Duo Ventures

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Organizing: Paperwork & Filing Systems

One of my goals for 2017 is to document more of my organizational projects on the blog.  Over the last couple of years (basically since I had Sami), I have been posting some of the 'after' shots on my Instagram, but I just never got around to taking photos & blogging about the process.  So, the first area of our home I decided to tackle for 2017 was our office.

More specifically - our paperwork & filing drawers.  Since this is my absolute least favorite area to deal with, I figured it would be best if I got it done & out of the way first.

Understandably, everyone has different amounts of available storage space within their home.  Not everyone will have the exact footprint as our office, but hopefully you can implement some of these organizational ideas into your own space.

We happen to have a desk with three dedicated file drawers.  Fortunately, this allows for ample file storage, but it also means we can accumulate a lot of paperwork over time.  Here's about two years of build up that I needed to purge & sort through:

I had two main objectives with this project: sort all of our existing paperwork and modify/update our current filing system.  To start, I like to clear a large space on the floor or countertop that I can use to sort everything.  I typically refer to a cheat sheet when deciding on what & how long we should save certain documents.

When possible, I always try to sort the paperwork & determine what needs to be recycled, shredded, or archived as I pull each file out one by one.  Not surprisingly, this can become extremely time-consuming & overwhelming.  Since I had not gone through our file drawers in so long, there was A LOT to go through and I ultimately felt like it was taking me foreeeeever just to finish sorting.

So fairly early on, I decided to pull out all old paperwork that didn't belong in our file drawers & create a giant pile that I could go through in more detail at a later time.  For me, this meant going through the pile over the course of a few evenings while we watched our shows...slowly but surely :)

Once I eventually finished sorting & shredding, I filed away any of the remaining important paperwork in our IKEA KASSETT boxes:

Some folks prefer to scan their old documents instead of holding onto the physical copies.  This is a great idea, but is just too much extra work for me personally.  Also, don't forget that you can also go paperless on your statements to help reduce the amount of paperwork that you'll need to deal with at the end of the year as well.

Meanwhile, I began updating our filing system for 2017.  Here's the final product:

Here's how I did it.....

There is no right or wrong way to file paperwork, it really just comes down to your personal preference and what works for you & your family.  There are however, some general categories that work for most people & can be tweaked as needed.  I recommend writing down a list of all the different types of documents you need to file & then figure out how to group them to your liking.  I ended up with 6 main umbrella categories:


I designated an entire bottom drawer as our "Household/Home" drawer, which includes the following:

  1. Mortgage statements
  2. Home insurance
  3. HOA
  4. Utilities (gas, electric, garbage, water, internet/cable, alarm system, phone (we do not have a landline, so I include our cell phone instead)
  5. Closing documents (and other documents like tax assessor, inspection)
  6. Maintenance (pest control, HVAC)
  7. Home improvements
  8. Manuals & warranties (permanent fixtures, small & large appliances, tools, electronics, baby gear, & furniture)
Our desk drawers give us the option of hanging legal or letter sized file folders, so because our mortgage closing documents are legal sized, I decided to use legal sized folders for all of our paperwork in this particular drawer (the desk is the Bedford Desk from Pottery Barn).

I also keep our "Home Decor & Design Binder" in this drawer.  The purpose of the binder is to keep all of our paint, furniture, & home improvement project info all together in one spot:

The remaining 5 categories all fit in the top drawer & are divided by color:

Color coding is not essential of course, but I definitely think it helps make it a bit easier to find paperwork.  Of course, the simplest way to color code is by using some basic multi-colored hanging files:

Or, if you would prefer a more neutral color scheme, you can use plain hanging files folders & white folders:

I ended up using the grey & while folders, and then chose to create my own multi colored tabs using washi tape. To make the washi tape labels, I stuck some colored washi tape right on the white paper labels & then placed a clear label on top of the tape.  To save on label tape, you can type & print all your labels out at once and then them yourself:

I also created a legend so we know exactly what type of files each colored section is composed of.  It's pretty self explanatory, but a little extra organization never hurts:

  1. Birth Certificate
  2. Social Security Card
  3. Marriage Certificate
  4. Passports
  5. Citizenship
  6. Drivers License
  7. Voter Registration
  8. Academic Transcripts & Diplomas
  9. Military Records

  1. Checking & Savings Accounts
  2. Credit Card Accounts
  3. Stocks, IRA's, Mutual Funds
  4. Life Insurance
  5. 401K, Pension Plan
  6. Loans
  7. Taxes

  1. PCP
  2. Dental
  3. Vision
  4. OBGYN
  5. Specialists (Dermatologist, Endocrinologist, etc)
  6. Pediatrician
  7. Health Insurance

  1. Auto Loan
  2. Insurance
  3. Registration
  4. Maintenance
  5. Bill of Sale

  1. Employment
  2. Memberships
  3. Retail Rewards
  4. Travel Rewards
  5. Pet/Vet Records

Within certain hanging files (birth certificate, SS#, Passports), I will include a folder for each family member as well:

You might notice that there are certain files that could could be included within more than one category.  For example, an Auto Loan could obviously fit in "Automotive" or "Banking & Finance".  Personally, I prefer to keep it in our "Automotive" section, but to each their own - do what makes sense to you.

I'd also like to point out that not every file needs its own hanging file folder.  For example, I broke our "Automotive" files into five different hanging files, but you could alternately have a single automotive hanging file with 5 individual folders.  We just happen to have the space within the drawers, so rather than have it feel clustered, I decided to separate everything.

So that's it!  I am super happy to be able to cross this area off of my list of things to organize.  The only item I'd still like to get is a fireproof document safe for our most important documents.  Hope this post helps you guys get organized for 2017!


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