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.
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.
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”.
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.
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 // 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.
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.
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.