How to Organize Important PaperworkHow to Organize Important Paperwork

I’ve always had a goal of really getting my important paperwork organized, and over the past year, I’ve really gotten serious about it. I’m sad to say I’m still not done, but I do make progress each day! When my kids were much younger, I knew that I needed to KEEP the important papers, but they all ended up in a few big moving boxes when we made our cross-country move. I’ve made it a priority to spend 15-30 minutes each day going through all incoming paperwork to make sure it’s properly handled, then grabbing a handful of papers from a big box in the garage and dealing with those as appropriate. This is the system that works for me, to get things organized, and easily accessible when I need them!

STEP 1: GATHER MATERIALS

To get started, I bought one box of file folders and one box of manila folders. We already had two filing cabinets, but plastic file holders would work if you don’t have the space or budget for a file cabinet just yet. If budget allows, I’d get additional file folders and manila folders, but I usually buy a couple each month so I don’t bust the budget 🙂

AmazonBasics Hanging File Folders - Letter Size (25 Pack) - GreenAmazonBasics Hanging File Folders – Letter Size (25 Pack) – Green

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Supplies Needed to get started:
1 box of 25 hanging file folders
1 box of 100 tabbed manila folders
A filing cabinet

STEP 2: PREPARE AND LABEL YOUR HANGING FILES
Fill each plastic label holder with the following 25 “main” categories:

  1. Family Documents {Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificates, Social Security Paperwork, Military Discharge Paperwork, Professional Certifications, etc}
  2. Taxes {Current Year Receipts, Previous Year Returns}
  3. Health Insurance {Current Year Receipts, Previous Year Information}
  4. Auto Insurance & Warranty Paperwork
  5. Home/Renters Insurance
  6. Mortgage Information/Rental Agreements
  7. Property Appraisal, Easement Information, Deed Information, Title Information
  8. Life Insurance
  9. Bank Information {Checking, Savings, etc.)
  10. Investment Funds Paperwork
  11. Medical Records
  12. Utilities Information
  13. Credit Card Information
  14. Warranty Information for Household Items
  15. Pet Records
  16. Family History information
  17. End of Life information {Wills, Trusts, Funeral and/or Burial information}
  18. My school documents
  19. Spouse school documents
  20. My employment documents
  21. Spouse Employment documents
  22. Child 1 School Paperwork
  23. Child 2 School Paperwork
  24. Child 3 School Paperwork
  25. Miscellaneous

***If you don’t have children, pets, spouse, etc. your categories may differ. Also, I go more in depth with the manila folders, and I’ll be sharing more on that soon!***

I like to handwrite my tabs simply because it’s easier than getting a sheet of tabs aligned properly in my printer. Back in the “olden” days, I’d use a typewriter, but I don’t have one any more. If you have a label maker, that would work well too 🙂

Pendaflex Essentials File Folders, Letter Size, 1/3 Cut, Manila, 100 per Box (752 1/3)Pendaflex Essentials File Folders, Letter Size, 1/3 Cut, Manila, 100 per Box (752 1/3)

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STEP 3: ORGANIZE YOUR PAPERWORK

This can be challenging, but take it one stack of paper at a time. If I have extra file folders, I’ll put them in my plastic file folder container, like the one pictured above, and file them as I go through each stack, with an additional pile for the shredder, and a trash bag for anything that doesn’t contain sensitive information. Once the small container gets full, I move everything over to the big file cabinet. You can always file directly into the big cabinet, but it helps me stay focused to do it this way.

“Dirty Secret”: I typically spend about an hour a day doing this, and I do it every day during the Price is Right, because we have such a backlog. I sit on the couch with two tv trays out and the container next to me. I’ll sort and file as I watch the show. I just know what order the files are in, so it’s easy for me to move quickly through a stack of paper, then transfer to the big file cabinet. I shred during commercial breaks, which gives me a chance to get up and move around. Somedays I sort through old magazines, clipping out articles I want to keep, so I can recycle the magazine. It’s my organizing hour. Yours can be 15 minutes, 30 minutes, whatever works for you!

These are a few items you might find handy when organizing your paperwork:

NeatReceipts Mobile Document Scanner and Digital Filing System for PC and Mac (Certified Refurbished)NeatReceipts Mobile Document Scanner and Digital Filing System for PC and Mac (Certified Refurbished)AmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut Paper, CD, and Credit Card ShredderAmazonBasics 12-Sheet Cross-Cut Paper, CD, and Credit Card ShredderDYMO LabelManager 160 Handheld Label Maker (1790415)DYMO LabelManager 160 Handheld Label Maker (1790415)AmazonBasics Hanging File Folders - Letter Size (25 Pack) - GreenAmazonBasics Hanging File Folders – Letter Size (25 Pack) – GreenPendaflex Essentials File Folders, Letter Size, 1/3 Cut, Manila, 100 per Box (752 1/3)Pendaflex Essentials File Folders, Letter Size, 1/3 Cut, Manila, 100 per Box (752 1/3)4 Drawer Letter Size Commercial File Finish: Black4 Drawer Letter Size Commercial File Finish: Black

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Generally, you can keep most papers on hand for 3 years. For tax information, I believe 7 years is the standard, I tend to keep ours for 10 years. If you haven’t kept them in the past, just start NOW. If something comes up, you can always put in the leg work to track down older documents.

Also, a would also work well for some documents, to save space. I’m old-fashioned, I still like physical copies of certain items. I keep certain sensitive documents in a fire-proof safe, but I’ll have photocopies in the file cabinet, for easy access. For example, birth certificates. The health insurance company will occasionally ask for verification to be faxed, so I can grab a photocopy and fax it right over.

I’ll be breaking down some of these categories soon, but in the meantime, I’d love for you to leave comments/suggestions below!

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