A Well-Organized Filing System

What is the current state of your files? If you are looking for some guidance in creating a filing system or sprucing up your current filing system, look no further. With tax season upon us, there is no better time than the present to get your documents organized. Keeping your documents organized involves utilizing a filing system that works for you. We have some great tips to assist you with creating a well-organized filing system.

Start Small

The methods for filing systems are abundant. You just need to do a Google or Pinterest search and you will quickly be overwhelmed by the amount of techniques. Our biggest piece of advice is to start small – and then build upon it. Don’t go all out with a color-coded labeled system if you are not sure that it will work for you. Instead of spending time printing out labels and organizing files by color, spend that time sorting your documents which will make a bigger impact on your daily paper clutter. Here is a great blog post on starting small and setting up a filing system to meet you right where you are at today! 

You Decide: Digital or Paper?

Both digital and paper filing systems are extremely beneficial. You just have to decide which one will serve you best. Are you the kind of person that does not like paper? Do you prefer to keep all your documents digitally? If this is you, and you have a document scanner, then a digital filing system is the way to go. However, if you like to have your documents in a physical location, with the ability to thumb through them, then a paper filing system is the way to go. Either way, it is important to make sure that you go through your files routinely to purge any documents that are no longer needed.

Choose Your Approach

You must decide which approach you are going to take in regards to how detailed you will be in your filing categories-a more general approach or a more detailed approach. All your paperwork will pass through this system so you want to make sure the  technique works for you. You need to be comfortable with it and it needs to be sustainable. 

  • The General Approach- How often are you accessing files now? Is it worth making a super fancy system if you only need to access files once every few months? Think more about the ease of storage than the ease of retrieval. Don’t overcomplicate the file system. Create and label folders using broad categories you already created. You don’t have to sort any further. 
  • A More Detailed Approach- Do you want to cut down on the time it takes you to find a document? Is super detailed how you roll? Then keep sorting further. For example, break down medical into subfolders. One for each person in the home if that makes sense for you. Create a folder for insurance policies, EOB’s, test results, etc. Create subfolders under utilities for each utility type. School can be further sorted by child.

Create Your File Categories

Here is our list of file suggestions for a well-organized filing system. These are more general categories. However, there may be some categories you do not need and others that we have not recommended. Use these as general guidelines and then add or subtract as you see fit. Remember, just add more subfolders if you need a more detailed approach.

  • Medical – EOB’s, Medical Bills, Prescriptions, test results, Insurance, etc.
  • Home – home insurance, mortgage, rent, receipts for home repairs, etc.
  • Utilities – gas, water, electricity, trash, etc.
  • Auto – car payment, car insurance, car title, etc.
  • Banking/Credit Cards – bills, statements,
  • School – homework, IEP’s, contacts, etc. and/or student loans, financial aid, college applications, etc.
  • Vital Files – passports, marriage license, birth certificates, etc.
  • Investments/Retirement – statements
  • Tax – W2’s, personal property tax, financial aid statements, end-of-year statements for investment/retirement, childcare receipts, donation receipts, etc.
  • User manuals/User Guides/Warranties – small kitchen appliances, lawn care equipment, etc.
  • Memorabilia – cards, handwritten notes, photos, ticket stubs, etc.

Steps for Building Your Filing System

Here are eight steps to follow to get your filing system up and running. If you decide to use a paper filing system, here is a great way to start. If you choose to go digital, just adjust steps to their digital alternative. 

  1. Take some time to read this blog post and look through our other blog posts on organizing your documents and files.
  2. Purchase the supplies needed to make your filing system well organized. Here is a blog post with some of our favorite products for filing.
  3. Find a table, floor space, desk, bed, or a combination of any of those with lots and lots of room.
  4. Grab a container or bag for trash and a container or bag for shred.
  5. Use sticky notes to label different parts of your surface to quickly be able to sort through your documents.
  6. Sort all your documents, getting rid of any documents not needed by discarding into the shred or trash piles. For more on organizing your documents, read this blog post.
  7. Once you are done sorting through your documents it is time to either write on your files or print out your labels. It is always best to wait until you are done with the sorting because your categories may change.
  8. Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance. A well organized filing system takes maintenance. For more on paper clutter and how to maintain it read this blog post.

Let us know how it goes. We want to see photos of your filing system! For more tips on a well-organized filing system or to share your photos check out our Abundance Declutter Group on Facebook. Happy filing!

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