Setting up a filing system at home can be a little confusing. What do I keep? What do I file this under? Where did I put that? Setting up a filing system the right way can save you time and frustration when looking for that important paper that you need. Just imagine going to your filing cabinet, opening the drawer, and finding exactly what you were looking for in two seconds. Ahh, yes that is heaven.
Now depending on how much paperwork you have will decide just what type of storage system you need, such as a tall file cabinet or a small plastic crate. Either way, my system will work. But, before you file anything you must purge! No sense making room for things you don’t need.
If you want help getting organized with your bills before you get to filing the paid ones, check out my article on simple ways to make bill paying easier. Simple Ideas to make bill paying easier
Items to keep indefinitely
So first lets talk about what you will need to keep vs. tossing. Below are items you will need to keep indefinitely and they are:
- Birth and death certificates
- Social security cards
- Pension plan documents
- ID cards and passports
- Marriage license
- Business license
- Any insurance policy (car, health, home, life, etc.)
- Wills, living wills, health care proxy forms, and powers of attorney
- Vehicle titles and loan documents
- Savings Bonds
*All of the documents above should be kept in a safe deposit box or a fireproof safe.
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How long do I need to keep these papers?
Next would be documents and papers you need to keep for a certain amount of time and they are:
- Tax records and supporting receipts (keep for 7 years)
- Pay stubs (keep for 1 year until you reconcile with your W2 form)
- Bank Statements (Keep for 1 year unless you need it for tax purposes)
- Home purchase, sale, or improvement documents (keep for as long as you own your home and for 5-6 yrs after you sell. *Personally I would keep these indefinitely)
- Medical records and bills (keep at least 1 year after payment in case of issues)
- Warranty documents and receipts (keep as long as you own them or until the warranty expires. staple to the receipt or cc bill for proof of purchase)
Keep these until you get a new one
Then you have paperwork you should keep until you get a new one:
- Social security statements
- Annual insurance policy statements
- Retirement plan and investment statements (you can shred monthly or quarterly statements after you receive the yearly statement but keep the yearly ones for as long as you own the investment)
- Deposit Slips (reconcile each month with your bank statement, then shred)
- Credit card bills (Keep until you check charges and pay the bill, then shred. Keep only if you need proof of a charge for tax purposes)
- Receipts (keep if your keeping track of your spending, if you might return something, have gifted something, or need it for tax purposes, otherwise shred immediately)
To Toss or To Shred
The next thing you need to think about before setting up a filing system is whether to toss or shred what you have. The rule of thumb is easy; if it has any personal information on it like your name, address, phone number, social security number, or bank account information shred it!
Setting Up Your Filing System
Now let’s set up your files. I will share how I set up my file cabinet but you will need to use this as an example and set yours up according to your own needs. For each category I use a hanging green file folder with the little plastic tabs with the inserts that I label with my label maker, and then all the sub folders I use decorative file folders with labels. Having everything the same helps to keep your paperwork looking less cluttered. My files look like this:
Drawer #1 (alphabetical, except for the tax file)
To shop for decorative file folders click the link here decorative file folders
- This years tax info (Papers I need for end of the year taxes. I keep this folder right in the front of the file)
- Bank loans (I keep statements and other paperwork until the end of the year)
- Camper information
- Credit cards (I have sub folders for each credit card company and file my statements and other bank information)
- Disney (We have time share and I keep info about this and any other cool Disney info I want to keep)
- Dogs (For vet info, adoption papers, rabies certificates, etc.)
- Important (any important paperwork I want to keep that doesn’t fit into a specific category)
- Insurance (I have sub-folders for health, medical, car, and life insurance and keep my monthly bills, health records, tests, etc.)
- IRA’s (I keep monthly statements for our investments and retirement info)
- Work info
- Misc. (This is for misc. information that I want to keep that isn’t important, but nevertheless something I want to keep)
- Utilities (I have sub folders for each category such as heating, electricity, water, cable, etc. and I keep them for a year…even though I don’t have to :))
Drawer #2 (This is for papers I need to keep past the current year)
- Credit reports and other credit information
- Bank Statements (I like to keep them)
- Dogs (stuff I don’t need on a regular basis)
- Juror information (I’ve been called to serve when I already did and it was a lifesaver that I kept my past service paper)
- Medical information
- Tax Returns (I keep all of my past tax returns and supporting documents but you only need them for 7 years)
- Vehicle information
- Warranty information (I keep warranties and manuals until I no longer have the item)
This drawer I use for my business information. I keep information for our rental properties and 2 past businesses for tax purposes.
I hope this helps you to get your paperwork in order. Setting up a filing system for your paperwork is easier than it seems. And the best part is you will know exactly where everything is right when you need it.