This is the last in the series about getting control of your paper. Step one is to have a system to capture and regularly process your paper; step two is to purge your files; and step three is to create an easy-to-maintain filing system.
After my paper purge came the fun part - buying new office supplies! I purchased five binders, a box of hanging folders, a box of file folders, a few packages of dividers, and a box of page protectors. I got most of these supplies at Staples after a glorious hour of browsing all of my options! I decided on 5 categories and color coded them. Financial is green; Property is yellow; Health is red; Personal is blue; and Fun is purple. The binders, hanging folders, and file folders all came in these five colors. I also purchased a few color coordinated zippered pencil pouches with three ring binder holes for smaller papers.
During the purge, I had identified paper I needed to keep but would only need to access rarely. I divided those papers into file folders based on the category. For instance each year’s tax documents went into a separate green file folder labelled with the year. Several of those file folders fit into a green hanging folder labelled ‘Taxes’ and got hung in a plastic file box with a lid. Other documents in my archive system are mortgage information, owner's manuals (both in yellow folders for property), full life insurance policies (in red folders for health), family history information and old coursework from college or high school (both in blue for personal.) I rarely need to get into the archive storage that I keep in the basement, but if I do, it’s very easy to find things because of the color system and the fact that there isn’t too much in each file.
The heart of the system, though, is the binders! I got the idea from the Organize 365 podcast and tweaked it to fit my needs. I took each binder and inserted the dividers to create sections, and then within each divided section, I used page protectors to neatly store my paper. I used my label maker to create labels for each divider and also created some labels to put on the outer corner of page protectors that needed some explanation.
I'll tell you in detail how I organized my binders, but the best part about the system is that it's completely customizable - you could have as many or as few binders and dividers and page protectors per binder as you need or want. I am not providing financial, tax, or legal advice, so please contact the appropriate professional to determine what is best for you.
Finance Binder - Green
Health Binder - Red
Property Binder - Yellow
Personal Binder - Blue
Fun Binder - Purple
All of that fits nicely in ONE small drawer in my desk. It's easy to access, easy to maintain, and best of all easy to find what I'm looking for or explain to my husband how to find something. For example, when he called me after a 'vehicular incident' he had at home one day, I was able to say, "Go to the bottom desk drawer, grab the yellow binder, flip to the auto insurance section, and there's a page protector with our policy to see what the deductible is and an insurance card with our agent's name and number." There's already enough stressful things in life, finding the paper you need doesn't have to be one of them!
What do you think? Do you have a different system or other tips that you'd like to share? Please comment on the post. I'd love to get more input on the best way stay in control of our paper!
Woodruff, Lisa. Organize 365. https://organize365.com/.
A woman with many roles in life who knows the necessity of keeping things in order!