Filing Cabinet Organizztion

marie26June 23, 2011

I haven't been on this site in quite a while but it's time for me to get organizing (again!).

I need to redo my filing cabinet, taking out the older information and renaming/reorganizing the file folders that remain.

There are 2 of us at home. As an example, we have medical information and tax returns for each of us and I'm trying to figure out how to organize this information into sub folders, something I have not done before. Should I start with Medical Information or Taxes and organize by person into this file or should I put the Medical Information and Taxes under each person.

Which way do you think makes more sense? Or is there absolutely no difference?

Any other advice you can give me is greatly appreciated.

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I think files need to be large enough to be meaningful and small enough to be manageable. Clear as mud right? But what you have I think needs to dictate your files.

For example, we have very few credit cards, so the info related to them is all in one file. Car stuff is all in one file. Taxes are generally filed by year EXCEPT for the year we had a successful argument over deductions and that all has its own file. One of us has some legal stuff that's a bit involved, so that has dedicated multiple files. But almost everything home related (insurance, etc.) is in one file.

Does that make sense? In our house, it's as much about about seeing if there's enough stuff to make up a file as it is about specific categories and we frequently fold in categories if there's not a lot of paper and it all relates.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 10:08AM
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I would do it by person within each category, like medical info. You could then file all the med info together but with a separate folder for each person. We also box up and store the old tax docs in the attic under the eaves. Opens up more space in the file cabinet.
I have one drawer for all of the misc stuff - medical, insurance, home improvements, bank statements, etc. The other drawer has investment folders and instructions on appliances.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 10:53PM
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It is finally dawning on me that the most important thing about my files is that I get information INTO them. This works best if I have one dump-it file called something like "utilities" or "credit cards," health," and so on. When I am motivated to sort further is usually only when I am looking for something. I've tried all the sub-categories, but my truth is I'm in too much of a rush most of the time to function with only those. Need a Dump-it file PLUS the sub categories.

As for sub-cats, the other question is how you want the stuff to be accessed, and by whom. When DH goes to the files, is he more likely to look at files labelled "medical" and then look for his, or is he more likely to go first to his files, and find medical? I think the latter. I also use different coloured file folders for each person, where I have stuff for the kids sorted for instance. The kids will quickly see that all the green files are his, all the red ones are hers, no matter how they are organized. Then you can re-organize at will too.


    Bookmark   June 25, 2011 at 2:06PM
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"It is finally dawning on me that the most important thing about my files is that I get information INTO them. This works best if I have one dump-it file called something like "utilities" or "credit cards," health," and so on. "

It is very important to me that I do the same - get the papers into files.
My files, for the most part, are labeled with the line items of the 1040 tax forms and Schedules.
Makes tax time super easy because everything is already sorted out.
Not sure how my system would work in the OP case, though. Since our medical expenses aren't enough to deduct, I just have one file labeled "Medical-Dental"

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 11:01PM
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I would organize by subject, not by the person. Except I have two separate folders for my two daughters college records-bills, loan applications, medical records, etc.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 11:49AM
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Thank you for the responses. I hadn't filed any of my papers in almost a year, although the tax information had been separated out. I did, however, have all the papers in one of 4 spots which included a box, a drawer and 2 bags. This weekend, I went through everything and ended up putting them into manila folders by subject and by each person, just to get them somewhat organized. I now have to take out the older information out of the filing cabinet and then still decide how to reorganize the newer files once I put them into the filing cabinet. I realized that it bothers me to put 2 subjects into one file because each time I did this, I ended up moving the 2nd subject to its own file.

I had assumed that it would take me hours and hours to do this but in reality, it only took a few hours to do. I am always amazed that when I finally tackle an organizing project, it hardly takes any time to do but I'll look at the mess for months before even getting started.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 4:40PM
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If you have two individuals in the household, then it makes sense to organize by person. After that, organizing on a annual basis makes sense since expenses are typically related to taxes. So Tax Returns 2009, Tax Returns 2010, Medical Bill 2009, Medical Bills, 2010, etc.

Unless you have other records related to taxes, utility bills don't have much value after a year (you could use a "rolling" method, taking out the oldest bill when you put in the newest bill or just do it annually). Credit card statements probably should be kept 2-3 year, especially if you have the kind of credit card that offers an extra warranty on purchases.

In the end it doesn't matter how you organize so long as you understand the system and use it regularly.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 6:37AM
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If you file by year, it will be easy to realize when it's time to "close-out" a file and destroy its contents. We used to do this at work. we'd keep records for six months, long enough in case there was a problem. But the seventh month folders were all purged once a month, usually on the last day of the month.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 10:08AM
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I'd file by how I tend to think of the papers. If you think of medical papers first by the person and then by the topic of "medical," file by person. If you tend to think of "medical issue," and then the person, file all the medical papers together.

Basically, file under the topic you first think of when you look at the paper.

There's no one right way to file. You should chose the system that works best for you and the way you think, and then label the file folders so that someone else can find things if they need to.

So, "Tom--Medical Insurance," "Kathy--Medical Insurance," "Tom--Car Insurance," "Kathy--Car Insurance," "Kathy--Taxes," "Tom--Taxes" and "Medical Insurance--Tom," "Medical Insurance--Kathy," "Car Insurance--Tom," "Car Insurance--Kathy," "Taxes--Tom," "Taxes--Kathy," are both equally correct. Just choose the one that works best for you.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 11:13AM
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I have a file I call "Odds and Ends". I toss into it things like the magazine renewals, receipts I want to keep until I've used the product, and anything else I don't know what to do with. Then every few weeks I go thru it and destroy or refile in the proper place. It works for me!
I made my mother a file like it and she drops all kinds of paperwork into it, the stuff she wants me to look and and when I visit her I go thru it and we file and shred as needed.
Kathy G in MI

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 12:40AM
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I have a nice looking file cabinet. It's got 2 large drawers and is wood-tone laminate. I keep it in my dining room under a window-I keep plants on top of it. So it's attractive and handy. I'll just dump stuff I want to save in the top drawer. About once a month I file and purge. I don't keep receipts except for Christmas gifts, which I dispose of when I put away Christmas decorations. Nor do I keep cancelled checks, as my bank has online records available for 2 and a half years. Goody! Hope these tips help.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 8:10AM
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I own a 2-drawer filing cabinet that I still need to purge the older papers from the top drawer and file this year's papers into it. The bottom drawer is tightly packed with organized files of information that I've saved through the years. It used to be much larger than one drawer and one day I'll go through this one again. I never seem to look in it except when I want to purge. That alone says it all as to its worth but I'm still not ready to let go of all of it. It's the "one day maybe I'll need it" mentality that I have (sigh).

Before I moved into this small apartment almost a year ago, I sold my professional steel 5 drawer filing cabinet that was full. At least I'm down to 2 drawers.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 4:37PM
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