4.18.2013

Organizing tips: Home office paperwork organized in 5 easy steps

When the bottom literally fell out of one of the file cabinet drawers in my home office, due to the weight of all the papers, files, folders, and junk, I knew it was time to seriously get the office paperwork organized.  While it seemed like an overwhelming task at first, it actually turned out to be pretty easy -- plus, I got to put my label maker to work. Score!

If you're like me and are constantly rummaging through piles of old bills, paperwork, and essential junk to find a receipt or a physical form -- there is hope.

Just follow these 5 organizing tips and the home office clutter will turn into a color-coded, orderly, pared down, bottom-intact drawer of neatly organized paperwork where you can actually find everything you need -- quickly!



Step 1: Gather Your Organizing Supplies

Here's what you'll need:

 
Step 2: Categorize and Sub-categorize

Make a list of broad categories such as -- Finances, House, School, Medical, Lifestyle and Miscellaneous -- that can be further broken down.

Make a second list of smaller, more specific categories to fall under each heading.  Here are some examples of subcategories:

Finances:
  • 401k
  • Student Loans
  • Insurance Policies
  • Car Loans
  • Mortgage
  • Taxes (I actually have "Taxes" broken out as a broad category due to running my own WAHM business. Sub categories including "donations" "deductions" and tax return years ie 2009, 2010, 2011 all have their own separate sub category folder)
  • Receipts
  • Savings Bonds
  • Donations 
House:
  • Legal documents
  • Warranties
  • Instruction Manuals
  • Contractors
  • Home Improvements 
  • Utilities
Lifestyle: 
  • Passports/Social Security Cards/Voting Registration Cards
  • Birth Certificates
  • Car #1
  • Car #2
  • Memberships 
  • Religious Documents/Forms
Medical: 
  • Daughter Physicals
  • Son Physicals 
  • Daughter Immunizations
  • Son Immunizations
  • Daughter Diagnosis (ER Visits/Test Results)
  • Son Diagnosis
  • Flex Spending Account
  • Explanation of Benefits
  • Prescriptions
  • Living Wills
School: 
  • Report Cards
  • Name of My Daughter's School (policies, handbooks, etc would be included in this folder)
  • Name of My Son's School

Miscellaneous:
These could be anything that doesn't really fit into another category.  What I have may not fit your needs but here are a few ideas to start:
  • Jewelry (receipts, insurance riders, repairs) 
  • Keepsakes (newspaper clippings, awards and recognitions) 
  • Previous property information (we sold our old house about two years ago, but I am not comfortable getting rid of all of the sales documents yet so I keep them in this folder)
Step 3: Put Your Label Maker to Work

Print labels for all of your categories and sub-categories.

All category labels should be placed on one of the multicolored folders. All subcategories should be put on the manilla folders.

Then group all of the labeled subcategory folders into the larger category file that they fall under.

Step 4: Start Sorting

This process will take the longest, but will be the most rewarding. 

Start organizing your home office paperwork by doing one of three things with each piece of paperwork you currently have in your files:
  • Shred/Throw Away -- Get rid of receipts older than one or two years (whatever you're most comfortable with), dispose of product info/warranties if the warranty period is over or if you no longer own the product, and throw away duplicate copies.
  • File - File all paperwork that you want to keep into the appropriate subcategory folder. 
  • Unsure - For paperwork that doesn't obviously fit into a category or subcategory put it into a pile.  By the time you're finished organizing your office papers, this pile should be relatively small.  Go through this pile again and add a few more subcategories where necessary.
Step 5: Ease Up

If your category folders are overflowing even after you organized, separate them into two folders -- but of the same color so you can instantly recognize that they still belong together.  I had to do this for my financial and medical categories (can you tell in the photo how I am using two blue folders?)  It helps reduce the number of papers that are sticking up due to being cramped and also keeps the hanging file folders actually hanging.

I wish I had taken a "before" picture, but here's how my home office paperwork is organized now. I'm pretty happy with it.  I'm all for color-code organization, so now I'm onto my insanely small bedroom closet...
Please excuse the typos on the labels. I was running short on label maker paper and didn't want to reprint

2 comments:

Nikki Kamminga said...

This is a fantastic post, thank you so much. It's a job I've been dreading because I haven't done it in TWO whole years and now it's not just my stuff but my hubby and our baby.

Now to find a filing cabinet which will fit into the hall next to the letter-sorting/new paperwork/broadband/telephone station.

Nikki Kamminga said...

This is a fantastic post, thank you so much. It's a job I've been dreading because I haven't done it in TWO whole years and now it's not just my stuff but my hubby and our baby.

Now to find a filing cabinet which will fit into the hall next to the letter-sorting/new paperwork/broadband/telephone station.

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