Friday, June 15, 2012

Under the Paper Pile

A hundred years ago, I schlepped Sizzix and Mrs. Grossman's in a scrapbook store. A vicious rumor started there: that I liked organizing things. 

No, no. I liked organizED things. 

Big difference. Clearly not represented in my filing system, pictured below:

Can we zoom in on that business?

Holy moly. It really upset Peanut:

And our newest addition, Rudy:

Well, or not. But it DID upset me, so I got to it.

Before I did anything, I got my tools ready. I have this tiny box full of sticky notes, paper clips, white out, and writing tools for just such occasion. This was especially helpful when I was in school for 92375 semesters and had to study a lot.

By the way, green is the superior highlighter color.

Gotta have a trash bag too, for all the junk mail I know is in that big ol' pile.

And the piece de resistance: a label maker. You could use your handwriting, of course, and just write on the tabs, but a label maker will make you feel much more accomplished and neat.

Or I'm just easily entertained.

In either case, there's no short cut for going through a paper stack like this. Wait, can we see that again?


I thought I would share my filing system just in case it helps anyone. I'm a filer, and I married a piler, and thus this type of organization is usually my job. There isn't much use in going through paperwork unless there's a place for it to go. We have one, single, cheap filing drawer that we cart around. It's not a perfect system, but it's neat and tidy and works for now. It looks like this:

(Caveat: As much as I'm an oversharer, I'm not into sharing the intimate details of my finances and delicate paperwork... so I'll give categories, and you can change it up where necessary.)

PURPLE: Vital documents. The only thing we keep in there are copies of our wills. Marriage licenses, birth certificates, POAs, etc. etc. are kept in our safe. Basically, I keep the wills and living wills here just in case something happens to the both of us at the same time, our wills will be easily accessible. If you don't have a will, GET ONE. It's a complete must for military families, but for everyone else too. Everybody dies, dude, and it's not morbid to want to protect your family. I'll get off my pedestal and continue.

BLUE: That's your major finances. Bank accounts, investments, credit cards, IRAs, etc. etc. It's important to save statements and such for a year or so, and this is where we do it.

GREEN: Regular ol' bills. Utilities, phone, cable, Internet, HOA, and such. Booooring.

RED: The Big Stuff. The really expensive, I'm-in-debt-for-years stuff. Houses, cars, boats, etc. Not the big screen you put on layaway (I'd file that under a "furniture" folder in the misc. section), but the really really major life purchases. Keep titles, statements, and other important things you might need for insurance purposes.

TURQUOISE: Miscellaneous stuff. I keep my teaching licenses here, info about the dogs (they each get their own file for vet records), and other weird paperwork I don't want to throw away but doesn't go anywhere else.

YELLOW: Tax returns, and, if you need to keep them, receipts. We keep ours for 10 years and then move the oldest file up to the front.

Now, I don't lug around this giant filing drawer every time I get a piece of junk mail. That would be crazy. I have this little dude hanging out in my kitchen:

Next to the tiniest dog bones ever made. It used to be in my classroom, but since I don't have one of those anymore, it's made a big difference in how we manage paper. There's really no excuse for leaving something on the counter when the filing box is right next to it. I'm planning on covering the box with some less classroom-y paper one of these days.

I keep the inside simple:

TO FILE: Stuff that really belongs in the big drawer, but I don't feel like traipsing upstairs right now. Or next week.

IMPORTANT RECEIPTS: Basically, things I think I might return. In there right now? The receipt for the area rug we just brought home from HomeGoods that didn't quite fit right in our house. Boo.

COUPONS: Pretty self-explanatory. I have an envelope for each store I shop at regularly, and then manufacturer's coupons just go in the folder part.

TO SHRED: Again, not a big mystery. Stuff that I don't want to put in the garbage. In California, someone sorts every piece of your garbage, so you really don't want your SSN or something ending up in that someone's pocket.

MENUS: Takeout and local restaurants, just in case we need some inspiration about where to go or (on the very rare occasion) order in.

BROCHURES: There is SO much to do around here that we haven't done. I keep brochures, leaflets, ads, and other things in here that we might want to look at later. Napa Valley Wine Train is calling to me...

 I have a lot of blank folders in there, so I stash extra tabs in the back. My label maker is in a drawer in the laundry room, so I know it's never too far. :)

And that's that! I can't say I'm organized about everything, but I do feel like I have a pretty good system to help control the paper flow around these parts.

I'll leave you with another photo of our new pooch and his giant bone. Have a great weekend!

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