Good paperwork management

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Tengu

Full Member
Jan 10, 2006
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Im having a good tidy up of my house and that means paperwork sorting.

How long should I keep stuff?

Another thing; I have accumulated many leftlets/booklets over the years; what is the best way to store these?
 

Toddy

Mod
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Jan 21, 2005
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I bought box files for the leaflets/booklets and filed them according to theme.
Leatherwork, needles, gemstones, fibres....that kind of thing.

Not sure about paperwork, some of it you really do need to keep ad infinitum, but surely there's a reasonable cut off time for bills and statements ?

M
 

Broch

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Jan 18, 2009
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Mid Wales
Booklets and leaflets are impossible to store in themes in the end - you run out of themes or some want to occupy more than one.

If you can use Excel the best way is to create a simple data base (I used to design databases for all sorts of stuff).

When you get a new leaflet that you want to keep just give it a number (the next number in sequence) and write that on the top right corner. Enter that number in the first column of your spreadsheet, the next column should be the title, the next, maybe, the date and then a column with 'key' words - words you want to find that leaflet based on. Now just put the leaflet in a filing cabinet draw or a box in number order.

When you want to find something (say a paper on antelope horn) you just search your spreadsheet for the word antelope and keepgoing through the results till you find the paper you want - you've now got the reference number and you can go straight to it, I had such a system working for technical files that had years of papers in and it worked well.

Actually, you can do the same in Word or any other software that allows columns and search mechanisms.
 
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Tengu

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I can use Excel

Ill think about the leaflets later; How long do I keep paperwork for? I tend to err on the side of long.
 

Broch

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In terms of accounts and tax etc - 5 years will do
In terms of remembering stuff you may want to go back to - a lifetime :)
 
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Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
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As long as it takes my other half so p to sort it out and dispose of paperwork she thinks I don't need? If I didn't have her to be so this I'd probably run out of space before I got round to throwing anything out.

For example I have notes taken for my first degree and I'm not working in an area remotely related. I once dug out an old briefcase and found documents from when I was unemployed for a spell after my degree 20 years later!!!!

I'm not saying I'm a hoarder but....

Seriously though, aren't some documents supposed to be kept for 7 years?? Scan, save and backup. You have to backup anyway because paper burns or gets damaged. Back up with a scan them backup that too.
 

Fadcode

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Feb 13, 2016
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Cornwall
For tax purposes 7 years, all other paperwork, have a bonfire, most of it you wont need and if you haven't seen it or looked for it, then its probably not important, there are obvious things you should keep, deeds, licences, Insurance, photos, but it is much better to get rid of it on a regular basis otherwise it will get out of control.
I think we are all hoarders in one way or the other, whether it's CD's, DVD's, books, broken appliance, manuals, old receipts, etc, etc,
 

Broch

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Jan 18, 2009
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Sorry guys, but tax documents are only 7 years for self employed business records (actually it's five years after the end of January following the tax year of completion - so not quite 7 years). For personal tax it's only 22 months after the end of the year the tax return is for. I would advise keeping them longer but there's no legal requirement to.

I can't remember the last time I listened to a CD or played a DVD but I can't bring myself to get rid of the boxes of music and films. I gave away all my vinyl when I first bought a CD player and regretted it ever since. In the last clearout (last year) I threw away my old business books and only last week my daughter asked me for one! It seems I don't need anything until I've thrown it away.
 
Mar 6, 2020
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Hemel Hempstead
It is really rewarding burning all the old paperwork. We did a bunch at the start of lockdown. Have loads of space left now. And got to watch some flames. Ditched the cds years ago and replaced them with Spotify. Praise the god Marie Kondo.
 

Broch

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Having cleared out two sets of parents homes in the last few years I am determined to make sure I don't leave the same mess for my kids - I just need to know when it's two months before I'm going to kick my clogs :)
 

Toddy

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Jan 21, 2005
35,600
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Booklets and leaflets are impossible to store in themes in the end - you run out of themes or some want to occupy more than one.

If you can use Excel the best way is to create a simple data base (I used to design databases for all sorts of stuff).

When you get a new leaflet that you want to keep just give it a number (the next number in sequence) and write that on the top right corner. Enter that number in the first column of your spreadsheet, the next column should be the title, the next, maybe, the date and then a column with 'key' words - words you want to find that leaflet based on. Now just put the leaflet in a filing cabinet draw or a box in number order.

When you want to find something (say a paper on antelope horn) you just search your spreadsheet for the word antelope and keepgoing through the results till you find the paper you want - you've now got the reference number and you can go straight to it, I had such a system working for technical files that had years of papers in and it worked well.

Actually, you can do the same in Word or any other software that allows columns and search mechanisms.
Oh no, no, no, no.
That would drive me nuts. Themes are easy, they're 'my' themes. I know what interests me, I know how I connect the dots, I know what belongs where and I can find anything in moments.

I don't live a digital world, I live in a very organic one :)
 
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Toddy

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Jan 21, 2005
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It is really rewarding burning all the old paperwork. We did a bunch at the start of lockdown. Have loads of space left now. And got to watch some flames. Ditched the cds years ago and replaced them with Spotify. Praise the god Marie Kondo.
Who is an evil woman and genuinely mentally ill.
Compulsive disorders are not a good thing.

Truthfully anyone who can declare that 20 books is an ample sufficiency is lacking....in many ways.

A friend described it yesterday as, "It's the difference between living in a house or a home", as she bitterly regrets clearing out her life last year.
"It's an empty life, like living in a never ending retreat", she said.

Each to their own, but books are old friends :D
 
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Toddy

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Having cleared out two sets of parents homes in the last few years I am determined to make sure I don't leave the same mess for my kids - I just need to know when it's two months before I'm going to kick my clogs :)
I apologised in advance to my sons, but told them I'm still playing with my toys :) I compiled a short list of charities who will come and clear out for them.
Both boys said I wasn't to worry about it, they'd rather I was happy while I was living than worrying about stuff like this while I ought to be enjoying it.
 

Toddy

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Jan 21, 2005
35,600
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Scan it to yourself - put a copy on the computer AND on a separate USB flash drive.
I worked with Archivists for a while. Total computerisation is their nightmare.
They are already struggling to keep up with changing from system to system and the inherent losses every time.
It sounds good, but it's a far from perfect system.
 

Broch

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Jan 18, 2009
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Oh no, no, no, no.
That would drive me nuts. Themes are easy, they're 'my' themes. I know what interests me, I know how I connect the dots, I know what belongs where and I can find anything in moments.

I don't live a digital world, I live in a very organic one :)
I had two filing cabinets full of reference papers - I could find any subject, author, application in seconds (literally). Many papers covered more than one topic or theme - unstructured database do not work for me :)

My present main project (The British Native plants medical, food, and utilitarian uses - currently working with over 1,400 plants but that will be reduced) is on a database - when it's finished (before I die sometime) I'll be able to find the information I want by searching for names, applications, illnesses and conditions …. I'll be too old by then to get out and use them but it's a learning journey :)

20 books? I'm lucky if I've only got 20 books open at a time :) I did ditch a complete set of leather covered Encyclopaedia Britannica last year; I couldn't give them away, nobody wanted them and they were taking valuable book space with a great deal of outdated information :(
 
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TeeDee

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Nov 6, 2008
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Paperwork is like a mould , if you let it get a grip it will grow!!!!

Retain paperwork for a Month ( have a pile - paperwork IN , Paperwork OUT ) , get a system and follow.

The digital scanning of paperwork is quick and easy and allows one to access it from wherever you are in the world.
Medical issues whilst on Holiday and lost the paperwork? Just log on an check it out.
 
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Broch

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Jan 18, 2009
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Paperwork is like a mould , if you let it get a grip it will grow!!!!

Retain paperwork for a Month ( have a pile - paperwork IN , Paperwork OUT ) , get a system and follow.

The digital scanning of paperwork is quick and easy and allows one to access it from wherever you are in the world.
Medical issues whilst on Holiday and lost the paperwork? Just log on an check it out.
I agree in principle, but a) multi page stapled documents take a long time to scan even if you've got a sheet-feeder scanner and b) because it is so easy to generate fake documents from scanned images many legal documents are only valid in original signed format. But, to be honest, unless you did a chemical scan to show a signature is real pen ink, you'd have difficulty telling a printed scanned version from the original anyway.

In the early 80s, one of my bosses fraudulently changed a document (a letter) to get a contract through by old-fashioned photo-copy cut and paste. His downfall was he kept a copy of the original which was found a few years later :)
 
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Tengu

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20 books? Obviously illiterate.

I am wary of too brutal a clearing. I have a passing familiarity with Archival practice and they all agree Digitalisation is a two edged sword.

I am also sorting though various curiosities I have found/been given over the years and giving them useful labels. I recently refound a nail from a Cornish tin mine; said to be 200 years old. I am not an antiquity collector, but I have a few interesting things

But yes, I have been having a clearout. Oddly, when I put things away properly, they take up little space and I am actualy getting rid of very little.

Dad is sorting his own things; I have aqquired a candle, a bar of soap, a nice tin, a hairbrush and a broken pot for trying kintsugi on.

He was going to chuck that lot, along with a couple of old tapedecks which dont work. (Will list on Ebay tonight)

Very few things have no function.
 
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