Paper declutter challenge: the daily grind

Another decluttering and organising challenge!

Today is all about handling that post and emails that need dealing with but you have been putting it off all week.  You know what I am talking about – credit card and other bills, subscription magazines, school notes that need to be replied to, filing that you haven’t got round to, servicing to be arranged, brochures that you can’t decide whether to hang onto or recycle and junk mail you just put down somewhere. It all piles up and forms clutter mountains all over your house.

Tackling your everyday paper clutter

The daily clutter

  1. Bring everything together

Sooo, the first thing to do is to gather up all the paper into one place.  Then divide into categories (I love categories) such as bills to be paid, brochures, notes, phone calls to be made, junk mail.


  1. No-brainer stuff

Next is to recycle or shred any of the no-brainer stuff like junk mail and brochures you aren’t going to buy from.  Make sure your name and address aren’t readable (I usually rip the address up separately and throw away in the bin and then recycle the rest of the brochure/junk mail).


  1. Go through the remainder and schedule time to do them

Now you are left with stuff that needs some kind of action.  Decide when you are going to do this and make a note in your diary or on a to-do list.  Then do it.  I know, I know.  It sounds obvious but for some reason, there are times that we all kind of hope that the to-do list will do itself.  But it doesn’t.  If you have emails that need action, schedule a time for those as well.


  1. Do it now!

Try and do some of the action items immediately – it will give you a boost and lessen the administrative load.  Give yourself a reward such as a coffee and a biscuit, anything that makes doing the paperwork worthwhile.


  1. New habits

Try and get into the habit of dealing with paper and emails on the day they arrive.  That way, you will have a clearer home and a much clearer, less stressed brain.

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Paper declutter challenge: tax

No challenge for the last 2 days – think we could all do with a bit of time off.  But it’s back to it today and we are looking at the paper you need for tax information and when you can get rid of it.  So this is an organising and decluttering challenge!


  1. Have a folder and subdivide

This is what I do.  I have a lever arch file for my tax with dividers.  The file is subdivided into categories such as Tax code, P60, P11D etc.  Yours will vary depending on your tax situation. For example, if you pay tax on dividends, then you might need additional categories such as Self-assessment statements.  If you have savings accounts, then you will need to keep your interest statements and so on .


  1. File as you go

Then I just file as I go with most recent tax code, P60 or whatever on top.   In the front I keep a transparent pocket into which I put the interest statements as they arrive.  I always print out any that are electronically delivered as it’s the only way I will remember them!  If you do this as you  go along, it makes completing the self-assessment tax form soooo much easier.  For information on what records you need to keep, go the Gov UK site


  1. How long to keep tax records – self-assessment?

How long do you keep tax records I hear you say.  The site has information on all types of tax records.   In summary, if you fill in a self-assessment form and submit your tax return before the 31st January deadline, you have to keep the records for at least 22 months after the end of the tax year they relate to.  So, if you sent in your 2015-16 tax return by 31st January 2017, you need to keep your records until January 2018 (ie add 22 months to end of March which is the end of the tax year; technically it is 4/2/18  as that tax year ended on 4/4/16 but never mind).  I must admit that I do tend to keep mine a bit longer than that.  But you can definitely discard them after 2 or more years.


  1. How long to keep records – self-employed?

If you are self-employed, you need to keep your business records for 5 years after the 31st January deadline of that tax year.  So, in our example above, if you were self-employed you would need to keep your records until at least January 2022.  Again, I would use a lever arch file and keep all self-employed business records together for each year, subdivided by category.  If you keep filing as you go along, it really does make life easier in the long run.  Pain today and jam tomorrow!


5.Shred the old stuff

Writing thi s article made me check my file and I discovered mileage records from the days when I had a company car (alas long gone), dating back to the late 1990s.  I have happily shredded those and am going to check the rest of the file for dinosaur tax records that are long past their use-by date.


One more challenge tomorrow!  Let me know how you have got on so far.


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Paper declutter challenge: receipts

Today we are tackling receipts.  Not the most interesting of subjects but they do tend to get out of hand if you are a receipt keeper.  Most shops still give you receipts although quite a few now ask whether you want them.  I usually ask for the receipt ‘just in case’ particularly if it is clothing or anything else I might need to return.  But then the receipts end up in various places such as the study upstairs, my Mum admin part of the kitchen or even stuffed in my handbag or purse.  But not from now on!

Receipt clutter

Firstly, get all your receipts together from all those hidey-holes, bags and pockets.  If you have loads of the, sort into months.


Then, and this is the only way to do this, check through them from the earliest month onwards.  Get rid of any receipts for items you aren’t going to consider returning or that are past the date you could return the items. I find shredding them therapeutic. Receipts for stuff like kitchen gadgets are best stapled to the instruction booklet so that you can find them easily when needed.  If you get bored do this for 15 minutes at a time.  Use a timer and turn it into a race against time – you have to get your fun where you can!


Once you get nearer to the current month, you should hold on to any receipts for bank and credit card statements that you haven’t received yet.  As we all check our statements and corresponding receipts, don’t we? Cough, cough.


NB If you are self-employed, you need to keep business receipts for 5 years after the 31 January submission deadline of the relevant tax year.  Check out for further information and examples;  if you run a business, you have to keep them for at least 6 years from the end of the last company financial year they relate to with a few exceptions. Again have all the info.


Once you have gone through all your receipts, sort the remaining ones which should be about a month’s worth, divide those into the relevant credit card or bank statement and keep each pile together with a rubber band or paper clip.  Then put in an envelope in a safe place.  Once the relevant statement has arrived, check through the receipts and discard those not needed.  Da da.  Receipts sorted.


Do this regularly and you will never have receipt overload again!



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