Organize Your File Cabinet
and File With Style
If you would like to organize your file cabinet or start one from scratch
get ready to do some sorting and decision making.
Computer technology was welcomed in the hope that it would decrease paper clutter. The fact of the matter though is that paper is necessary. Many of us thrive using it (me being one of them). The goal here is not to eliminate all of your papers but to decrease the amount you have to file.
You can have a filing system that you can retrieve any paper quickly and easily! Start with these steps to organize your file cabinet.
Step #1 - Conquer the Mail
The best way to avoid the paper clutter in the first place is the tackle it before it gets out of control. That means having a plan for the mail as soon as it enters the house.
- Designate a place for all mail to go to other people in the house. You can assign a in box, wall holder, or mail slot and divide it up accordingly.
- Create a pile for recycling and garbage (you could even open your mail over a recycling bin and garbage can) and toss them in their respective bins.
- Create a pile for each category such as file, read, respond, receipts. Designate a place to keep these categories. These will be your action files - don't worry if you don't understand what an action file is because this will be explained later. Simply categorize them for now.
Step #2 - To Keep or not to Keep? - That is the Big Question!
Papers multiply easily when you keep everything. To find guidelines for what papers to keep and what can be tossed
Step #3 - For Here or to Go?
- Ask yourself what papers you would rather keep in a standard file system and what papers would do better in a binder. If you are going to organize your file cabinet there are some papers that would do better off in a binder that could travel throughout your house. Some examples of these are cutouts from magazines, an inspiration book of collected quotes, a vacation wish book etc. When organizing this paperwork just think of things that you would like to look at while in bed, your favorite chair or watching television.
Step #4 - Time to Organize That File Cabinet!
- Now, all you have left are the papers that need to be filed in you filing cabinet. These papers should be divided into 2 main categories: Action and Reference .
These are the files I refered to earlier. These are papers that need a response from you in some way. Some categories to divide them in are to read, to file, or to respond (such as bills or correspondence).
These files should be easily accesible. If possible make room on a desktop using a tabletop folder divider or if you lack desk space you can go vertical and hang a letter organizer on a wall.
This is where most of the space will be taken when you organize your file cabinet. Your reference files encompass all files not included in your action files. Therefore, you get the idea that this can add up to many papers.
Some home filing systems are very complicated but I try to keep mine simple. Remember you want to be able to find that piece of paper again. There are some preprinted folders but I like to go the freeform way. Write on the folder what you think is the best name for that category. Chances are if you named it you will find it again. Here is a list of some general categories (in green) you may like - each having subcategories:
- Bank Accounts - checking, savings, money market
- Credit Card Accounts - make a separate folder for each one
- Mortgage Information
- Loans - include any second mortages or home equity loans, or car loans
- Investments or brokerage accounts - keep a separate one for each one
- Budget or Financial Planning
- Homeowners or Rental Property Insurance
- Personal Liabilty (for certain professional that are licensed through the state)
- Personal Property - for those that have certain items of value that are kept separate from a home owners policy - such as a coin collection, jewelry etc.
- Auto - keep a separate file for each car
- Other Vehicles - such as campers, boats, motorcycles, ATV
- Home Improvement Receipts - any large investments such as new roofs, water heater, siding for example that have warranties need to have receipts to get payment if a claim is made.
- Appliances - stove, refrigerator, freezer, washer and dryer, dishwasher, microwave
- Office Items - computer and related items , fax machine, copier, phone
- Other - if you have a special hobby or work with equipment that needs receipts such as tools or automotive equipment make a separate file for these as well.
- Resumee - keep copies handy if needed
- Employee Benefit Package Information - this can be kept here or with the rescpective folder such as health/medical or financial
- Gas/Propane/Coal/Oil etc.
- Computer Service
- Cell phone
- Insurance Forms
- Medical History
- Doctor/Dentist Names and Locations/Directions
Keep a file of all tax receipts needed to file your income tax for the year. Some subcategories are as follows:
- Income Pay Stubs
- Medical Out of Pocket Expenses
- Childcare Expenses - Daycare, Preschool, After School Care
- Charitable Donations
- Interest and Dividend Statements
- Mortgage interest Statements
These are all general guidelines to follow when doing your home filing system. If you are going to organize your file cabinet these ideas give a good reference point. Since all people have individual needs this list is not meant to be all inclusive and like anything if you have any questions please seek the advice of an accountant or tax advisor.
There is also a web site provided by the federal government which gives additional help on recordkeeping for individuals. The web site is www.irs.gov/publications/p552/ar02.html. Copy and paste it to your browser or
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