I am at a place in life where I have figured out what things I am good at… and what things I am not. I am really great at financial organization and simplification! I am pretty bad at creative design and making things “cute.”

This blog will give you tips on how to organize your filing cabinet. This information will be gold! Forewarning though, I can offer no tips on how to make your filing cabinet or office space “cute.” 😊

Here we go!

Step 1: PURGE

It is easier to find the files you really need if they aren’t lost in the weeds of unneeded documents. You do NOT need to keep all files forever.

As it often goes, you must de-organize before you can organize. Sort through ALL of your files.

Here are suggestions on how long to keep certain documents:

  • Tax records

    • Keep for 7 years as the IRS can only challenge your tax returns from 6 years back.
  • Original loan agreements

    • Once you pay off the loan, hold them for at least 1 year.
  • Lease and/or property agreements

    • If you rent, keep your lease until you move out and receive your security deposit.
    • If you own, keep the home purchase documents for 7 years after you sell it.
  • Employment Benefits

    • Keep 1 copy of each benefit for as long as you work there.
  • Banking & Credit Cards

    • If you have online access, keep 1 printed statement for each bank account & credit card.
    • If you like paper, shred January – November statements once you have December’s.
    • If you close an account, shred statements after 1 year.
  • Home Maintenance/Improvement

    • Keep record of major home projects for as long as you live in the house. The records could be necessary to calculate capital gains taxation when you sell.
  • Warranties

    • Keep until the warranty period is expired.
  • Receipts

    • Keep receipts until the “return period” is over.
    • If a purchase is related to a tax deduction, keep the receipt for 7 years.
  • Investment Accounts

    • If you have online access, keep 1 printed statement.
    • If you like paper, shred January – November statements once you have December’s.
  • Utility Bills

    • If you pay online, keep 1 paper statement for each utility you actively use.
    • If you receive paper bills, shred them once the payment is processed.
  • Insurance Documents

    • Keep the original policy documents for as long as the policies are active.
  • Identification/“Keep Forever” Documents

    • Birth certificate, social security card, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, estate documents, death certificate, adoption documents, car titles, home deeds, military discharge papers

Step 2: Get Files!

Everyone will have slightly different documents and slightly different preferences for organization. This is what works for me – feel free to adapt!

I bought hanging files like these.                                                                                       I bought file folders to go inside them.

 

Step 3: Make Labels

Again, adapt these to your own needs! Here is what I did.

Hanging File Labels:

Banking/Credit Cards

Employer Benefits

Identification

Insurance

Investments

Home Maintenance

Home Purchase Documents

Medical Receipts

Professional Designations & Registrations

Taxes ‘13

Taxes ‘14

Taxes ‘15

Taxes ‘16

Taxes ‘17

Taxes ‘18

Taxes ‘19

Vehicles

Warranties

 

I then labeled file folders to go inside some of the hanging files. I did this to add further divide between account/policy types as well as to identify which family member they belonged to.

Inner File Folder Labels:

Banking/Credit Cards

  • Individual folders for each account name

Employer Benefits

  • Individual folders for each applicable household member (ex: “Will” or “Jess”)

Estate Documents

  • Individual folder for “Wills”, “Power of Attorney”, “Living Wills”, “Trust”

Identification

  •  Individual folders for “Passports”, “Birth Certificates & Social Security Cards”, “Deeds & Titles”

Insurance

  • Individual folders for “Health – Will”, “Health – Jess”, “Life – Will”, “Life – Jess”, “Dental & Vision”, “Home”, “Auto”, and “Disability

Investments

  • Individual folder for each account name

Home Maintenance

  • No further breakdown. Consider making folders for year division. (ex: “2015-2020”, “2021-2026”, etc.)

Home Purchase Documents

  • No further breakdown unless you own multiple properties

Medical Receipts

  • Individual folders for each applicable household member. Consider breaking it down into years.

Professional Designations & Registrations

  • No further breakdown

Taxes ‘13

  • No further breakdown

Taxes ‘14

Taxes ‘15

Taxes ‘16

Taxes ‘17

Taxes ‘18

Taxes ‘19

Vehicles

  • Individual file for each vehicle. I like to keep recent maintenance receipts, but you can consider keeping digital records. I probably keep too many documents, because of my lack of expertise in this area!

Warranties

  • No further breakdown

Step 4: Store Safely

I put most of these files in a regular locking filing cabinet. For the most part, if the files burned or were stolen, I could replace them easily.

However, the files in red, I keep in a secure, fireproof safe. These are documents that hold higher importance, might be called upon in emergency situations, or are difficult to reproduce.

Step 5: Maintain!

Sort through and file mail right when you receive it. Only touch it once! It should go immediately to the recycling bin, shred machine, or the filing drawer.

Once you have created the file folders, there is very little work in keeping your documents organized.

Sort through and file mail right when you receive it. Only touch it once! Share on X

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I hope these steps provide you with the guidance and motivation you need to get your important documents in order.

I have found that organization has a domino effect. Once you get your files in order… you want to get your estate plan in orderthen you want to get your investments in order… and it continues on! Take a step and see what happens!