7 steps to streamline your paperwork

Man doing papaerwork

Jenna Meade

Posted October 11, 2021

If you have a growing pile of papers in your home, don’t stress and start sorting.

Every home has one. Whether it's in your pantry, on your entry table or tucked away in a drawer; bills, receipts, pay slips, invitations and birthday cards (from last year) accumulate into a menacing pile of paperwork.  

Not only will a well-organised filing system boost your household’s productivity and efficiency, but it will also cut down on time spent rifling through the library of slips on your fridge. 

Beat the temptation to continue ignoring the problem. You’re only seven clutter-free steps away from reclaiming your paper records. 

Checklist for getting on top of your paperwork


Go digital

The best way to cut down on paper is to stop getting it in the first place. Contact your banks, insurance agencies and employers and ask for digital copies of your statements and accounts to be emailed to you instead. 

You can then easily archive or assign them to a dedicated folder in your inbox or your computer’s drive. Be sure to also set up an automatic backup system on an external hard drive or to cloud-based storage.

Assemble the paper trail 

Start by gathering all your paperwork. Whether they be household manuals, old receipts, permission slips, birth certificates or bills, every scrap and shred is about to find a new home. 

Look beyond the obvious places, and dig a little deeper into your wallets, the glovebox and the household’s junk drawer. Clear a large space (the dining table will work well) so you can start to sort through your stacks. 

woman sitting at desk in front of laptop and calculator and documents

Going digital is the best way to stop paper documents stacking up. 

Divide and conquer

Assign each piece to one of four categories:

Action: for documents that need attention, such as fines or invitations

Archive: to be stored for future reference, like receipts and statements 

Household: for papers used to run your daily life, including recipes and coupons

Waste: for documents that need to either be recycled or shredded.

Your filing system is now starting to take shape!

Introduce an inbox

Streamline your stacks by setting up a central spot for your incoming files. Here you’ll house mail, bills, invitations and receipts in one dedicated place before you categorise them.

Make it easy to access, such as in the entryway or on a bookshelf, and let everyone in the house know where the inbox is. Go through this pile regularly and again assign each paper to one of the four categories.

Execute your actions

Keep on top of the documents demanding your attention. Use a clear folder to store your ‘action files’ so you can see what’s inside and leave it out in the open so you’re reminded to check it often.

Shred or archive each piece of paper when you’ve finished. Your goal is to keep this folder as empty as possible.

Couple doing paperwork

Divide and conquer: Have specific categories for different streams and divide the jobs between you. 


Set up a household folder

Use a binder to house all your household essentials. You’ll likely refer to this often, so it’s best to keep it accessible for all, like inside a kitchen cupboard or drawer. Plastic pockets are helpful for separating categories. Use them to section off recipes, manuals and coupons.

Arrange your archive

Firstly, follow your digital lead and digitise documents if you can. Scan, or use your camera or a phone app to copy the document, then upload it to your computer. Name it using a consistent naming system so you’re able to easily retrieve it later.

Depending on the amount of your leftover physical papers, an expanding file or box may suffice. Or, if you have a plethora of papers, a traditional filing cabinet may work best. 

Simplify by using manila folders to organise into categories and sub-categories. Be sure to house precious items, like birth certificates and passports in a protective storage box or safe.