With all the craziness of the holiday season, I’ve been ignoring the massive piles of mail and paperwork that have accumulated on my desk. But now that I finally have some time, I’m doing a massive makeover. Here are some expert tips on how to create an effective (and pretty) filing system.
First, begin by laying out all the paperwork and file folders you already have to assess the situation like Jen has done in them image above over on I Heart Organizing. It will be easier to get everything organized now that you can see what you’re up against.
Next, tackle the paperwork itself. (Once you finish this step you can move on to the fun part – the decorating!) Here’s a quick overview on what you should keep and what you should throw away:
- Toss all junk mail. Be sure to shred or cut up anything with personal information.
- Once you’ve reconciled your ATM receipts with your bank account, shred those too.
- It’s recommended that you keep bank and credit card statements for one year in case you need to resolve any issues later on.
- Outstanding health, home or auto claim information should be kept until the claim is settled.
- The IRS suggests that you keep all tax documents for seven years.
- Some things need to be kept indefinitely, such as paperwork related to any legal filings, wills, inheritance, bankruptcy and also retirement account contribution information.
I’m not an expert on this subject, so be sure to do your own research. The NYTimes provided much of the info above, and here is another helpful article from Consumer Reports.
Separate each of these different categories into piles and set them aside for now.
Let’s begin by making the exterior of your filing system more attractive… organizing paperwork isn’t fun, but at least you can look at something pretty while you do it! The filing cabinet above was stenciled by Chelsea over at Two Twenty One. Find out how she did it here. [Photo: Two Twenty One]
Or maybe cabinets aren’t the best solution for you. Try using a series of binders instead, and dress them up with some decorative paper like in the image above. [Photo: I Heart Organizing]
Filing boxes work too… this one from The Container Store is especially nice.
Now that you’ve decided where to put your files, try color coding the files themselves. This will make it easier and faster to find what you’re looking for. [Photo: The Nest]
Placing a different washi tape pattern on each type of folder is another great way of “color coding.” Find other helpful tips on maintaining organization in your filing system here. [Photo: Chippa Sunshine]
You can even take it a step further by adding vintage style fabric to each folder. I’d be excited to file my bank statements if I could put them in folders like those above! Check out the tutorial here. [Photo: Design*Sponge]
Now that you’ve created the perfect system for you, put all those separated piles of paperwork that you organized earlier into their proper homes. And you’re done! Doesn’t that feel better?