Today’s the day you’ve been waiting for. No? Well, trust me. It is. Today we are going to create your organized, simplified file system.
You will need hanging file folders, post-it notes and manila folders as well as a pen.
Most of the homes I’ve been into have had a large file cabinet with 2 or 4 drawers. The items in the cabinet date back to 1998 with the most recent hovering somewhere around 2011. All of the current papers are scattered around the house. Well, not anymore since you’ve spent the last few days gathering and sorting them. The point is, most people don’t know how to use a file cabinet correctly, so today we’re going to fix that.
Choose where you’d like to store your papers. We are only going to use one drawer or small portable file box. If you don’t have either, we can still set up your files today using a cardboard box and you can purchase a file box later this week. If you’re using a drawer, it should already have been emptied when you were gathering paper to sort. If you somehow missed it, empty it now, and sort through those papers when you’re done setting up your system.
Grab that post-it note pad and sharpie. We’re going to use the post-its as file labels on the hanging file folders. They are easy to swap around, unlike those plastic tabs. After a month, you can create file folder names with the plastic tabs, as you’ll have a better idea exactly what labels you need.
Now let’s brainstorm. What files do you think you need the most?
Healthcare (EOBs, receipts, insurance docs, one manila folder for each family member within the hanging file)
Insurance (auto, home, life, umbrella)
Autos (repairs, maintenance, loan or lease docs)
Important (titles, birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, etc.)
Banking (a physical page with all of your current, open account numbers - if one is lost or stolen, it’s much easier to replace when you have the whole number)
Investments (misc. investment tax docs)
School (one manila folder for each child within the hanging folder)
Home Maintenance (for anything that adds to the basis of your home)
Taxes (for miscellaneous tax related papers that accumulate through the year)
Pets (registration papers, vaccine records)
Children (hard to duplicate, important papers)
As you’re creating your list, keep the file labels as broad as possible. Rather than having one hanging folder each for car car, plus a separate hanging folder for car insurance, etc., combine them all into one labeled “Autos”. There isn’t much paperwork you need to keep a physical copy of (review Day 3: What to Keep if you get stuck), so if you’re not keeping much, and it’s all car related, it’s easier to put it all in an Auto file than try to remember exactly what sub label you filed it under. The one caveat is that you can make a separate manila folder inside the auto for each car, I.e. ’98 Toyota, ’14 Lexus, etc.
As you create each file folder, write it’s name on the non-sticky end of a post-it and stick it to the hanging file folder. Once you’ve created all the folders, you can move them around and organize them in a way that makes sense to you. School might be the most used file, so it goes in the front. Taxes are least used, so they go in back, etc.
That’s it for today! Tomorrow we will file all of your papers in their new home.