When we purchase an item, it often comes with paperwork (receipts, warranties, user manuals) and packaging. This excess paperwork and packaging from our purchases can be a challenge. In this post, Jane Rice of Serenity Organising & Decluttering in Dunfermline shares her advice on what to do with it all.
If you’re reading this post, the chances are that you are thinking about what to do with the empty cardboard boxes gathering dust in your garage, loft or other spaces in your home. Yes, they clutter up your space, but somehow you or your family members believe they might be useful someday. Empty boxes, together with receipts, warranties and the user manuals they came with, make up a major source of paper clutter in many homes. We know this because some of the frequently asked questions from our clients are: “How do I store receipts/warranties/user manuals?”; “Can I, or should I, keep those gadgets boxes?” To answer these questions, we need first to ascertain the purpose of this type of paperwork and the boxes they came in.
As you know, receipts are needed should you ever want to exchange or return the product. Warranties serve a similar purpose if the item breaks down and you need to get it repaired or replaced by the manufacturer or its approved service provider. Remember to complete your product registration card and send it back to the manufacturer, or fill in the required registration online, otherwise your warranty may not be valid.
Because of the importance of receipts and warranties, they should be categorised as “Receipts and Warranties” and stored with other essentials in a fire proof metal box. If you have a lot of purchase receipts and warranties, it helps to sub-categorise them based on where the items they relate to are normally used or located i.e. kitchen, living room, etc.
This dedicated spot for receipts and warranties in your essential file box is different from where you store your everyday receipts i.e. grocery, entertainment or even business receipts. These latter types of receipts are accessed more regularly and are used for a different purpose. So having a receipt box in an easy-to-reach area at home or work, scanning with a specialist receipt scanner, or using a receipt management app may prove to be more practical.
Before you organise and store user manuals, make sure you get rid of the parts you don’t need; unless you’re interested in reading how to use your lawn mower in eight different languages, just keep the language you need! You can use binders and plastic pockets to store your user manuals. The manuals can be labelled and organised alphabetically, or by room, i.e. garden, bedroom, etc.
Going paperless can reduce your paper clutter and benefit the environment. These days you can find user manuals online for most, if not all products. Many stores now offer to email your receipt to you rather than hand out a paper one. Your new products can often be registered online to secure the warranty. All of these methods help to cut down on paper, so it’s worth checking to see what your favourite stores offer by way of digital product paperwork.
Now we come to the empty cardboard boxes. Should we keep them? To answer this question, let’s go back to the principles we use when it comes to decluttering. Ask yourself two questions: 1. Is this box useful (your rational judgement), and 2. Is this box beautiful or does it spark joy (your emotional attachment)?
So, are they useful? The answer is yes, to a certain extent. These days all electrical items have a 12-month warranty. According to Keith Stuart, author and journalist on technology and digital culture, if you’re returning a defective product under your consumer rights as set out in The Consumer Rights Act 2015, you can return items in whatever box you have to hand. However, if you are returning it under a manufacturer’s warranty or guarantee you need to abide by their terms and conditions, which will often insist on you using the original packaging.
Additionally, many people believe that if you want to sell your gadgets at a future date that it’s better to keep them in the original box to get a better price. And there’s the aesthetic appeal as well. Some gadget boxes, such as Apple ones, are stylish and some of our clients find them hard to let go.
Wait a second, you might think, isn’t this article about decluttering as well? Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you keep boxes for every item you ever purchased. We recommend you edit your existing boxes, and their original purchase receipts and warranties. If an item is out of its warranty period, and it’s not one of those nicely designed gadgets boxes, let it go. If the item is within its warranty period, you could label it with its warranty expiry date clearly marked. Store these boxes with warranty expiry dates in an out-of-sight but accessible place, organised by date and size, so they don’t become visual clutter to your everyday life.
For those of you keen to keep the nice gadget boxes for display, well, you can always build an Apple box tower in a low traffic area of your space.
Finally, review your purchase receipts, warranties, user manuals and cardboard boxes on a regular basis. If you struggle to keep on top of things, but need a level of tidiness and organisation at home, you can always contact professional organisers for assistance. After all, we all need some help to keep clutter at bay and stay organised.
If Jane’s post has inspired you, and you would like some assistance organising the paperwork from your purchases, you can find your nearest professional organiser here.