Organizing papers – Once you understand that there’s a “time flow” to dealing with papers at home, figuring out your framework to manage papers becomes a whole lot easier. And, once you nail down what makes sense to you for a system or framework, then organizing your pc and other digital files also becomes easier because you’ve done most of the thinking.
There are three categories of papers to think about — and this is often the key to managing papers at home: (1) “Archives:” Those you need to keep (tax records) (2) “Reference:” Keep – not using now – reference you want to save and (3) most important – “current:” the files you need access to often because they are about current activities – your life, today.
General tips & guidelines
- One drawer should suffice for current records.
- The more you keep, the more you have to file and weed out over time. Think green, time savings, and when you need access.
- Also consider if you love using the pc or you’re really more of a paper person.
- Consider which groups of information you really need on paper and which could be pc.
- The more you use your pc, the more you need to get serious about having automatic backups of your files.
- Past years’ files: for those you must keep, put these in a box or another file cabinet, in a different part of the house. They should be accessible but not take up current office space.
- Next time you add a paper to your files, take a minute and leaf through just one file, discarding old papers. You`ll keep up with filing painlessly.
Organize your PC files similarly to your paper files so you have only one organizational system to remember.
- Use file names – paper or pc – which are intuitive, which make sense to you. Think about when you would use this information again — that’s a clue to how you’d name the file.
- Bills to pay
- Events, invitations
- Lists (birthday, address) for easy access
- Coupons for online use (store coupons and gift certificates go right in your wallet so you’ll be sure to use them. Wrap the coupon around the credit card you use.
- One folder for each child (items they need to take to school that week)
- One folder for each activity YOU are involved in
- “To be filed” – last week’s papers
Reference: Key Files to Have in Your File Cabinet
- Group like files together by using tabbed, hanging file folders. Within each hanging file, you`ll have multiple folders. Example: a hanging file for “house” may include folders for insurance, mortgage, property taxes, other legal documents. Or, thinking of how you would use the documents, you may want a file called “all insurance.”
- Some of these may be documents you`d prefer to keep in a safe deposit or fire-proof box.
Here are folder suggestions. How you order or group the folders in the drawer is up to you. Make sure you can easily find what you’re looking for. Some people use straight alphabetical with no categories to group smaller files [e.g., topics within medical/health or if you have several properties]. Some people use the groups which cuts down on where you need to look. Do what makes sense to your own brain.
Some people keep a list of files and general contents; they find an index easier to use or they’ll take a couple of photos of a drawer, which serves as an index. Depends on your thinking style, how much precision you want, whether you are near the files often or not (if you handle your parents’ papers) and your level of comfort and privacy about papers.
Sample File Folders List
- Household bills
- Mortgage, property taxes
- One folder per child (for school, sports, health records, art, awards). Some people keep a plastic bin separately for artwork and best homework papers.
- One per pet (health records, licensing)
- One per property you own
- One per organization: church, newcomers, professional, charitable, museums – or group together if not a lot of paperwork
- One per vehicle
- Taxes: for this year, a folder to capture incoming receipts, 1099`s
- Legal: wills, health care proxy, marriage and birth certificates
- Vacation and travel: plans, passports
- Insurance: keep all policies together, or keep the policy in the house or vehicle folder the policy belongs to
- Investments: one per fund or investment firm
- Bank statements: keep in a box, in a corner of the office (due to bulk). Elasticize by year. Pull out statements which have checks for key tax documents, such as property tax, and keep in the “taxes” folder.
- Warranties, appliance or equipment documents: Keep nearby to the item they belong to or all together in one home.
If you need advice or coaching about how to set up a framework for your paper/digital systems, for life, home or work, call about business organization or home organization time with me.
603.554.1948 or Sue@CoachSueWest.com