Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Simple: Files

Yesterday was a day to get stuff done. I crossed off almost half my list (quite a feat, let me tell you!), got the baby through the day alive and only forgot one appointment. The icing on the cake happened in the late evening when the simplicity bug bit me really hard. Right on the filing cabinet. So I opened up the drawers and started purging.

First I purged old bills and bank statements. Then old school files. Then papers we'd been keeping around since the 90s. Yeah, I know... I'm still wearing shame on my face. 

As I purged, I started building on my existing system for keeping the papers I wanted to keep. Rather than putting everything in the filing cabinet, I am keeping a house binder. This is a brilliant creation and many variations are available on the internet. My binder is a combination of several different ideas.I made sure to buy a pretty binder with matching pencil pocket, folders and sorting tabs. You could probably put one of these together with the things you already own, but I like things to be pretty and since this binder would probably be kept out in the open, I wanted to make sure it was nice to look at. Also because I often grab the mondo thing and take it to the grocery store with me so I have all my grocery info. I may eventually make another binder just for groceries and budgets, but for now it's working reasonably well.

Once all the purging was done, I am keeping a 3" binder , a 1.5" binder and a few hanging folders. The drawer is now about 1/4 full of files. Previously, I kept everything in a hodge-podge mess of hanging folders in the two drawers of the filing cabinet so tightly crammed in there I never wanted to put a document away because I couldn't get it in. Now I keep my binder on my desk or very close to it and as soon as I have a document to file, I hole punch it and put it away. No mess, no fuss. As another positive to this, I no longer have an inbox. I am motivated to keep up with my paper clutter because it looks a lot better in my pretty binder than in a tray on my desk.

In the large binder, I keep a pocket for writing implements, all my active documents (budgets, grocery lists, etc), informational documents (personal, emergency and babysitter), our insurance policies (auto and renter's), "Fire Safe" documents (birth certificates, social security cards, marriage license, etc), medical records and expenses, car registrations and titles, car maintenance record, investment portfolio, rental lease, credit reports, important documents & receipts for guns and jewelry, tax documentation, and school transcripts.

In the 1.5" binder, I keep 12 months of bills, bank statements and pay stubs. This is stored in one drawer with the folders where I keep 7 years of tax archives, our will and long term storage. In the same drawer, I also keep all the user manuals for our equipment in a photo box.

I now have an empty drawer in my filing cabinet! Here's a photo for proof:
Of course, it won't stay empty for long. I have been storing some things on top of the filing cabinet for some time and now they have a home out of sight!

Very soon my goal is to not need a filing cabinet at all, but unfortunately that is a long process and a big adjustment. I am not ready to go paperless, but I'm working toward that goal.

What are you keeping in your filing cabinet? How would you like your system to look?

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