How to set up a home filing system

Are you in need of a home filing system? Are you overwhelmed by the paperwork that comes into your home? Do you know what to do with it? How long to keep it? Have you got any kind of home filing system set up? Here’s my step by step guide to setting up a home filing system.

How to set up a home filing system

The Problem with Paper

Over in my Organised Life Project Facebook group, many people have said that they are completely overwhelmed by the paper that comes into their homes: letter, bills, statements, junk mail, newspapers, magazines, even children’s artwork.

Unlike most clutter, we don’t decide when paperwork comes in, and that’s what makes it unmanageable. There’s also no ‘expiry date’ on a lot of paper: we don’t know when or if we’ll need the reference number for things, or if that receipt will be needed, or perhaps we might just fancy a takeaway one evening.

Then the paper piles up. It gets tatty around the edges and looks a mess. It’s used to balance a cup of coffee or for the children to scribble on… And it gets overwhelming.

How to set up a system

In an ideal world, you touch a piece of paper once. You open the letter/schoolbag/parcel, and deal with it immediately. However, I know that if you have any other demands on your attention, this doesn’t happen. The letter about the school trip has had water spilt on it. Or the toddler starts crying as soon as you look at the bill.


I use an in-tray in my kitchen but I am ruthless about clearing it out regularly. If something goes in the in-tray, I try to deal with it that evening. The in-tray gets completely emptied at least once a week.

Also, you only need a single-layer in-tray. Any more, and you’ll start putting all your husband’s documents in one tray and then it’ll become a source of tension (at least, that’s what would happen in this house).

How to set up a home filing system

Once your letters have made their way into your home, they need a destination. This will be one of three places:

The recycling bin

The majority of our post goes straight into the recycling bin. Anything without our address, any recyclable packaging, any fliers etc go into the recycling bin.

The shredder

Anything you don’t need but that has either your address or confidential details on it needs to go into the shredder. I have this one which is brilliant: it’s always on ‘standby’ so I just whizz everything through and it’s really fast. It’s also really easy to empty, which is a bonus!



The Filing System

You need a filing system which is simple, easy and quick to use. So please don’t make this complicated! It does require a bit of investment to start, but that shouldn’t take long, and then it should be really easy to use. I’ve been using a system like this for several years, and it works really well for us.

How to set up a home filing system

Step 1: Get a filing box for each adult in your house, plus one for the house.

These are my favourites. They are sturdy, light and just the right size. They also come with 10 hanging files, which is probably the number you need. You can always add some extras.

Step 2: Label your files

 These labels are ideal: you can write on them and they are colour coded. There’s only 6 in a pack though, so you’ll need some extras to set up your system. You’ll know what you need, and you can add them as you go along (that’s the beauty of the hanging files), but mine include:




Child benefit



3. Start filing: put the oldest stuff at the back and the newest stuff at the front

This simple system has really helped me. The most recent documents go at the front, so they can be easily found. The oldest stuff goes towards the back. You need to keep most things for 2 years, but things relating to tax or loans you will need to keep for longer. Money Saving Expert suggests we need to keep them for longer than six.

4. Go paperless where possible

Most service providers allow you to go paperless for your bills now, which does really help.

5. Keep magazines, manuals and booklets in labelled magazine files

If you want to feel organised, get a label maker! I have this one and think it’s great. I got a number of magazine files from IKEA and labelled them: manuals, Ideal Home magazines, teaching resources etc. This makes it really quick and easy to find things, and to help me know where to put things.

I also got a few boxes which I labelled with batteries, photographs, maps and menus. That’s where all the extra clutter goes!

How long will it take me to set up a home filing system?

With paperwork, I always think it will take me longer than it actually does. This whole system will probably take you a couple of hours to set up but it will save you so much time in terms of clutter and stress. Get your equipment ordered, get it set up and get more organised today!

If you want to declutter, set up routines, organise your spiritual life or organise your finances better, head over to those posts. You might also want to sign up to the Organised Life Project too!

This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you buy something by clicking on one of the links, I receive a small amount of commission, at no extra charge to yourself.

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How to set up a home filing system

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