Get organised

Not coping with your paper trail? Here are 12 top tips for implementing a simple, yet functional home-filing system that works for your needs

Home office

Designer: André James

1. Let’s face it, nobody enjoys filing. If you feel inundated by piles of paperwork and unopened mail, it’s best to decide on a dedicated time for admin, say Monday evenings. This way you won’t fall behind again.

2. Be sure to have a specific space where you can keep daily mail until you file it – and no, not the kitchen counter. Keep an eye out for a functional mail rack or be creative: a vintage toast rack works like a charm as a mail organiser.

3. Pretty boxes help to keep shelves in a home office tidy and provide much-needed storage for items like household manuals. It’s a good idea to staple each appliance’s warrantee and receipt to its manual so you will have them handy when needed. Go through storage boxes regularly and discard manuals for household appliances that you no longer have.

4. When using storage boxes for other paperwork, label each box according to its purpose. Hobby shops offer numerous attractive solutions, like mini-blackboards or slide-in label frames that you can easily update as needed.

5. An old-fashioned steel filing cabinet, where you can simply drop bills and receipts into dedicated folders, really lightens the admin load if you have plenty of paperwork. When you get around to filing, they are sorted already. Look out for them at office supply stores or pick one up in a junk shop and spray-paint it.

6. Colour blocking can go a long way when it comes to filing. Colour-coded files also lighten your admin load – say blue for banking (because you don’t want to be in the red); red for creative ideas and magazine tear sheets; green for medical bills, etc.

7. If you keep receipts for expense claims or tax returns, it’s best to deal with them on a daily basis. Empty your wallet of receipts at the end of the day, put a paper clip on the day’s slips and stick them in a small container – it can be anything from a glass jar to a pretty box – or stick them on a sharp spike. This way they will always be in a chronological order when you do your weekly filing.

8. Magazines tend to take over. We know you love your Garden and Home, but try to keep only recent copies in a nifty magazine rack; for the rest rather keep tear sheets of inspirational features in a file.

9. These days cables, from cellphone and GPS chargers to camera cables, are as much part of a home office as paper. For tangle-free storage put each cable in a zip-loc bag in a dedicated drawer or labelled storage box.

10. Cut down on clutter by mounting contemporary pigeonholes or floating shelves above your desk. A pinboard can also help you to keep track of bills to be paid and letters that require action.

11. If your home office is in an open-plan living space, it’s a good idea to have sliding doors that can conceal messy shelves. Alternatively, invest in a fold-away screen.

12. Personalise your office with favourite objects and framed photos – having an attractive work space makes dealing with admin so much easier.