7th House on the Left

File Organization 101

posted by Ashley  /  22 Comments

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.

Thanks to a quick Pinterest search, I have come to realize that anything and everything has been done to an Easter egg. They’ve been gilded, washi-taped, decoupaged, glittered, studded, chalk-boarded and even painted with nail polish. While I still have a major soft spot for the classic PAAS Coloring Kit (the smell of the dye still brings me back to my Grandma’s kitchen island), it’s official to say that we’ve gone way beyond the traditional dying technique from the days of yore and have moved on to more elaborate decorations. Here are a few of my favorites from the World Wide Web…

Not Your Grandma's Easter Eggs // 7 Easter Egg Decorating Ideas // 7thhouseontheleft.com

1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7

I bought a set of wooden eggs on Amazon about a month or so ago. I planned on decorating them and being able to keep them for next year – as apposed to decorating real eggs and having to throw them away. I had every intention of decorating them by now, but there they are, still sitting in the project pile here in my office. After rounding up this inspiration, I must say I’m a little intimidated. So. Many. Ideas. I still can’t decide what to do with them and I might even end up saving them for next year – we shall see.

Do you have a favorite Easter egg decorating technique? Or do you stick to the tried-and-true PAAS Kit?

Last week, my mom gave Ash a call to tell her there was a guy at her office who had an old steamer trunk that he was taking to the dump. When she saw it, she immediately thought of us and called to ask if we wanted it. Knowing I have a soft spot for vintage trunks, Ashley said, “Sure, why not?!” The next day, my mom brought over this guy…

A Bit of a Fixer-Upper // 7thhouseontheleft.com

Sure, it’s been through the wringer a few times, and it needs a lot of TLC, but it’s pretty awesome, right? There’s no indication as to how old it is, but as far as I know, it fits firmly into the “pretty dang old” category.

A Bit of a Fixer-Upper // 7thhouseontheleft.com

One of the leather straps is broken, but I’m hoping that will be a relatively easy fix. Other than that, a few nails are missing from the metal parts, and the lock no longer works. Fixing the lock might be out of the question, but I have a good idea of how I could probably fix and clean up the rest of this “fixer-upper.”

A Bit of a Fixer-Upper // 7thhouseontheleft.com

The inside is even dirtier than the outside – which is why it’s currently hanging out on the covered patio until we get it cleaned up. I have a feeling the original owner took a look inside and said, “I’m not messing with that.” Hence why it was in the back of his truck for disposal. One cool little detail is the pocket on the inside of the lid that I’m guessing would have been used to hold important papers and such.

Trunk Makeover Inspiration // 7thhouseontheleft.com

So, naturally, Ash is drumming up ideas on what to do with it. She’s thinking the best place for it might be in the guest bedroom, serving as a side table next to the chair (the one we’re hoping to replace sometime soon) in the corner. I think, if it turns out to look really cool, it should go in the living room, where we can show it off. Another option would be to put it in my office to balance out all of the modern aesthetics. It would be a great place for my record player and records. I guess we’ll see where it takes us. Inspiration photos from above found here, here and here.

While I have you guys here, I have a really quick favor to ask. We are very excited to be up for the JDR Industry Blogger Awards in the Remodeling category again this year! We were lucky enough to win in the same category last year and are honored to be nominated again. If you can spare 15 seconds of your time, Ashley and I would love your vote! It only takes two clicks (or taps if you’re on a mobile device), and there’s no registration or logging in required. Just click here and vote. Just like last year, if we win, a portion of the winnings will go directly towards Habitat for Humanity. We really appreciate your support!

Disclosure: My Frozen-loving wife was totally responsible for title of this post.