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Life_is_Simple
8-6-12, 10:46am
How do you organize your paper files? What is your system?

Life_is_Simple
8-6-12, 11:35am
What I have done so far myself is not exactly a system, but maybe the start of getting all similar things together. I haven't decided yet what works best - binders, hanging files, accordion files, or other...

Retirement Binder: Yesterday I put the 401k/IRA stuff in a binder in chronological order, and shredded papers I didn't need.
Dental File. I stapled years together and put in a hanging file. But now I'm thinking maybe switch to binder, since I look at the stuff periodically to see which teeth were worked on when.
Health receipts and statements. I put these into an accordion file, by year, so I can shred old years once they are not needed for taxes or flex spending documentation.
Health labs. These are currently in a plastic file with dividers sorted by topic. But I'm thinking of switching to a binder because it's hard to get at, and the newer stuff I have just tossed into a folder. So that system is not really working for me.


So maybe the pattern I'm seeing is, the binder might be for records I want to keep and refer to occasionally, that go back in time.

The accordion file, stuff that I don't want to organize that exactly, but by year where I can shred old years when their time is up.

Aren't hanging files supposed to for current things? Right now, a lot of the papers are in hanging folders.

ToomuchStuff
8-6-12, 12:45pm
Can we expand on this a little more? There are more papers, like utility bills (I know some that pay them and throw them away, while others keep last months, until next months arrive), bank statements (and how long to keep), tax records and such?

I need a better system then the haphazard one I have used the last couple of years.

pinkytoe
8-6-12, 1:08pm
I have one file drawer near the desk devoted to financial matters. I put all files in alpha order Auto, Banking, Credit Cards, Insurance, Utilities, etc. If I have a paper statement, I file there after paying online. In December, I empty these files and move to a storage box in the closet - first clearing out last year's saved files. The storage box also contains papers to keep long-term like home mortgage papers. My plan is to eventually scan as I go so I can further eliminate paper. As far as bill paying, I have a one page spreadsheet with bills due by date and monthly columns which I fill in as paid. That way I don't miss any payment.

Life_is_Simple
8-6-12, 2:22pm
In addition to TooMuchStuff's questions, here's another one for anyone to answer:
- How much space/volume/whatever do the papers consume?
:thankyou:

fidgiegirl
8-6-12, 2:25pm
We do something similar to Miss Minimalist (http://www.missminimalist.com/category/office/), but without the scanning part (I would like to integrate that, but DH likes to touch paper when it comes to bills).

We have an accordion folder with all the statements that we receive regularly. That fills up over the course of a year.

In January, I empty it into a two drawer cabinet and pull out an old pack (either 1 or 3 years old, see below). Once in a while, like right about now, I get an urge to go through what's filed in there that's NOT financial (some career-type things like letters of rec, or a very small amount of interesting articles, etc.) and purge a bit.

Some tax stuff is in a separate box.

That's about it!

I think the most powerful thing for controlling paperwork was learning what I had to keep and what I didn't have to keep. Um, every receipt? Nope. Only for stuff I might need to return, and even then, it's not the hugest of huge deals to not be able to find it. Check stubs from a one-time check that is going right in the bank? Nope. Packing slips from shipping boxes? Nope. I used to keep EVERYTHING. Now I'm a lot more selective. It also, weirdly, helps me to control it all if it's out of the envelope. So envelopes are trashed immediately. And like Miss Minimalist, if I can't look through it right that second and it's ANYTHING I didn't ask for, like those stupid Val Paks, I recycle. To be honest, I recycle most magazines I get, too, even if they are unread. (No worries, I don't pay for them) So if I don't get to it that day or within a very few, in the recycling it goes.

- Bank statements we keep for 3 years, though we rarely get any paper ones anymore.
- Receipts for 1, unless tax related. Those are filed separately from the get-go, and stored with the tax stuff.
- Medical receipts for 1 year. I do file all of them throughout the year because you never know if you have a car accident in December and that puts you up over the limit for being able to do a tax deduction. I always wish I had kept better records of all my medical issues. That's something I still want to figure out. But receipts don't tell the story, so it will have to be some other way.
- Credit card statements for 1 year.
- Tax returns indefinitely, supporting documentation for 10 years.

I'm never sure about retirement info. Do we need EVERY statement, or just the year-end? Do we need all those confirmations that "yes, you did put some money in this month?" Advice appreciated on this point.

Fawn
8-6-12, 2:35pm
I have one drawer that is standard file width and 20" deep. It has all the papers that I save. There are hanging files for main topic and manilla folders with subsets. The hanging files are titled: Automobile, Computer, Death (will, durable healthcare POA, passwords to stuff in sealed envelope, list of assets and how to access. i.e. everything my family would need if I was dead or in a coma-they all know where it is and my best friend too), Health, My Mom, Me, House, Kids, Money, Hobbies, Taxes, Travel, Utilities, Writing, Warrenties.

Subset folders under health include Info from Insurance Co., Kid's Medical, My Medical, Kid's Dental, My Dental. I keep two years worth then shred. Under Money hang folder are the subsets: Checking, Credit Card, Credit Union, Retirement and Expenses. I routinely shred account info after 2 years. I do keep tax info for 7 years as recommended.
Under Hanging File "Kids" each kid has their own with everything from birth certificates to injury/illness record to passport.

If I lived somewhere where fire or flooding was a regular concern, I would have some of these papers in a "flight" bag. But the biggest catastrophes we regularly endure are tornadoes and boredom. Almost all papers can be re-created. Birth certificates from the department of public health, lab records from the MD's office, utility bills from the utility. This philosophy helps me keep things simple.

Life_is_Simple
8-6-12, 3:23pm
Kelli

I'm going to read through some of your stuff later for ideas... But your last question:



I'm never sure about retirement info. Do we need EVERY statement, or just the year-end? Do we need all those confirmations that "yes, you did put some money in this month?" Advice appreciated on this point.
I read online that you should keep stuff that shows what money you put in. Usually that is in the year end statement. So in that case, you don't need to keep all those individual papers, or the ones that say "oh, you opened this mutual fund and moved some money over from that one." You probably don't need the quarterly statements, but I didn't thrown mine out.

I shredded all those individual notices, and parts of statements that were unrelated to my actual money (like they will say how certain funds are doing).

I kept some papers that documented rollovers from work 401ks into my regular IRA. Don't know if I need these or not. But I like having them.

Life_is_Simple
8-7-12, 10:52am
Pinkytoe and Fawn with the "one file drawer" method...:idea: I am seeing a pattern here, and I have way more than one file drawer.

Maybe I will take all my papers out of their hiding places, put them on the floor, and assess what I have. First there's one more set of papers that I want to go through and shred.

Life_is_Simple
8-7-12, 11:26am
I found an old journal in my computer files, and here's what it said Sept 9, 2007:

"I decluttered like a madwoman yesterday. What did I get rid of? It was 47 pounds:

I shredded old script receipts
Got rid of old phone books
Black shoes I didnít like
Some old VHS tapes (maybe 2)
I shredded a bunch of things, canít remember all if it
Some benefits papers from an old job
I decluttered/shredded health ins EOBs from 1992. Wow, I have junk. Tooooo much
I did shred a lot of old bank statements, etc. And old medical receipts from the 90s. That is good.


So this explains why I don't have more junk than I have now! :laff: I can thank my 2007 self.

Then I found a Word file I had saved of a Simple Living thread from 2005 about filing cabinet tips. Interesting to see the posters: princessfi, kally, pkurilla, chinabfay, Spring Onion, larknm, jrb3, texasgeek, cynthia, lakelady, Bencken, CathyC, Pennywise, maewee, & homenurse. Are any of them still around?

Simpler at Fifty
8-7-12, 1:36pm
"Dental File. I stapled years together and put in a hanging file. But now I'm thinking maybe switch to binder, since I look at the stuff periodically to see which teeth were worked on when."

I would make an excel spreadsheet for this information. Then when you have addition work done, you can add it to the spreadsheet and not worry about the papers. If you have dental insurance, you should be able to access the claims online too.

Simpler at Fifty
8-7-12, 1:37pm
Toomuchstuff - Can you access the utility bills at the utility company website? If yes, you don't need to keep any of them.

Life_is_Simple
8-9-12, 10:00pm
"Dental File. I stapled years together and put in a hanging file. But now I'm thinking maybe switch to binder, since I look at the stuff periodically to see which teeth were worked on when."

I would make an excel spreadsheet for this information. Then when you have addition work done, you can add it to the spreadsheet and not worry about the papers. If you have dental insurance, you should be able to access the claims online too.
I don't have dental insurance now - just papers from the past. It seems like it might be more of an effort right now to stop what I am doing and make a spreadsheet than to keep past paper records, which don't take up *that* much space.

Last night I found some dental records from around 1990. I was ecstatic :laff: That was a time when I got a bunch of crowns. So now my dental records are complete :+1:

(weird things excite me)

ToomuchStuff
8-10-12, 11:11am
Toomuchstuff - Can you access the utility bills at the utility company website? If yes, you don't need to keep any of them.


Nope. Local power and light requires something which they haven't given me. For that something, they have been wanting me to sign up on their site, using that something they haven't given me, to get the something they haven't given me. They have also asked for updated account information, which requires the same thing, and can't seem to get the actual letter response through their heads.

Life_is_Simple
8-10-12, 11:51am
Paper clutter is the worst. Maybe this is the reason I left this til last. :doh:

Two things are helping me that some of you alluded to in your posts.
Putting things into large categories: Car, Health, Retirement, Bank, Credit Card, etc., with potential subcategories is helping.
Moving historical papers to be separate from current papers is helping.
:+1:

Having everything in A-Z hanging folders was not helping in the long run, because 26 is too many categories, and it was jam-packed with historical. I think the A-Z may be all right if I keep it to current year, then move some of it to historical binders at year-end.

I'm full of mental angst from all this paper, which deceptively seemed like not that much paper until now! :sick:

I also downloaded financial statements, so may be able to get rid of some of the paper.

But right now, in the midst of it all, I can't make any major decisions! :laff:

:thankyou:cow-hi

larknm
8-10-12, 2:20pm
Life_is_Simple, larknm is still around from 2005. I'm glad I said something worth saving.

I keep my files two places.

1. Cloth bag that can hold 8x11 paper files. They are

To answer (letters from friends)
Com--stand for communication, is a miscellaneous file that has things in it like the instructions I got on how to save gas when driving my Prius, about 10 photos of my family, meaning former and current dogs and two of American Indian friends that s how me something special about relationships
Health--a few historical documents on my health it might help a doctor to know, like a test I was given after I had a stroke in 1991
Health UHC (insurance)
Dogs--articles that help me understand dogs
Health dogs and bird (current dogs and bird)
Clive--a few emails from a retired doctor friend of DH's who helped guide us after I broke my hip 2 years ago and was diagnosed with polymyalgia rheumatica a year ago
Articles on pmr (see entry above this one)--I kept the 2 best articles
Me medical--my medical history with info new doctors tend to want
Lab & X-ray--discs of MRI and other X-rays and other reports on lab results--all from last couple years
2010 hospitalization records (broken hip and pulmonary embolisms)
Medicare--for later, I'm way old enough, but it confuses my current insurance if I also carry medicare
Legal help for seniors--handouts on practical local resources
Will and a few related articles from newspaper about legal and other practical issues
Documents--most recent SSI yearly notice
M's will--a friend's will
Poetry--a few poems I wrote years ago that I like and don't have the publications they appeared in
That all takes up about 1/2 the cloth bag, the rest I keep blank paper pads, manilla envelopes, checks, stamps, last year's daily schedule book, and a Astrological Almanac for 2012

2. My other file is a small red one (smaller than 8x11) that DH and I got about 20 years ago (it's one of the oldest things we own) and we just use the categories it came with, the ones that apply to us (e.g., bank statements does, education does not). These are only receipts for the current year and a few other papers that come in.

DH keeps records of our taxes already paid and current year's utility bills.

This is a lot of detail but maybe something will help.

rosarugosa
8-10-12, 10:52pm
I guess I'm a member of the one file drawer club (certainly better than the 27 club!)
I think the secret for me is to go through everything and cull/shred once year. I used to always start on NY Day, but I've gotten more lax in recent years and this year plodded along with it Feb - March (had more important fish to fry in Jan and it still got done, which is the main point).

Rosemary
8-10-12, 10:55pm
I keep as little paper as possible, because I do not enjoy filing, cleaning out files, or having files taking up the limited space in our house.

I have a file drawer in our desk that has most-used files, and a single file box that has files I access less, such as older health records and papers from closing on our house. I keep tax returns in a separate plastic container in our storage space. I get all my statements online and most of our bills as well, and I neither print nor save them once I've examined them.

I used to keep more papers, and after several rounds of cleaning files and having huge piles of paper to shred, realized that I had never needed to access those papers. I have not had any issues with my current system.

Life_is_Simple
8-11-12, 7:32pm
Life_is_Simple, larknm is still around from 2005. I'm glad I said something worth saving.
That's good to know that you are still hanging around cow-hi

The three overarching things that inspire me from your post here are that you can list everything in your paper files, you have everything in only 2 locations, and you have used a system that has worked for 20 years.

:+1:

Tradd
8-11-12, 9:13pm
This thread and you folks are motivating me to go paperless (at home) again.

ETA: moved all my bills back to paperless. Threw out (or shredded) a bunch of stuff.

I have a big Mead zippered binder I got at Walmart for about $10 several years ago. All my important papers go in it. I've got heavy duty plastic sheet protectors with tops that fold over. I even put CDs of pictures in a page protector. Everything fits in there! I do have several wide, shallow Rubbermaid boxes with papers/notebooks in them - some choir sheet music, notebooks from my theological program, things like that.

That's it for my papers! :)

Life_is_Simple
8-14-12, 11:38am
I went out on YouTube to look for paper organizing tips. I found 2 I liked.
This woman has her hanging file (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7F_1v3RiYhE&feature=plcp)system color coded, and neatly labeled. Her system looks more PLANNED, than mine does, and less chaotic.
This woman uses a binder (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTN8I2ZFPpg&feature=plcp)system, and I am finding that binders work for me. I see that she has some useful pages in her binders, that smaller things like receipts go in


Sometimes seeing examples helps me.

iris lily
8-14-12, 11:56am
I've said it here before, but I absotleuly HATE hanging files.

I just do NOT understand why that has become the office norm. A file cabinet has to have this cumbersome metal skeleton on which to hang the files. And then, the hanging files themselves have these stupid metal bars that tear out if the file contents become too heavy. and then, the tabs that fit into the hanging files are fiddly. They are constantly coming off of the file. I HATE those things.

Really, I just hate hanging files. Give me old file drawers with a moveable support back.

Life_is_Simple
8-14-12, 2:00pm
Iris Lily

:laff: What I hear you saying is, you're not a fan of hanging files. :laff:

larknm
8-14-12, 3:38pm
This question inspired me too--I've gone through my files and gotten rid of a hunk of things that would be helppful if I read them, but I don't and won't. This also goes along with zenhabits.net, where the guy says don't keep any paper stuff except tax documents and similarly essential ones like birth certificates.

Life_is_Simple
8-14-12, 9:26pm
This question inspired me too--I've gone through my files and gotten rid of a hunk of things that would be helppful if I read them, but I don't and won't. This also goes along with zenhabits.net, where the guy says don't keep any paper stuff except tax documents and similarly essential ones like birth certificates.
That is interesting. I also have papers that would be "helpful if I read them," but these are the kinds of things that weigh a person's mind down. Unfinished business.

It would be nice to go through and toss that stuff, and just live in the present moment.

:thankyou:

Amaranth
8-15-12, 11:02am
also have papers that would be "helpful if I read them,"

A great way to deal with these is to have a designated time several days a week where you read a designated portion of them. Consider yourself done for the day if you read that day's chunk of them. By dividing them into discrete chunks of reading, you can complete a task. And steadily the backlog will be gone. If you want to live more in the present, you could do 2 days of current reading and 1 of backlog, or reverse that if you want to get more of the backlog done.

Also if some sort of follow up is needed, go ahead and scedule it and note where the info is. For example if you read an article on using different varieties of squash and decide to try the butternut squash soup, start a todo item for September 25 of new recipes you want to cook in October. List that one and note that you have put the article in the Vegetables-Squash section of your recipe notebook. That way it's planned to use, but you don't need to think about it again until September 25 when you do your October menu planning.

Life_is_Simple
8-20-12, 1:31pm
I've started on Decluttering Phase 2: Paper Follow-Up.

I went through my many categories of papers, and created the following "system" as an intermediate point:


MONEY

Retirement Binder
Taxes multi-pocketed folders in small file cabinet
Bank statement binder
Credit card statement binder
Pay stubs little accordion file



CAREER

Old jobs folders in plastic file box
Conferences / training manuals and binders
Self-employment binder and folder
School folders in plastic file box



HEALTH

Health tips binder and file
Medical binders, accordion receipts box
Relaxation / Uplifting binders, folder, journals



HOME

Family accordion file box
Home folder and file
Organizing laminated sheets
Car Binder
Mail Center with wood organizer and incoming basket





Ugh, it's still a lot, but it seems better for me to think of it as these 4 over-arching categories. Then I can condense and combine the sub-catetories.

Can you imagine, this is the point I am at after shredding and tossing a lot of it? Ugh, and double ugh!

Last night I shredded bank statements from 2000-2003. I shredded papers submitted for a career-related certification, and just kept the certification letter and card. I shredded graduate school exams! I shredded some bound presentation copies from a previous job, where I had 20-30 copies!:laff: If it's "bound," it looks official.

Hey you people with one small file cabinet! :laff: I'll get there eventually ;)

Life_is_Simple
8-20-12, 10:48pm
A great way to deal with these is to have a designated time several days a week where you read a designated portion of them. Consider yourself done for the day if you read that day's chunk of them. By dividing them into discrete chunks of reading, you can complete a task. And steadily the backlog will be gone.

Once I get the obvious shredded and sorted, what I want to do is look at a few topics. They might be Health Tips, Uplifting Advice, Meditation Class Notes, and one work Software Technique.

I feel that once I have things in better shape, the GOOD stuff will be unhidden.

frugalone
8-10-13, 10:07pm
I'm hoping I'm not flooding the boards tonight, but I have a lot of questions.

This one is on paper, but not papers like bills. Hobby-type papers.

To be exact, I am a crafter. I keep a lot of my papers in boxes and bins. I went through a lot of the stuff recently and threw out old scrapbooking-type papers I didn't want, stickers I didn't want, etc.

Then I acquired a couple of pen pals. I also trade artist trading cards. It's customary for people trading to send ephemera along with the card.And my pen pals keep sending me more stuff! I don't want all of it...but I have a hard time getting rid of it. It's like I keep saying, "I'll use this stuff in my journal." And then I never do. I feel guilty tossing it. Obviously, they thought it was valuable.

I thought about sending one pen pal's stuff to another...but that's just encouraging them to send ME more stuff.

Oy vey.

any advice (other than telling them I don't want anymore paper ephemera?) It's also not the sort of thing the Salvation Army wants, and we don't have an arts center where someone would want this stuff either.

sweetana3
8-11-13, 7:50am
I would suggest:
Girl Scouts, Girls/Boys Club, quilt guild (for their art work), church for their work with kids, Schools.

The schools is a big one and "stuff" is great for art classes. Call some local elementary schools and middle schools. Actually depending on the "stuff" high schools that still have art classes might be interested.

All this is for things that are boxed, clean and can be used for collage, art work, misc. crafts. This is what your misc. sounds like.

It might take several phone calls.

Craigslist works well for us and we also have freecycle but don't know if these are big in your area.

frugalone
8-11-13, 8:02pm
Upon second thought:

Quite honestly, I just feel like dumping it all in the trash. I just don't have time to call all these places/people and then go driving it to them. I only have one car and limited time. Maybe it's wasteful. I don't like craigslist (it's full of weirdos) and I also don't want people coming to the house with freecycle.

I should probably just tell my pen pals to stop sending stuff; that I can't keep up with it in my artwork.

Lyno
8-11-13, 10:31pm
I have a cardboard accordion file. It's sits next to me as I pay weekly bills. Each pocket is labeled, and everything goes in it's pocket. At the end of the year, I close, label what year the file represents with a sharpie, and store. I keep hard to replace documents in a small fire safe (birth certificates, marriage license, car titles, etc.)