall table, filing cabinet or desk to firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to see how you keep your home organised!