How to organise your life like a pro

Got piles of unrelated documents shoved in a drawer, or an overflowing inbox on your laptop? Professional organiser Vicky Silverthorn explains her foolproof system for getting on top of it all – for good

Allocate enough time

It’s important that you dedicate proper time to the task of organising your documents. Although it may take longer than you’d like to work through everything, breaking the task down into chunks could help speed things up and lead to a better result. A good time-management tip is to collect every single bit of paperwork that needs dealing with, then find a space where you can lay things out without being disturbed – the floor in a spare bedroom, for instance, or on an unused table.

Be systematic in how you organise

Go through your documents or emails methodically. If it’s physical documents you’re trying to organise, place them all in comprehensive piles. Put Post-it notes marked with the category on top of each one, so you don’t get muddled. Have a large bin bag ready for unrequired paperwork that can then be recycled. Always use a shredder or rolling identity theft prevention stamp for anything confidential. If it’s your email inbox you're organising, create label folders for people, organisations or departments so you can separate email messages by these senders.

Invest in storage

Anything from a filing cabinet to a document folder will do. Label each drawer or section clearly – ‘Bank’, ‘Mortgage’, ‘Car’, ‘Health’, ‘Receipts’, etc. File paperwork in the appropriate places, with the oldest at the bottom. If anything needs to stand out, place in a coloured plastic file organiser. Have a separate ‘Action’ tray or box file for anything urgent. This is the perfect time to check your car or house insurance renewal dates and compare premiums, for instance. Deal with that whenever you get a moment, filing in the appropriate drawer once you’re done.

Stay organised going forward

Now that you’ve got an organised system in place, maintain your organisation efforts going forward. If you’ve got yourself a storage organiser, everything that arrives will now either go straight in the Action tray, or is filed in its appropriate drawer. Keep only the essential paperwork or documents – recycle anything you don’t need to keep for reference. Periodically, go through each drawer: if one fills up, go through the bottom half of the paperwork. If you no longer need something, get rid of it! For emails, make sure you continue to move messages into the folders you created for separate senders.

Know what to save

Anything that is over a year old but you think you need to keep, can be stored in a separate box labelled ‘Archive’. If you’re not sure what documents to keep or for how long, check for guidelines, or ask your service provider.

This rule also applies to emails, with most email services providing an archive function. It’s worth reiterating how to best organise your inbox. With so much official documentation being sent via the internet these days, emails can be even more overwhelming to deal with than paperwork, especially if they’re not clearly labelled.

Invest some time creating dedicated mailboxes and folders for documents – rename them if necessary so they are instantly recognisable – and file systematically when they ping into your inbox. If you have time, create a spreadsheet as an at-a-glance guide to what there is, and what needs attention.

Reap the financial benefits

Organising your life can feel like a big task, but once it’s done and you have the right organisation system set up, you can easily keep on top of bills, subscriptions and important paperwork. If organising the bills aspect of your paperwork reveals just how much you’ve been spending on things like utilities, credit cards or insurance, consider this the perfect time to get your finances in order. One aspect where Together Mutual can possibly help is with home insurance. Consider comparing and renewing your house insurance to make sure you are getting the best deal.

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