Steps to Creating a Filing System

files for organizing

Are you feeling overwhelmed with paper? You are not alone. Many of us struggle with this. If it is not handled on a consistent basis, it can mushroom into a huge project.

Let’s break it down.

What you need:

File folders
Hanging folders
File labels
File cabinet or container

There is nothing fun about filing paperwork, so to make it as motivating as you possibly can, choose color folders. Is it  just me or does anyone else love getting new school supplies at the beginning of the school year? Well, consider this your new “school” supplies.

Decide what categories you need so you can make the labels for the folders. While some prefer to color code certain categories like all insurance is one color, finance related another color, etc., feel free to just use the color folders however you wish. Don’t let indecision about how to organize the colors delay getting started. If you are unsure, of the color scheme or what categories to use, do a trial run by using a post it note on the file temporary until you know for sure. By using the post it note as the temporary label, you will be able to reuse the same folder later. At least by continuing, you’ll have the papers filed and be able to determine how you want to proceed.

Insurance – keep the policy & various other pertinent things
Life insurance
Misc insurance
Medical – including EOBs (Explanation of Benefits)

Flexible Spending Account
Folder for each year – keep the receipts and invoices associated with it

Folder for each year to keep forms and backup

Loans – keep the loan papers and the paid invoices together, etc.
Student or school loans



Credit Cards – one for each type


Credit Union




Memberships like gym

One for each member – keep various school papers, misc.

Important papers – A locked secure area is the best place like a safe to keep these
Birth certificates
Social security cards
Adoption records
Household inventory
Trust documents
Records of paid mortage
Marriage license
Divorce paperwork
Custody paperwork
Any other court papers
Living wills
Medical history for family
Durable healthcare power of attorney
Authorization to release healthcare information
Stock certificates, bonds, etc.

Colorful folders to organize

Dig into the paper pile

Find a large area to go through the “to be filed” stack so you will have room to sort by the categories of files that meets your needs. There are several sources that recommend how long to save different types of paperwork. I review the various sources that have this as a guide, but if I’m unsure if I should get rid of certain documents, I keep them.

The key to not having continuous “big projects” is to set a routine where you file papers. This is the part that I struggle with the most is getting the routine hardwired. Don’t feel bad if it builds up again. It takes time and dedication to reach the end goal of things filed and organized. Even if we go two steps forward and one back, we’re still moving the correct direction.

Start tackling the piles of paperwork to be filed by getting the right supplies (and the good stuff – colored files to make it as fun as possible!). Decide what categories are right for you, so it can be customized for your needs. Use a large space to go through the papers and make piles for each category. If you need more time before deciding the color scheme and the exact categories needed, feel free to make them temporary files by using post it notes with the categories written on them instead of the folders. Once you know what works the best, then you can take the final step to organize and label accordingly.

While it may not be fun, it will be very rewarding to see the finished product. Good luck!

Organized filing system for paper

Are you feeling overwhelmed with paperwork? Discover the steps to conquer this and set up a filing system to be able to find things quickly in the future.