Finances Organizing

File Organization 101

Home File Organization 101 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

In honor of Tax Day, I’m going to delve into the most exciting thing ever… filing! I don’t know if you caught that, but that was supposed to come across as sarcastic. Though, I do actually think it’s kind of fun. I’m weird like that. My first “job” when I was about 14 was filing at my grandpa’s office. I say “job” because I’m pretty sure it only lasted a month or so and then I was off to summer camp for four weeks. But, nevertheless, I wanted something to do and even in that short period of time, I think the organization bug got a hold of me.

Home File Organization 101 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

January is normally the time of year where everyone breaks out the new office supplies, warms up the label maker and gets things organized. I’m the same way, but I always end up getting my office in gear around tax season. Going through all of our financial documents and organizing everything for our accountant makes me realize what we could have done better throughout the year (both organizationally and financially), which makes it the perfect time to refresh our filing system.

As of about 5 years ago, I had gobs and gobs of files. I filed ev-er-y-thing. Since then, I’ve learned what I do and don’t need to file, so I created a system to keep a majority of the important documents on my computer. As for what to file and what to throw away, that’s different for everyone, but I’ve boiled it down to the basics for us so when next tax season rolls around, I haven’t collected a lot of unnecessary stuff.

Home File Organization 101 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

Over the past year, I’ve switched a lot of my filing over to digital – especially in the work department. In light of that, this year, I set out to find a smaller, more streamlined storage and organizing solution. During a trip to Target a few weeks ago, I picked up two of these Threshold file holders (they aren’t listed online quite yet, or I’d share a link). Needless to say, I loved the wood and brass combo, but I also liked the fact that they were open on top and I could easily get a glimpse at the files without dealing with a cumbersome flap or lid. When I got them home, I attached a Martha Stewart bookplate label (from Staples) that I spray painted flat black to the end of each file holder. I labeled one box “Home” and the other “Business”.

Home File Organization 101 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

Before I got started on all of the actual organizing, I made a list of all of the different files I needed. (I’ll get to those specifics in a second.) Thinking all of this out on paper before diving in really helped me think through what categories and files I needed as well as what order they should go in – which probably ended up saving some time in the long run. Once all of that was squared away, I gathered my three boxes of multi-colored hanging folders (these from Office Max), scissors and label maker and got to work.

Home File Organization 101 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but whenever I make labels for things like files or lots of boxes at once, I type everything out (as much as the label maker allows at one time), then hit the “Print” button to print them all out in one fell swoop. You’ll have to cut between each word by hand rather than with the machine, but you end of saving a lot of label tape. Speaking of label makers, I’ve been using this one for a little over a year, and I love it. There are a bunch of fonts to choose from, and customization options galore – but not to the point where it gets confusing. If you’re looking for a super simple label maker that’s still great, but has less bells and whistles, I also highly recommend this one. Is it sad that I could seriously write a whole post about label makers? Anyway, back to filing! One more thing, because I always get this question, the small pair of scissors are from here.

Home File Organization 101 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

HOME // Every household is different, but here’s a rundown of what we keep in our “Home” filing box…

Blue. The blue files are for all things related to taxes. We have files for our taxes papers for the last five years (one for each year) and one called “Current” for important random papers we need to keep on hand for this year’s taxes come next April. We also have a file for income records.

Green. Green means money. We keep the majority of our finance information in our Home Finance Binder (which is a life saver when it comes to monthly budgeting and for fining info fast) but this is where we keep hard copies of the important things. The file names in this section include Bank Accounts, Donations, Investments, Mortgage, Greg’s School Loan, Paid Off (letters and account information for things that have been paid off) and Retirement.

Yellow. The yellow files are for house and auto. The file names include Home Insurance, Warranties (home warranty papers as well as large purchases like appliances), Auto Insurance and one for each vehicle. Obviously, there’s more home-related things you should keep on hand, like contractors names, serial numbers, maintenance and so on; but we keep all of that info tucked away in our Home Maintenance Binder. I know, I still haven’t blogged about that. Adding that to my list of things to blog about!

Red. The red files are for all things medical. We have a folder for each of us (including Bentley) as well as Insurance (for extra cards and the benefit summaries that come in the mail every year or whenever your plan changes), Paid Medical Bills, Dental, and Vision.

Purple. Finally, the purple files are for miscellaneous important papers and memberships. Our files include: Passports, Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificate, Diplomas, Alumni Info, AAA, Hotel Rewards and Frequent Flyer Miles. The passports, birth certificates and the marriage certificate are better off being kept in a fireproof box – these are just copies.

Home File Organization 101 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

BUSINESS // Eighty percent of my business-related files are kept on my computer. Everything from design client contracts to writing gig agreements are kept on my computer and backed up on a remote disk. That being the case, all I keep in the business file holder are incoming and outgoing expenses.

Green. This section differs for every type of business, but for this category, I have files for Design Projects, Writing Gigs, Advertising, Affiliates, Shop Sales and Awards & Misc.

Blue. This is for all of the outgoing receipts. The file names include Printing, Shipping, Packaging, Mailbox, Office Supplies, Hosting, Legal & Accounting, Donations and Equipment & Misc.

Purple. This section is dedicated to storing and sorting my favorite samples for future projects. Especially with graphic design projects and the store, I tend to collect a hefty amount of paper and printing samples. So, having a place to keep all of my favorite and frequently used ones together really proves to be handy. For this section, I have Paper, Printing, Collateral, Photography, Paint and Fabric.

Home File Organization 101 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

Lastly, I put a few extra files in the back of each box for when I need to add a file down the road. I also put a little pouch filled with extra labels and tabs. That way, next time I need to add a new file, everything is right there at my fingertips.

That about wraps up the rundown of our new, streamlined filing system. Like I mentioned earlier, every household and home-based business is different, so while this isn’t really a “guide” on what to file, hopefully it will be helpful in getting the organizational ball rolling.

Now that our filing system is all organized, it makes me even more excited to move on to other organizing projects around the house – like the neglected foyer closet. That’s what I love about organizing – it’s a beautiful, perfectly labeled vicious cycle.

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22 Comments

  • Reply
    Elaine
    April 15, 2014 at 7:21 pm

    This is so helpful! I’ve made a goal of getting my stuff organized soon and this will come in handy I’m sure!

  • Reply
    Bev Ellers
    April 15, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    Hey Ashby,
    Hardest thing for me is keeping up with shreadding of old papers, documents etc. & trying to shreadding any & everything that has any credit numbers on them.

    Next question u mentioned keeping digital files, u mean scanning documents to PC w/Neat scanner? I keep receipts for long time & seems most r using paper that fades so u can’t make out date, price.

    Didn’t you do something similar for greeting cards?

    No urgency on getting back, trust me, I’m still shreadding old paperwork from employment.

    Thanks,
    U r so your “grandma” (good thing!)

    • Reply
      Ashley
      April 15, 2014 at 9:14 pm

      Hey Bev! Haha, thank you : ) To keep files on my computer, I just save things like online receipts, contracts and such as PDFs. I’ve thought about getting a Neat Scanner though – they look so cool! Yep, I made a small file for greeting cards a while back (here) – I’m loving the system!

  • Reply
    Dana
    April 15, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    This is PERFECT timing! Now that the taxes are turned in I’m buckling down to get my files in order.

  • Reply
    Lauren M
    April 15, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    How do you file things like receipts and stuff on your computer? Do you have a scanner? Thanks!

    • Reply
      Ashley
      April 15, 2014 at 9:17 pm

      To file things on my computer, I just save things like online receipts, contracts, bills, etc as PDFs and file them away. I have a scanner, but I rarely, if ever, use it because the PDF system works so well.

  • Reply
    Lillie
    April 15, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    I always love your organizing posts. Makes me want to throw away everything and start over. Baby steps, right??

    • Reply
      Ashley
      April 15, 2014 at 9:15 pm

      Thank you! And, right! Baby steps…

  • Reply
    Megan
    April 15, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    I know what I’m doing this weekend! Thanks for posting this.

  • Reply
    Lisa
    April 15, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    So helpful! I really need to get my filing together and this is perfect motivation for me to get started.

  • Reply
    Cara
    April 15, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    I really enjoy your organizing posts. They aren’t too complicated or fussy and easy to do. Feel free to post anything else you organize! Hint hint!

    • Reply
      Ashley
      April 15, 2014 at 9:15 pm

      Haha, will do!

  • Reply
    Mara K
    April 15, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    You are REALLY good at SO MANY things! Thanks for sharing with those of us who aren’t:) Seriously.

  • Reply
    Megan // Honey We're Home
    April 15, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    Color coding is such a great idea- and I love those boxes!

  • Reply
    Jen
    April 16, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    When I organized my own home files, I came upon a great resource on how long to keep various types of documents. It really helped me to purge things I no longer needed, and focus on organizing the things that were left. Check it out if you’re interested: http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Money/Personal-Finance/Managing-Household-Records.shtml. I really like how you keep the tabs within each color aligned. It looks much cleaner than a random pattern. Thanks for the colorful inspiration!

    • Reply
      Ashley
      April 16, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      Thanks for the link! Very helpful!

  • Reply
    susan
    April 17, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    This looks really helpful. Could you also do a post on budgeting? I know the basics but get thrown when I try to implement it myself.

    • Reply
      Ashley
      April 17, 2014 at 2:20 pm

      Thanks! We touched on that a little bit in this post.

  • Reply
    Amanda Schaumburger
    April 17, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    Curious what the width of these boxes are (short side)? Might work perfect for an area in my office!

    • Reply
      Ashley
      April 18, 2014 at 12:02 pm

      They are 9″ wide and 10.5″ tall.

  • Reply
    Mary
    April 17, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Hi Ashley!
    I’m in the market for file holders. I would have gone with the traditional plastic ones that are oh so common but these wood ones are a beaut! How much did they cost? I’m thinking about heading over to Target after work 🙂

    • Reply
      Ashley
      April 17, 2014 at 8:48 pm

      These were around $15 each, I think. I’m pretty sure, haha.

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