Bills, receipts, coupons – I often feel like PAPER is my arch nemesis. Piles seem to stack up faster than I can sort them. But about seven years ago I came up with a pretty good system and I’m still using it – so I thought I’d share it with you. . .
The key to me filing my papers (and being able to find them later) has been a small counter-top filing box (see below). It’s looking a little crooked (thanks to my son sitting on the lid) and it’s seen better days, but it’s still very functional and not bad for being nearly seven years old. I paid about $10 for it at Office Max. It hangs out in our kitchen, dining room, living room – where ever I happen to be “working” at the time, this organizer is near by.
When we get mail, bills, or when we have things we need to file or work on, they go in here. My husband is familiar with the system – so we are both empowered to file and stay organized. By having a place for all our paper – it makes it easy to put it where it belongs. By having it in our living space, instead of the office upstairs, it’s easy and accessible – which means we keep up with it.
When it’s time to pay bills, or send a card, or find a bill – I grab this and it has everything inside. Stamps, envelopes, a calculator, addresses, etc. By making it easy – I keep up with it (see the theme here?).
These are some of the folder categories I have inside:
- Bills to pay
- To file or keep
- Addresses, envelopes
- To shred
- To pass along (items I need to give to someone else)
- Rebates to do
- Pending rebates (copies of all rebates I’ve sent off and I’m waiting for my money)
- Business receipts to file
- Charity/donation receipts
- Kid’s papers
- Daily Deal Vouchers
Get started with this system:
- Find the right table-top file box. You don’t want it too big (or else you won’t want it around in your living space). You can find them at most office stores, Target, Walmart, etc. You should be able to find one for $10-$15. Pick a design/style that you wouldn’t mind looking at for a while. Amazon has a whole bunch of portable file organization boxes but I think you can get a “cuter” one at Office Deport or Office Max.
- Folders and labels. Depending on what your box comes with when you buy it, you might need to buy labels and folders. My favorite labels are Avery Labels and for these, I used the Avery clear file labels.
- Figure out your categories. What are your most common piles of paper. Bills? Receipts? To Do? Work? Kids homework? Make a list and narrow it down to a good dozen categories. Too many categories and you’ll be overwhelmed.
- Put it in plain sight. Out of sight, out of mind. Don’t stash it away. Put it where you sort your mail or where you pay bills. It’s portable – so you can always take it to the office if you need to pay bills – but you want to put it in an accessible place so you can stash your papers easily.
- Empower others. I’m a control freak (suprised?) – but I explained the system to my husband, so he’s empowered to find any papers he finds laying around the house. This helps us both work toward being better organized.
When my “to file” section gets too full – I move those files up to my file cabinet in my office for longer-term storage. Nothing should live in here long-term except for your addresses, stamps and tools (like calculator, stapler, pen/pencil, etc.)
I’d love to hear your thoughts. How to do tackle the never ending piles of papers?
I have also updated my calendar and meal planning schedule and tackled the spice cabinet.