I bet you thought you had a lot of paper clutter by yourself didn’t you? Now that you’ve started a family, are you drowning in paper yet??
After spending more than one hour looking for our marriage certificate (which we had just received months prior), enough was enough for me.
Husbae went out of town for a weekend and I completely revamped our home office by creating a filing system that fit our document organization needs.
Today, I’ll be sharing how you can make your own home filing system because, trust me…YOU NEED IT.
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Why You Need A Filing System
As your family increases and life gets more complicated, it becomes more and more crucial to keep your documents well organized.
Legal documents are needed for all of life’s big decisions and they often need to be accessed quickly.
A filing system ensures that you know where to find your important documents at any given time.
Don’t forget- it can be expensive, time consuming, complicated (and sometimes impossible) to replace lost documents.
Having a system set up before you need it simplifies your life.
The cherry on top is that reducing paper clutter keeps your home cleaner and brings you peace of mind.
How To Make A Home Filing System
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STEP 1: Choose a Filing System & File Folders
PART A: Filing Systems
There are many, many filing systems out there so there is a high likelihood you will find something that works perfectly for your household.
– Some people choose to use a binder. If so, keep in mind that it may be difficult to fit oddly shaped items or thick documents like passports in there.
– Consider using something portable so that you can grab it and go in case of an emergency.
PART B: File Folders
Most file systems don’t come with actual file folders so you will need to purchase these separately.
Make sure they have tabs for labeling purposes!
Some folders have staggered tabs while some have uniform tabs (the tab is in the same place on every folder). I like staggered tabs for visibility purposes but some people prefer uniform tabs so that you can arrange the folders however you want without them looking messy.
To organize our documents, we are using a tiered desktop organizer and these pretty file folders from Target. It currently looks like this but, based on how cramped it’s been getting, we will most likely be upgrading to a bigger system soon.
STEP 2: Collect Important Documents
For this step, collect all the important documents that will be filed in one place.
This may include (but is not limited to):
- Important Bills
- ID Cards
- Past & Current Tax Documents
- Apartment Leases / Home Mortgages
- Car Payments & Registration
- Investment Documents
- Important Receipts
STEP 3: Create Categories
Group like documents together and name each group. The groups are your categories.
Remember that this is a ‘living’ system, meaning that it should meet the unique needs of your household right now and then evolve with any changes to your lives.
As an example, we currently have a category named “Residency” for my husband’s residency documents. Once he graduates, we will archive those documents and phase that category out.
Since file folders commonly come in sets of 12, you may consider limiting yourself to 12 categories. But if you need more and don’t mind the spend, category away!
Here are some categories (& document examples) to get you started:
– Legal Documents (passports, ID cards, social security cards, etc)
– Health Related Documents (doctor visit notes, prescriptions, lab results)
– Banking / Credit Card Information
– House Ownership / Rental (mortgage, leases, insurance, etc)
– Car-Related (payments, registrations, titles, warranties)
– Insurance Information
– Memberships / Subscriptions (Costco, air miles, Netflix, etc)
– Tax Information
– Social Engagements & Vacations (invitations, reservations)
– Residency/ School Information (calendars, syllabi, contracts)
– Your Business or Employment Information
– Unresolved Bills/Payments & Issues
– Digital Storage (USBs, CDs, Hard Drives)
It gets a bit confusing when a document fits into multiple different categories (e.g. an upcoming mortgage payment can go under house ownership or unresolved bills).
Just make sure you categorize items according to what comes naturally to your brain.
That way, when you are looking for a document, you can find it in the first place you think to look.
STEP 4: Arrange Your Categories & File Folders
Decide what order you want your categories to go on the folders.
Some things to think about:
– Which folders will you access most often?
Perhaps these should be in the front while the less popular folders are in the back.
– Which folders will have the most papers?
You can alternate folders with most and least papers so that one area doesn’t get more crowded than another
– Which folders are related?
It might be wise to put them close together
– Scan all (or the most important) documents with an app like ‘Genius Scan’, then you will have these documents saved digitally as well!
– To make things extra easy to find, create digital folders that are identical to your file folder system.
STEP 5: Make Labels
If your penmanship is on point, handwrite your categories onto your folder tabs.
If penmanship isn’t your best quality, there is no shame in using a label maker.
STEP 6: Put It All Together
This is the fun part!
- Stick your labels onto your folders.
- File away each document into the appropriate folder
- File away each folder
- Dust off your shoulders & admire your work (yes, this step is required)
Maintaining Your Filing System
It’s important to purge and check the relevancy of your folders regularly. , You don’t want to run out of space or keep an outdated, useless system.
Purge & reorganize your filing system at least once a year or after a big move or life change.
How Long To Keep Important Documents
You’re probably wondering how long is too long to keep each legal document.
Well, I figured you’d wonder so I created a handy dandy document for you to refer to.
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The ideal storage for your most important documents should be:
> Fire Safe
> Water Proof
> Hidden away from theft
> Not accessed carelessly
Choose a fireproof waterproof box like this for your most important legal documents.
You can also consider a safe deposit box or digital storage for important legal documents.
So, how did your filing system turn out?
Comment below and tell us what unique categories you had to make for your family document organizer.
Until next time!