Needless to say, my career as an accountant has caused me to be
somewhat organized, okay, really organized when it comes to filing paperwork. If you are one of the people who chooses to file everything electronically, then this post may bore you a bit. I would say that we do a good amount of electronic filing, but we still have certain things in paper form that need to be organized.
I love our filing cabinet — we purchased it from Office Max a couple of years ago, and it has been the perfect place to keep everything organized and contained. I am not really concerned as much about the look and design of a filing drawer, because (1) it’s kind of boring no matter what you do and (2) it’s more important that the things inside the folders be organized rather than pretty. However, I really disliked that our hanging filing folders didn’t match, so I did splurge and buy matching folders, which really helped create a more organized look.
This post is more about sharing some simple tips for filing your paper items. Here are a few things that I have found to be really helpful when setting up our filing system:
1: Keep filing folders as specifically labeled as possible. In order to keep things simple, I keep folders as specifically categorized as I can. When I am looking for a specific bill or receipt, it saves a lot of time to be able to just browse through one organized folder, instead of sorting through a bunch of things at once.
2: Keep only the receipts that are important. Each month when I get our credit card statements, I go through and match all of our receipts to the statement. I know I am probably in the minority of people who actually do this, but my auditing background would allow me to be comfortable with nothing less. 🙂 Once I match everything up, I toss receipts for food or other items that I know I will not be returning or won’t need to access for any reason. I keep receipts for things I may return or just receipts for expensive electronics or other items I know I will want the receipt stored for. At the end of the year I go through everything that I had saved and I am usually able to get rid of more that I know I don’t need anymore. As much as I do appreciate having backup documentation for pretty much everything, I also dislike clutter. My tip to you is to keep only what you think you will need.
3: Keep just a year of information on-hand at a time. If you are like us, your folders will expand and expand as the year goes on. We obviously have some folders, like our receipts from our credit cards, that really fill up during a year, and others, like our utility bills, don’t take up very much space. Want a simple solution to make more room for the next year? At the end of each year, I go through each folder and take out everything that related to that year. For example, this year I went through each credit card folder and took out all receipts and statements that related to 2013. I also took out all medical bills and utility bills relating to 2013, and so on.
What do I do with all of that paper? I put them into an expandable folder for the whole year and store in the bottom drawer of our filing cabinet. Every seven years, I shred everything in the oldest folder. I do go through the folder and make sure there isn’t something I still need, but for tax purposes, I feel comfortable getting rid of all of those old documents. Chances are, I haven’t looked at anything in the folder since I put it in the drawer in the first place.
Now I have a top drawer that is not crammed full and easy to access what I need to find.
I could probably offer some more tips, but I hope these three will give you a good starting point! Happy filing and organizing! 🙂