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Last week I wrote about sorting through the filing cabinet which you can read about here.  The culling continued and we no longer require the 2 drawer filing cabinet as the small number of retained files are now accommodated in the filing drawer of the desk.

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One of the things we located in our cleaning up and decluttering was a poster showing plants which are environmental weeds in our region.  We acquired this some years ago and while it has proved to be a useful reference from time to time, it had remained rolled up in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet.

The poster was looking a bit the worse for wear but we decided to mount it where it was easily visible and useful as a quick guide.

Using PVA glue, I attached the poster to a piece of plywood.  This was the old backing of the mirror on a recently restored dressing table.  It was not suitable for reusing for the mirror as the plywood had splintered around the nail holes when removed.  However, I had kept it for possible future reuse.  I did not foresee that it would be needed quite so soon.

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I placed weights on top of the poster and left it to dry for 24 hours.  GMan then trimmed the excess plywood off using a jigsaw and we have screwed it to a door in the workshop.

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We have created a quick ready reference in a location where it is likely to be needed and reused material that might otherwise have been discarded.

A close-up view.

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Friday Filing – 2


Another week has whizzed by and the filing basket is slightly fuller this week.

2015-01-16 01The pile beside the basket is what I collected from the mailbox today.

I opened the mail and then sorted it into piles according to the action required.

2015-01-16 02Clockwise from top left:

Paper to go in the recycling bin (by far the biggest pile)
Some family history information which my mother gave to me – needs to be put in the storage container with other similar papers
Basket – almost empty
To be filed – includes new insurance schedule as a result of my follow-up phone call, tax assessments, notification of gas bottle delivery and bank statement
Plastic bag – to be kept to use as a rubbish bag
Confirmation of electoral enrollment which we will need when we vote in 2 weeks time – will put them in our wallets
ReNew magazine – I have almost finished reading it so it will go in the rack with the other issues
2 newspapers – to be read tonight then added to the recycling

Here is what is left in the basket:

2015-01-16 03Our list of jobs/goals for the house and garden – some short-term and others much longer but it serves as a reminder
The yellow tag is the variety of blueberry bush which The Duke wants to buy to replace a couple that did not survive.  We will not be buying these until the weather cools down a bit so what better place to keep it than in the filing basket?
The brown “thing” in the corner is actually 2 small bits of timber that broke off one of the outdoor chairs and The Duke is planning to repair it.

In just 3 weeks I feel as though I have made real inroads into creating a system that works for us to keep the relatively modest amount of mail and other papers that come into the house under control.

I do not see the need to post a similar thing every Friday about the ongoing filing activity which will be very similar each week.  However, I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

Do you have a system for keeping the paperwork under control?

The Culling Continues


I have not written much lately about my decluttering efforts but that does not mean that it isn’t happening.

Today we finally got around to collating the documents we needed to have our tax returns done.  The Duke scanned these and emailed them to the accountant.  On thing led to another and I ended up cleaning out the filing cabinet as well as sorting and tidying the shelves in the cupboard.

We have one completely empty drawer in our 4 drawer filing cabinet and the others are sorted and tidied up.

2014-10-25 01There is a lot less stuff in the top cupboard.

2014-10-25 02The desk is spotless.

2014-10-25 03It is difficult to see but you will have to believe me when I say that we got rid of quite a bit of stuff.  All of the paper has been recycled.  Some went in the recycle bin but most was torn into strips and added to the the leaf litter in the new raised garden bed.  We topped it with a layer of mulch and watered it in well.  This will break down over time.

Things that have gone include:

Tax returns more than 5 years old
Bank statements more than five years old
A huge pile of scrap A4 paper from my old job for which I will never have a need
Old mobile phones
Old phone and computer cables
Empty boxes
Old ‘things’ that add no value to our lives
Warranties and instructions for appliances we no longer own
Information relating to previous jobs
Etc, etc, etc…………………….

Paper is one of the most difficult types of clutter to keep under control so it requires constant work to win the battle.  There will be more to do but I feel that we have made some real progress today.

What to Keep?

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From my own experience and what I have read, I think the most difficult thing to declutter and keep under control is paperwork.  It seems to be so insidious.

After my post the other day, titled ‘Gone From the Office’, Angasagain asked, “How long do you keep bills and bank statements for? Some of my filing sleeves are bulging but I’m not sure how ruthless I should be.”

The first thing to remember is that there are legal requirements regarding documents relating to tax returns.  In Australia, you need to keep all taxation papers and relevant documents, such as bank statements, for 5 years after the completion of the tax year.  This may be different in other countries so it is important to check the local laws.

I have set up the suspension files in the filing cabinet with one for each year.  At the moment we have:

Current year 2011-2012

5 previous years


When the next tax return is done, I will discard (shredded) the 2006-2007, add 2011-2012 to the previous years and create a new “Current year” which will be 2012-2013.  This is based on the principle of 1 in, 1 out.  If you do not do this regularly you are likely to find that you have 20 years worth of tax returns bulging out of the filing cabinet.

In conjunction with the annual cull of tax stuff I also get rid of the relevant year of bank statements.  Remember to shred all documents carefully to protect your security.

For all other paperwork, I find the best method is to ask yourself why you are keeping it and what possible scenario could arise where you would need to refer to it.

Household bills – we usually keep for 1 – 2 years so that we can compare them with the same period of the previous year.  I do not keep a record of how much we spend on particular bills over an entire year but some people do.

Product warranties, instructions and receipts are kept for the life of the item.  I would suggest setting up a 6 monthly schedule to review all of these documents and discard any that are no longer relevant.

In order to reduce the amount of paper, we choose to receive whatever bills possible via email and save them in the electronic format.  We only print them if required.

Being a good gatekeeper is essential.  Stop that paper before it gets in the door.  Consider putting a ‘NO JUNK MAIL’ sticker on your mailbox.  What will you miss?  Store catalogues advertising stuff that you didn’t even know you needed?  Flyers advertising services that you do not require?  If you seriously want to follow what grocery specials are available, I believe these can be accessed online although I personally have not done this.

Everyone’s requirements will be different.  This may depend on whether you are renting or have a mortgage, are studying, employed or receiving Centrelink benefits.  The most important thing is to review all paperwork critically when it arrives in your home and decide:

Do I need to receive this information?
Do I need to retain this information?

Please tell me how you go about deciding what documents come into your home and more importantly what gets to stay and for how long.

Digital Decluttering – Part 2

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I am having a break from sorting photographs but my focus over the past 48 hours has been the emails.

A few things had conspired to ensure that my emails were out of control.  Not the least of these was the change in format of Gmail.  I kept putting off finding out how to effectively use the new format and although I had deleted many emails as soon as they hit the inbox I am ashamed to confess that the total emails was in excess of 1500!

The first thing I did was to unsubscribe from several sites which sent frequent emails that we really do not need.  My mantra is, “If I want something, I will go and find it.  I don’t need to be constantly bombarded by offers.”

Then it was a matter of deleting the old, unwanted and irrelevant stuff and finally creating folders for the ones I wanted to keep.

I have promised myself that I will keep my digital mail filed and tidy just as I would ‘snail mail’.  This is particularly important as we try to receive as much correspondence as possible via email to reduce the environmental impact of posted mail.  There are often emails with critical information that we cannot afford to lose amongst a pile of ‘junk mail’.

As with all of the organising projects I have undertaken, I hope to have made the email filing simple and effective so that I can maintain it with the minimum of effort while moving on to tackle other projects.

My project for tomorrow is to finish a linen blouse that I started making during the week.  I will post a photo of it when I finish it.