Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How I Organize My Paper Files and Filing Cabinet

I haven't embraced a paper-free lifestyle yet. I still prefer a paper day planner over my google calendar. I still keep my favorite recipes in a binder instead of an online recipe portal. I prefer to read paper books over our e-reader. And I still use a filing cabinet for my office papers, instead of scanning them onto the computer.

Up until a few years ago, my filing cabinet was a mess. I filed our essential papers, but I wasn't purging at the same time. I finally purged and reorganized the cabinet a few years ago and I'm happy to report that I haven't regressed back to my old ways. Instead I've kept the cabinet organized and up to date. During that process, I researched and reported back to you how long you should keep your financial documents. If you haven't read it, it is one of my most popular posts.

A reader commented that my filing tips were lost in the post and she suggested that I write a separate post. I thought that was a swell idea. Thanks, Celia!

I've organized all of our major categories and then I use sub-files within each cateogry. I use hanging files with tabs and manila folders to divide my categories and sub-files, depending on the amount of documents that I am storing. On the front of the filing cabinet, I list what is in each drawer.

Major Category: Assets - I have sub-files for checking, savings, retirement. Although, I don't bother keeping month end statements any more, because our banks have that information on line for the last 5 years.

Major Category: Auto - I keep sub-file for each vehicle with the loan information or deed and service receipts.

Major Category: Insurance - My sub-files are Auto, Health, Health Savings Account, Home-Owners, Life.

Major Category: Legal Documents - I have sub-files for marriage and birth certificates, passports, and will.

Major Category: Liabilities - My sub-files are Credit Cards, Mortgage, Student Loan, Credit Score Info.

Major Category: Home improvements - I keep a sub-file for each major improvement project where I store the receipts, contracts, warranties, contractor information.

Major Category: Medical records - I keep a file for each family member.

Major Category: Professional Records - My sub-files include resume, employer records, degree records, etc.

Major Category: Taxes - I have a sub-file for each year.

Major Category: Education - I keep a folder for each daughter.

Keeping my papers organized has helped us find a needed document at a moments notice. It has saved us time and our sanity. I just have to remember to continue to purge and shred any unneeded papers.

Do you still keep and store paper files or have you gone completely digital? What is your method? Please let us know in the comments.

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This post is linked to Frugal Friday at Life as MOM.


  1. I still have lots of paper files, although I am trying to reduce them. I have a large file cabinet where the files are kept, but I keep a "household filing" folder in my desk drawer, so I can collect things there until I am ready to have a filing session.

  2. Glad you liked my suggestion! Great post!

  3. Unfortunately, there is always some papers you need to keep in a file. I am paperless, but I still keep files.

  4. Thank you so much for this post. I was struggling with a couple of broad categories and you have given me some ideas. - Dawn

  5. I keep paper files, though I have gone the paperless billing route as much as I can.

    However, I'm doing more online in Evernote. I've been capturing info on the kids' school and sports, plus writing out plans for various projects and blogging.

    I have a foot in both worlds, and I don't think I will ever go truly paperless. I always print out my taxes when I'm done, and I'll never stop doing that.

  6. Barb - Your comment made me realize that I didn't include a file for utilities, because I have also gone the paperless billing route for just about every utility bill. I guess I'm more paper-free than I thought.

    Also, my husband has been raving about Evernote. I need to check it out.

    thanks for the comments.

  7. Proud to say I've gone the completely paperless route! What I can't receive via electronic billing, I scan, file (with appropriate online and external drive backup), shred and recycle. Even my notes from meetings, etc. that I may need to keep get scanned and filed. That being said...your paper filing system had some good organizational tips that can be applied to a "virtual" file cabinet, so thanks!


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