With a family of soon to be four people plus a dog, as well as a business I operate from home, the papers can easily add up. After several years of trial and error, I've implemented a pretty easy filing system that keeps our paper clutter to a minimum and ensures that our important documents are easily accessible. In the spirit of spring cleaning, I'm sharing the system with you today! I basically have two systems: one for personal papers, and one for business papers. Let's start with personal.
PERSONAL FILING SYSTEM
1. File box for important documents, organized with file folders. I bought a cheap file box at Staples and a pack of plain manilla file folders. No bells or whistles here, folks. And no need for a giant filing cabinet, either. This black file box holds all of our current personal files. This is where I keep things like our dog's shot records, all the receipts and records for maintenance on our cars, information for memberships and loyalty cards (like our zoo membership, children's museum membership, etc. each have their own separate file), so on and so forth. Notice I said current files. At the end of the year, once our taxes are done, I move all the files that are no longer current, like that year's mortgage statements, that year's tax file, etc., to a plastic tote bin in the attic. If you're short on space in your actual living areas (like we are!), there's no reason to keep five years' worth of receipts at your fingertips. Put them in a bin and store them on a shelf in the garage instead.
2. Letter tray to hold "to be filed" pieces throughout the month. When I open mail that I decide needs to be saved + filed, I toss it in a tray that sits on top of the file box. The papers collect there all month, and I file them in their respective folders on my monthly maintenance day.
3. Fireproof safe for valuable documents. The final step in the personal filing system is a fireproof safe to hold those really important documents, like birth certificates, social security cards, marriage certificate, passports, etc. You could get away with a simple document safe, I'm sure. We have a larger one, because at one point I was storing my external harddrives in there as well, plus now Matt will need a spot to store some of his duty gear that we don't want to risk Xavier getting ahold of.
Tips + tricks: go paperless as much as possible! Our mortgage was the only thing we were receiving a snail mail statement/bill for, and I just changed that to paperless last week. Now, all of our bills and statements are emailed to me or accessible online, and we pay all our bills online as well. It cuts way down on the amount of paper to be filed! I keep a "bills" folder and a "receipts" folder in my email account, and file both the emailed bill/statement, as well as the emailed receipt once it's paid, so I can access them easily if necessary. Also, I do have a shredder, which is stored (not plugged in) unless I'm using it. As I come across papers that need to be shredded, I just toss them on top of the shredder until there's a sufficient stack and sit down to shred the pile all at once.
BUSINESS FILING SYSTEM
My business filing system is similar, and really simple. There are two pieces to the puzzle and that's it!
1. Expandable folder for receipts. I bought an expandable file folder, organized by month, to file my business receipts. Whenever I use my business debit card, I file the receipt for that purchase in the appropriate month's slot. At the end of the year, once my taxes are done, I put all the receipts into a manilla envelope and store them in a bin in the attic so I can start fresh for the new year!
2. File box for important documents. Every business situation is going to be unique, but I personally don't have much of a need for a file cabinet, since my business is 100% online and I don't have contracts, collateral, or any real documents to keep track of. This file box - which is a separate box from our personal files - is honestly mostly empty, but I like having a spot separate from our personal files to store any business papers that need stored.
Tips + tricks: Obviously if you have employees or are doing a lot of contract work, you might need more space. I think the key is to evaluate what you truly NEED to save, and don't feel obligated to save every single piece of paper if it's not truly necessary.
I know that our needs will get more complex as our kids grow and we have more things to keep track of, but I'm hopeful that since we already have a system in place, we can continue to tweak it as necessary and just add more boxes or maybe upgrade to a filing cabinet someday if necessary. I also love the idea of creating a photobook of your kids' artwork and school projects by photographing them on a white background and creating a book each year of the pieces, rather than saving every single thing that comes through the door.
Do you have a filing system for your family? I'd love to hear any other tips and tricks you've found. You know I'm always trying to make things more efficient around Casa Keinsley! :) XO!