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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Paper Organization: How to organize your office

I can be a bit of a packrat at times. I used to be a terrible one, with multiple collections, mountains of school papers, old and new artwork, etc. So I guess it would be fair to say that I am a recovering packrat. Watching my grandparents get older and not be able to move because of the amount of stuff they have has really been a wakeup call for me. And of course, now we own our own home and I refuse to fill it the rafters with pointless junk. And overall I'd say I'm doing a pretty good job of getting rid of junk. Paperwork, however, is the bane of my existence. That's all changed though, thanks to 8+ hours spent during my fall cleaning in the office, organizing, throwing away, shredding and ruthless editing. Here's the proof that I was ruthless.

So here is the system I developed for managing the various types of paper that take up residence in our home.

Receipts: We have a beautiful antique dresser in our dining room with two small top drawers. The one of the right is the perfect size to hold receipts until I've had time to go through them. The ones I ultimately keep are guarantees from garden centers, as well as most of our Lowe's/Home Depot receipts because of our many house projects. I also need to keep receipts for my business, so they'll end up in a file folder up in the office once sorted through.

Coupons: I always have a bunch of coupons for craft stores, home improvement stores, Bed Bath and Beyond and others laying around. Placing them in the left drawer of the dresser means that I no longer have to constantly search for that $1.00 off Pantene hair products coupon.

Upstairs in the office, paperwork is contained in a few different places:

Paystub Box: I use a decorative photo box to toss all of the paystubs in every two weeks. Once we get our w-2's at the end of the year I'll shred the paystubs from 2009.

Fireproof Safe:

This small safe is the perfect size for the paperwork we'll need if there is a problem. It holds the following categories:

  • Important papers like passports, marriage license, car titles and registration, copies of SS cards, college transcripts, birth certificates

  • Auto insurance policy

  • Homeowners insurance policy, receipts, mortgage info and other important house documents

  • Jewelry insurance policy

  • Life insurance policy

  • Investment information I keep the most recent statements from retirement accounts and investments

  • Taxes At the beginning on the year I begin a folder marked TAXES _year_ . I add to this throughout the year, with tax deductible info, tax receipts, and other information we'll need at tax time. It makes tax paperwork a breeze. The folders for previous years hold copies of our tax returns and W-2s.

  • Loan information for school loan (only two years left!)

The safe also holds a digital copy of our wedding pictures, just in case!

File cabinet:

The file drawer holds what I call "burnable" paperwork. :-) These are the categories I use:

  • Important receipts like vehicle registration payment, items with warranties (Lowe's) etc. marked Receipts _year_

  • Medical Records: keeps relevant data like immunizations, hospital visits, etc.

  • Manuals and Warranties: I go through this folder every so often to edit out old items we no longer have.

  • Credit Cards: Just the most recent statement. When I receive a new statement, I replace the old one, and then shred it. (Disclaimer: this is what works for us. We carry no debt on our cards, so we aren't keeping track of anything with our statements. We only keep the most recent statement, as the balance is paid in full each month.)

  • Utilities: Again, we replace the old statement with the new one when we receive them. Most of your utilities are public record anyway, so there's no need for YOU to keep them! Our one exception is our gas and electric bills because we have had a lot of trouble dealing with them, so we'd rather keep them all.

  • Car repairs: We have old cars so we don't keep much information on this, but we do keep things that show lifetime warranties, etc. For a new car, it might be worth keeping a record of work done on the car.

Expandable File Folder: I use this specifically for house paperwork. We are constantly working on floorplans, getting estimates, picking up samples of flooring and grabbing paint chips. This little file folder holds everything in one place and makes it easy for me to find whatever I need.

The thing to remember when you're trying to control your paperwork is that you have to make your system work for you. I used to have a super detailed, uber organized filing system, but I never used it, so it was pointless. You may have different categories, or you may not have time to file every week. If that's the case, get some sort of a basket or folder that can hold your items "to be filed" until you get a chance. If the basket gets full, you'll know it's time to file!

I hope this helps you get organized! I know it has really given me peace of mind to feel like I finally have things under control in this area. :-)


Kim @ NewlyWoodwards October 28, 2009 at 4:15 PM  

Thanks for sharing. I"m in the midst of trying to get our paperwork in order. I think the key is making it work for me, I usually try to make things too difficult.

sunny December 29, 2010 at 6:54 AM  

I love that first photo! it's so how I do it.. I get in the moment of tossing things and the piles build up around me BUT it's so satisfying at the end to tidy up the piles. Then I think "WHAT? I was storing all this around me this whole time? No longer!"

(I just tidied up a drawer of papers that had coupons from 2008. Guessing I haven't used that drawer in a few years!)

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