Organizing my filing cabinet!

December 9, 2010
I haven’t organized my filing system in at least a couple of years. But, I think the last time I did, I wasn’t very productive with it. There were old papers from 2000 that I totally didn’t need.  Anyways, I did it today, and its done!  Wheew.  

Before I began, the hanging folders were bulging at the seams, nothing was in order, and most of it was just out-dated trash.  

Wonder if I could fit anything else in this one?

Here are the old hanging folders. Can you see why I wanted to buy new?

At least my desk was clean!

1.  First things first…  If you like pretty, go out and buy new hanging folders. I like pretty! Get all of the supplies you may need before starting… i.e. Hanging file folders, labeler, manilla folders, a babysitter.

Ahhh… much better lighting.  I took these upstairs in my kitchen.  The other pictures are taken in the dark basement.

2. Schedule in 2-3 hours for this project with no interuptions & no kids! (It took me 2.5 hours to complete).

3. Put on some music. This will help with the impatience of wanting to get it done. I listened to a Josh Groban CD.

4. Start with purging all un-necessary papers. I really mean go through EVERY peice of paper.  Toss what you dont need. You’ll be amazed at what you throw out. (This will take the longest, but you can do it!). Remember to shred personal information.

*You should keep tax records for 7 years.


Do not toss

These are permanent members of your financial paperwork family, which you may need to retrieve occasionally. Essential records such as birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, Social Security cards, and military discharge papers should be kept in a safe-deposit box. Here are some other documents you should hold on to forever:

Defined-benefit plan documents

Keep pension-plan documents from your current and former employers. Store them in your file cabinet.

Estate-planning documents

Keep copies of wills, trusts, and powers of attorney in your safe-deposit box. You should also make sure your attorney and your executor have copies. It’s also a good idea to give your primary-care physician and anyone named to make decisions on your behalf copies of your health-care proxy.

Life-insurance policies

For permanent life insurance—policies that have a cash value or investment component—keep documents and a list of the companies that issued them and their phone numbers in your safe-deposit box. If you have a term life policy, hold the documents until the term is over, then toss them.

Safe-deposit box inventory

Note the location of the box and your keys, and keep a list of what you have in it. Update the list once a year or as you add or remove documents. Keep the inventory list in your out-of-the way file cabinet. You should also keep photocopies at home of any documents you have stored in the box in case you need to refer to them.
This article appeared in Consumer Reports Money Adviser.

5.  There should not be anything in the filing cabinet at this point.  Hang your new folders.

My favorite tool in the house. The Labeler!

6. Now you can get out your labeler (or a good pen if you dont have a labeler). I paid only $17 at Target for my Dymo Letratag.  They are worth the investment. Trust me! Label all categories and stick them on the file folder. These will be the main categories. Make sure to alphabetize your hanging folder. Its much easier when you go to find something.

Examples of Main Categories:
Bank Accts.
Health Records
Warranties & Manuals
Credit Cards
Student Loans
Credit Reports

Here is an example of a category & sub categories.

7. Now get out the manilla folders and place however many you will need in each hanging folder… for your sub categories. (An example of this is Main Category- Banks & Sub Category- Chase & PNC).  Also, alphabetize the sub categories within each hanging folder.

Examples of Sub Categories:
Specific Banks: Chase, Key Bank, PNC, etc.
Specific Insurance: Home, Life, Auto
Specific Utilities: Gas, Electric, Water, Phone, Cable
Specific Health Records: Dad, Mom, Kids
Student loans: His, Hers

I think you get the picture here. 🙂

8.  Now, have at it.  Start filing!  Its as easy as that!  

The completed project

Once again… 

The Before



You will be so proud of yourself after you have completed such a task.  Your life will be much simpler.  Make no excuses to get started.  This project only cost me $27.14.

Linked up to these great parties:

32 comments on “Organizing my filing cabinet!

  1. Lisa says:

    wow…I think a lot of people would give anything to have their papers organized like this! I try, but I don’t even have a file cabinet big enough for everything!

  2. Toni says:

    Thanks Lisa. You’d be amazed at what you got rid of, or didnt need if you went through everything. You will make room! 🙂

  3. dogsmom says:

    We recently found a great labeler at a church sale for under $10 so I am set to begin a major project. I spent an hour last week shredding bank statements from accounts that have been closed almost 10 years. Finally decided I wanted my shoeboxes for other projects.
    You have a beautiful desk.

  4. Awesome!! I love my labeler, too.

  5. Wow! What a difference – it’s refreshing! Thanks for the tips – I love to organize!! 🙂

  6. Ammie says:

    I’m in love. What a beautiful reorganization! Off to go play on your blog, it is sooooo cute! Come on over to me if you feel like checking me out!

  7. Roberta says:

    I am a firm believer that any task you have to do should be “pretty” so that you enjoy it when the going gets tough 😉

  8. Jill says:

    So now you have jsut added another job to the list Toni. I love how you put the manilla folders in the hanging folders. such a great idea. I think i will do this one after the new year .

  9. April in CT says:

    I just cleaned out and organized the storage section of our office credenza today (it takes the place of having a desk since we use laptops) and this has definitely encouraged me to tackle the file drawers tomorrow! Thank you for posting category/sub category suggestions, very helpful! My labeler and I will be busy tomorrow.

  10. Toni says:

    April.. You are welcome. Im glad I can help and I would love to see pictures when you are done!!

  11. I featured you this week!

    Hookin’ Up with HoH #28

    Stop by and grab a featured button! You deserve it. 🙂

    ~Allison @ House of Hepworths

  12. So, so organized! AND pretty! 🙂 I did our files a while ago and they look pretty similar. I confine our papers to ONE file drawer, I clean it out every year in January. Love being able to find all my papers.

  13. Leanne says:

    It looks great. You have some wonderful tips here. I’m hosting We’re Organized Wednesday until Saturday and would love for you to join the party if you get a chance. There’s a giveaway too. Hope to see you there.

  14. Autumn says:

    Wow, I love this! I just put a little hanging file box in the kitchen for all my everyday papers. Now I need to tackle my desk! Thanks for the easy steps and I love your desk!

  15. Sandy Jenney says:

    Looks great Toni! Paper filing is no fun at all. Love the step by step pics and instructions. Thanks also for linking up to my link party with it.

  16. Colleen says:

    I am a new follower to your blog. Love it!!! I haven’t found many organizing blogs that I love yet so I was thrilled to find yours. I am going to do my desk over Christmas break. Yours is definitely an inspiration to get mine in order.

  17. Janet says:

    Where did you get those blue hanging folders? I just love this post.

  18. Toni says:

    Janet I got them from Office Max!! 🙂

  19. I love your organization system! Great idea too with the taxes, I’ve been keeping them in these brown accordian-type envelopes, I’d love to get that space back on my shelf! I’m your newest follower! 🙂

  20. Leanne says:

    I looks so organized and efficient. Thanks for linking to We’re Organized Wednesday. I’ll be featuring this later today.

  21. Toni says:

    Leanne, thats great! Thank you. I love your blog, btw.

  22. Looks great. One tip I learned that I see you also learned was to keep all of the file tabs in one spot. If not, your eye will be scanning back and forth.

  23. Shantel says:

    A good quality cabinets must have a well constructed faces and doors.

    online tool shop australia

  24. Jackson says:

    Oh, thanks for your file arranging tips, Toni. You did a difficult but fulfilling job of organizing your files. That chore is usually underestimated. Hehe. But the results is indeed helpful. Great desk, too! 🙂

    Jackson Gaydosh

  25. flowerlover says:

    Love the color of those hanging files. I did want to mention though, that if you use “interior” manila folders, they are just a tad bit shorter and won’t stick up over the top of the hanging folders. Great post!

  26. Wow – love your blog!!! I just came across it tonight! This one makes me want to go and clean my files! And I appreciate seeing how others do theirs – I especially liked your categories and things! I am wondering if I may ask a question – so you split up your utility bills, and have a separate file for like Gas, Electric and Phone….? Right? I just wondered if you ever need to go back into those files? And do you keep them separate after that year has passed? I just wondered, because I have one pile for Bills – 2011, Bills – 2012, and there have been times I have needed to go back and find an electric bill from a certain year, but not very often, and so now I just put them all together with all bills paid for 2012. Just wondering….

    Another question – do you only use the center tab files? At my job at school, I have sixth grade notes and info in file folders with the tabs to the left, then seventh grade is center tabs, and eighth grade in right sided tabs. I never know if this really helps or am I becoming too obsessed with this organization stuff!?

    Anyway – thanks for your help with the filing system!!! Love this sharing of ideas!!!

    Hugs from Michigan – Diane

  27. I am on the front end of this project and will be soooo thrilled when I am on the opposite end of it… cannot wait to have a “pretty” File cabinet. I have to vision but needed the how to and I appreciate you being that for me!

  28. Brandy says:

    Thanks for the inspiration! I un-filed everything, went through EVERY document, filed all documents. It unfortunately took like 6 hours for me. I also did the portable file too. My kids know where to put things…not on the countertops!

  29. Ali G says:

    you are the epitome of organized! Love your ideas.

  30. You have encouraged me greatly, I have just finished the same thing in my study/office. I purged, sorted, relabelled. I even bought new shiny black folders, matching accessories, I found a $2 vase at the Op shop to match. I also made a huge Travel/Photo Collage on the blank wall. I feel lighter and more in control, it has decluttered my mind.

    My kids now know where all mu important documents are like insurances, wills and superfunds (they are older)! But I feel better.

    Thanks for your encouragement, it makes me feel like I am getting there!

    Dang now I wish I took pictures!

  31. Jennifer says:

    I went looking for the blue hanging files today at Office Max and I couldn’t find them 🙁 Were then in a particular section other than the file folder section? Also, do you remember the brand? Are they blue or green? I love the color and it will go perfect in my office organization projects 🙂 Thanks, Toni!

    • Admin says:

      Jennifer, I purchased them a few years ago on clearance. I doubt they still have them. But I bet you can find cute ones somewhere. 😉

Get the latest downloads from A Bowl Full of Lemons printables shop.
Hello. Add your message here.