Declutter Your Home – Organise Your Household Documents

Gathering Stage

The key to this stage of the process is to gather any and all paper clutter that is lying around your house. This includes checking the places where you may have a tendency to stash things in an ad hoc fashion such as the top of your fridge, benchtops or in the bottom of your wardrobe. Most importantly, it is imperative that everything is gathered into one place to act as a starting point.

Categorising Stage

It is essential to understand what you need to keep and what you can afford to get rid of.  The easiest way to tackle this is to identify whether if it falls into one of the two categories:

Papers to keep on file:

Consider documents such as identification, mortgage/leases, tax records, insurance etc. Most often, these are papers you may need to refer back to at a later date when applying for loans, jobs etc. A general rule of thumb is to keep the last 12 months worth of bills, statements, and accounts and to retain the most up to date version of insurance policies and contracts. Such papers can be thought of in terms of broad subdivisions, such as;


  • Canceled checks – with no long-term significance for tax or other purposes can be destroyed after one year. However, canceled checks that support tax returns should be held at least 7 years – long enough to cover the six-year tax assessment period.
  • Deposit, ATM, Credit Card and Debit Card receipts – should be saved until the transaction appears on your statement and you have verified that the information is correct.
  • Credit card and bank account statements – with no tax or other long-term significance can be discarded after a year. You should keep remaining statements for up to seven years.
  • Credit card contracts and other loan agreements – should be kept for as long as the account is active in the case of a dispute with your bank over the terms of a contract.


  • Health insurance
  • Car insurance
  • Home and contents insurance
  • Life insurance


  • Current tax year – receipts etc.
  • 5 previous years – tax returns, letters etc.


  • Mobile phones
  • Home phone/internet
  • Water
  • Electricity/gas

Also Consider:

  • Health
  • School
  • Warranties

Papers requiring action – includes bills that need paying, letters to be sent, forms to be complete, medical receipts to claim, etc. Be sure to store these papers somewhere that is in plain sight – so it will encourage action on your behalf.

If the document doesn’t fit into any of these categories, it should be safe to dispose of it.

Sorting Stage

In order to beat the clutter and avoid a bottomless pile of paperwork, your papers should be stored somewhere that is out of the way and secure. It needs to be orderly and easy to access to be beneficial.

A filing cabinet is a good start. Also, storage boxes provide a great solution for larger volumes of papers that you don’t necessarily need day-to-day access to. They can be tidily stored away in your attic, office space, or even in unconventional spaces such as under the bed to free up space.

For future convenience and to avoid shuffling through large volumes of papers, consider purchasing hanging file dividers and folders. This makes keeping the papers in order as easy as possible. To finish, label each folder for each type of record.

Don’t forget to shred

Don’t just recklessly toss your papers into the bin if they could contain important personal details. Here’s a simple checklist of what should be shredded before disposing of:

  • Documents that include social security numbers, dates of birth, PIN numbers or passwords.
  • Banking documents and other financial information.
  • Leases, contracts or letters containing signatures.
  • Medical bills.

If you’ve got all of your documents in order and you’ve still found that you need a storage solution, then get in touch!