Organizing the Filing Cabinet

Here we go!

In my house, the filing cabinet is a fairly big an usually overwhelming task. Who wants to sit down and sort paperwork and place every piece of paper in correct chronological order anyway? I know I don’t. It’s like I told my friend, “I’ll know I’ve finally become an adult when I make my bed every morning”, well… I really feels like this follows suit. In my defence, I’ve switched a lot of our bills, statements and general filing cabinet items online. Therefore, there’s a lot less work going on in this paper-filled cabinet nowadays. I made a first attempt at this about 2 or 3 years ago, when the filing cabinet was about ready to burst, and it was well in need of another good going-over. This time, I made a few changes to make it easier for me to use on a steady basis. A lot of the old tabs and organization was outdated, and no longer relevant to our household, so that needed to be updated to the raw basics, with the addition of some new labels that I wished I had had over the years. This is what I started with:

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Look, I know a lot of people laugh at me when I say, “Go buy the pretty things! If it makes you happy, you’ll be more willing to use it!” But honestly, this is no joke. You know what prompted my re-organization of the filing cabinet? These pretty new folders! I bought them at the dollar store, and I love working with them. I wanted to see these suckers every time I opened the filing cabinet instead of those old drab plain folders that everyone else has, and it was just enough motivation for me to sit down and get it done.
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Aren’t they nice? You never know where you’ll find the pretties, so keep your eyes out for something that suits your tastes!

Anyway, the very first thing I did was whip out my new label maker. Easy to use, a good amount of options, etc. etc. etc. and I broke down what labels I use, the ones I didn’t and which new ones I should add. Obviously these may differ in your household, so you should figure out what paperwork you feel you need to keep, and how you want to organize it. For me the categories were as follows:
-Bills
Power
Phone
Phone/Internet
-Accounts
Credit Cards
Bank Statements
-Income
Taxes
Pay Stubs
-Vehicle
Registrations
Insurance
-Warranties (This was an important new addition)
Electronics
Batteries
Living Room
Kitchen
Appliances
Other
-Barbara D. Photography
Contracts
Model Release Forms
Receipts

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After my labels were done, my next task was to go through the paperwork that was currently being stored in my filing cabinet. I shred pretty much anything that comes out of here for a heads up, in case you were wondering. You might feel as though you don’t need to, if you store something non-personal, don’t worry about it, but it’s a safe bet that you want to shred anything that might give someone the ability to steal your money. I tossed anything that was before 2012 unless it had a special significance, think income tax paperwork. Many things didn’t, and therefore a vast amount of my papers disappeared. Once I had finished going through that whole mess, my filing cabinet already started to feel much more manageable and I hadn’t even put any folders in there yet! So I emptied my filing cabinet and went from there.

I began by using the hanging folders in a colour-coded system, instead of just throwing them in however I wanted to. Yellow = Financial (I would’ve preferred green, but couldn’t find any!), Red = Business, Blue = Important General Paperwork. So I put my label-maker to work again, and got to work with the categories. Once they were placed in the filing cabinet, I added the sub-category folders to them as well.

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Then, all that was left was to throw in the remaining paperwork!
BEFORE:
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AFTER:
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Hahaha, please disregard the idiot date-stamp, I never remember to change/get rid of it!

Isn’t that much nicer? The larger labels are easier for me to read, the simple system I put in place makes it easier for me to find everything, the addition of a “warranties” area makes my life tons easier when something breaks down, especially car batteries! I am still working on improving this, so when I get my new budget underway I’ll probably devote another spot for that, as well as one for each of my kids as they age and begin creating paperwork for me to look after. But for now, this works, and I’m using it.

If you’re reorganizing your filing cabinet, these are my biggest recommendations:
1) Go through your current paperwork. Make a list of new categories you need, and omit those that you’re not using anymore.
2) If it’s over a year (max. 2) old, toss it. EXCEPTION: Income tax paperwork.
3) Keep it simple. Go back to basics. You can add more if you find you really need to, but if you make it too complicated, you may lose track of where exactly you put that bill since it appropriately goes into three of your folders ;).
4) Put your paperwork in chronological order, either back to front or front to back, but decide now and do the same thing for all folders.
5) If you can keep it online, do it! I’ve begun saving the .pdf files to a usb drive in case I need them for future use. Much less space than all of that old paperwork!

Let me see pictures of your new filing cabinet using the hashtag #3toa10life!

Keep going, it’s the only way you’ll make it there!
Barb

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