Organizing Your Home Filing Cabinet

Learn how to set up a home filing system that will save you time and frustration when searching for important documents.

What does a family of six living in a four-bedroom home have in common with a twenty something bachelor living in a condominium? Paperwork is the answer. Every household has some form of paperwork that needs to be kept in a file. Creating a filing system to manage and store those documents is easy as 1-2-3. So let's get started!

What you will need:

· Filing Container (see first paragraph)

· Hanging Files

· Post-it Notes

· File Folders

· Documents

The first step will be to determine what you wish to store your files in. It could be an oak two drawer filing cabinet, a Rubbermaid portable hanging file box with closing lid, or even one of those nifty plastic crates you can pick up at any stationery store. Step two is to prepare the hanging files. Now you might be able to find some cabinets and boxes that come with a nice set of hanging files already, but most will require you to purchase them separately. Your hanging files will come with little plastic tabs where you will later insert the headings for each section. For now, just set those tabs and inserts aside.

We will start with the headings for each section. These may or may not apply to you personally. Each filing system is as unique as the individual it is designed to serve. The following are only used as examples.

· To Be Paid

· To Be Filed

· Automobile

· Banking

· Credit Cards

· Entertainment

· Insurance

· Legal

· Loans

· Medical

· Monthly

· Phone

· Receipts

· Subscriptions

· Taxes

· Utilities

· Owner Manuals

Using one color of the post-it notes, write out the headings that apply to you so that the sticky part is on the bottom. One heading to one post it note. Now working with the hanging file folders, attach a post it note heading on every hanging file folder.

Next comes the task of dividing the major headings down into manageable groups. Some headings will work as they are, but others, like insurance for example, really needs to be further categorized for maximum efficiency. Using the above headings, here is what I would include as subheadings. I have incorporated some examples to give you a clear picture.

· Automobile

o Repairs - oil change, brake job, etc.

o Contracts - pink slip, etc.

o Manuals - owners manual, stereo manual, etc.

o DMV - registration fees, insurance proof, etc.

· Banking

o Statements - monthly, etc.

o Payroll - weekly/monthly stubs, bonus records, etc.

o Investment - paperwork for all investments

· Credit Cards

o Original contract, monthly statements, upgrade notices, etc.

· Entertainment

o Cable or Satellite - original contract, monthly invoices, etc.

o Books/Magazines - statements for any book clubs and original billings for all magazines subscriptions.

o Newspaper - monthly invoices, carrier name and phone number, etc.

· Insurance

o Health - contract, statements, premium amounts, invoices, etc.

o Life - contract, statements, premium amounts, invoices, etc.

o House - contract, statements, premium amounts, invoices, etc.

o Auto - contract, statements, premium amounts, invoices, etc.

· Legal

o Tickets, jury duty records, etc.

· Side note = you can keep a copy of legal documents such as your will, but the originals really should be kept in a safety deposit box.

· Loans

o House - original contract, monthly statements, year-end statements, etc.

o Automobile - original contract, monthly statements, year-end statements, etc.



o Other - original contract, monthly statements, year-end statements, etc.

· Medical

o Shot records, prescription records, visit recaps, etc.

o Pets - veterinary records, etc.

· Monthly

o This area covers items that don't easily fit into any of the other categories. Such as a monthly storage bill, Internet service, etc.

· Phone

o Regular - monthly statements, etc.

o Computer/fax - monthly statements, etc.

o Cellular - original contract, monthly statements, etc.

o Pager - original contract, monthly statements, etc.

· Receipts

o Gifts - purchase receipt, shipping record, etc.

o Repairs - purchase receipt, etc.

o Misc. - purchase receipt, etc.

· Taxes

o Any and all records that are needed for your year end taxes. Items such as donation slips, interest/dividend records, etc.

· Utilities

o PGE - monthly statements, etc.

o Water/garbage - service contract, monthly statements, etc.

o Propane - service contract, monthly statements, etc.

· Owner Manuals

o You will notice that this is the only category that is not in the alphabetical order. I do this because the owner manuals are less likely to be used on a routine basis while each of the above will be accessed regularly. Owner manuals are placed in alphabetical order by the item not by the company. For instance, you would list your cellular phone under "Phone" not "AT&T".

Using the above as an example, begin to write out your own headings on the file folders. As you complete each section you can place the file folders within the hanging file it corresponds with. Once you are finished with all the main categories (hanging files) and the subcategories (file folders) you can begin to place your documents where they belong. Wait until you have worked with your system a week or two before you replace the post-it notes with the typed insets and tabs.

This system is set up so that you have your paperwork at your fingertips when needed. I like to open my bills once a week, so each day I sift through the junk mail and pull out the bills. Those bills go directly into the "To Be Paid" file for the weekend. When Saturday rolls around, all my bills are in one place to pull out and pay. If I got an invoice for a magazine subscription that I was sure I paid already, all I have to do is to go to the "Entertainment" heading and see if there is a paid invoice or not. Once I have paid all my bills for the week, I put the invoices in the "To Be Filed" category. I only file items once a month. For a household that produces lots of paperwork, a weekly clearing of the "To Be Filed" category might be more appropriate.

Documents, receipts, and such come about all the time. When this happens you have the choice of filing it in its matching category immediately, or just placing it in the "To Be Filed" heading for later. Examples: receipt from the purchase of Girl Scout Cookies (donation), pull out card from a new magazine you want to order, application for a gas card, receipt for wedding gift, etc.

It might take a couple months for you to get used to your new filing system, but once you have the hang of it, believe me, it will save you so much time that you'll be loving it!

© High Speed Ventures 2011