How To Organize Your Files
I did a post on organizing your files in a general sense. But I wanted to go a little deeper with you. I have had some people ask me specifics on how I set up my files.
Files can be our Friends
But for them to be our friends, they have to be organized well enough so that you can find what you are looking for.
With that being said… there is no one way that is “the way” to organize your files.
There are many recommended methods, but it all comes down to what works for the person who has to use the files… right?
I am going to recommend to you what I do. If it works for you.. awesome! If you want to alter it a bit to work for you.. awesome! The point is to have some files that can function the way you need them to.
Some people file
Do you need to make labels from a label maker? Absolutely not! Does it look nice? Sure…. but does it work to write it on the little pieces of paper that come with your files. Heck yes! That is what I used until this “re-do”. It worked fine, it just didn’t look as pretty.
I showed you what my files looked like before and after I reorganized them last month. This is the “before”
This is how I organized them. I had 4 drawers, but only used 3 of them.
Drawer 1: Family / Personal Files
1) Bank – Monthly Statement (you can also have just online version) and receipts (only need to keep until you check your statements)
2) Bills Paid – statements after I pay bills ( some I shred right away after they are pd. Most I keep until the end of the year and then sort & shred)
3) Cable Bill - Also includes Internet and sometimes phone
4) Car Insurance – Until next quarter/bi annual or annual statement comes
5) Cars & Repairs – As longs as you own that car
6) Christmas – I keep a copy of addresses I use for cards each year. Also a copy of each Christmas letter I write each year
7) Credit Cards – If I have important information about any card I might have.
8) Dogs – Shot records, adoption records
9) Flexible Spending – Copy of forms we need to send in information
10) Home Maintenance
11) Home Owner Insurance
12) Home Owner Association information
13) House Bill Sheet – My own record of when I pay my bills each month (old copy)
14) Life Insurance
15) Medical insurance
16) Nursing – I’m a nurse, so all my CEU’s, resume, certificates.
17) Store Receipts – Only on things that are returnable – clothes, gifts (can get rid of after return period is over – but I do at the end of the year)
18) Taxes – receipts and info for just the present year
19) Verizon – cell phone carrier
Drawer#2 – My Business Information
I keep files for:
1) Each company I am doing work for
2) NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers)
4) Trademark/Copyright/Vendor or Legal information and documentation
5) Client file
6) Income/Expense Records
7) Blog information
(This drawer I do in alphabetical order according to the part of my business it relates to – Social Media vs my Organizing Business)
Drawer #3 – My Kids Files
This drawer is my files for my boys and myself. Dave also had started a file for his kids in his desk. Instead of having 2 separate files in 2 separate places, we consolidated. His kids are in his files, my boys are in my files. Works for both of us.
Please keep - A Copy of your Children Up To Date Immunization Records and kind and dose of any medication they are on in their files! (working at a pediatrician’s office you can’t imagine how many parents have no idea of what their children immunizations or medication and doses are. If you have a Home Organizing Notebook you could keep it there also.
I also have a place for some of those pictures we all get. School photos, sports etc. Not snapshots from our cameras.
File Cabinet #2
Owner Manuals and Warranties
I have these divided into:
1) Appliances – Large
2) Appliances – Small
4) Computer Equipment
5) Dell and Mini Laptops
7) Kids Stuff
8) Outdoor Equipment
For us this hits about everything we need it for. These folders are very customizable for your family and what you need to file. Just keep the categories narrow enough to know where to look, but broad enough to not have a separate file for each manual
I have a 4 drawer file cabinet also in this office. 3 of the drawers are being used for other things, but one of them has files in it. I didn’t have enough purple file folders and a zillion of the ugly old green ones, so I used these in this drawer.
1) Place your tabs on the front part of your file folder, not the back. It is easier to pull the tab forward to open the folder
2) Place your tabs all in the same slots – it keeps them in a row and actually makes them easier to see. (I used to space them out thinking it would be easier to see. I redid these files, and they are easier because your eye is focusing in one row, it isn’t scanning back and forth looking for a label
3) Be consistent. Use either all label maker labels, or hand printed labels
4) Keep your writing bold and easy to read.. and brief
Important Files Tips
Please keep important original documents in a band deposit box or a fire proof safe. Such as passports, social security cards, birth, marriage, divorce, or death certificates etc…
If you would like copies of them in a Home Organization Notebook (I still don’t recommend SS cards be kept there) then please make copies of them for that. These are records that you do not need routinely and if heaven forbid there were a fire, to replace these documents would be very painstaking.
What to Keep?
Do you have to save every little thing? Nope!
Am I going to tell you exactly what you need to save? Nope again… and unless it is your tax accountant that know your states laws…. don’t hold it to gospel. Each state varies. But I will give you some guidelines that I got off of the Good Housekeeping Site . I originally found this link from awesome Professional Organizer & friend Monica Ricci’s blog post.
1) Tax Records – 7 years
2) Investment Records – As long as you own them, and then another 7 years.
3) Bank Statements – 1 month (until you have verified your statement matches your records. Unless they have tax information on them)
4) Retirement Plans – 1 year (Roth IRA until you retire)
5) Credit Card Statements – Shred immediately after you have verify they are accurate
6) Paychecks – 1 year (or until you have verified accuracy)
7) Bill – 1 Year
8) W-2 – Until you retire
Now… I’ll tell you a few of my personal thoughts.
I went through a divorce in 2000 – I learned that I had to have all kinds of bills, payments etc that went back 2 years when dealing with spousal and child support. Not that I would ever say to think that way and save that way. But… if you are in the process of a divorce, or you still have children home and might have to deal with a change in spousal support – you might want to make sure you have access to a record of what your bills are. Or save 1 or 2 statements of each bill, paystub etc…. from the beginning /ending of each year. Just to have something for at least 2 years back.
You can get statements online, but if it is further back than what they allow.. you will pay a fee to get them.
A good investment might be a scanner set up for your receipts such as a Fujitsu Scan Snap or Neat Receipts . I plan to get one of these for my Mac myself, so I’ll let you know for sure when and if I do.
Disclosure: The links for the scanners are not affiliate links.
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