Organize Your Paperwork

posted by Andrea | 01/12/2011

Wow! We’re already on day #10 of my “11-in-2011” challenge, and today’s goal couldn’t come at a better time.

It’s that time of year…time to start pulling together all your documents, forms, pay-stubs, and other tax information. If you’re an organized person, this is no big deal. You might even have everything together already. However, if paper clutter is your nemesis, you’ll have a bit more work ahead of you!

But don’t worry, I have a bunch of simple tips to start you off in the right direction!

Goal #10 = Organize your Paperwork

As a professional organizer, the request I get MOST often is for help with paperwork.  Over the last two years I’ve flipped, thumbed, and waded through more piles of paper than you can imagine…and you know what… I LOVE IT!!!

I know, I’m a sick woman, but there is just something about a super organized filing cabinet that makes my heart happy.

I know paperwork can be stressful and it probably isn’t at the top of your to-do list, but I also know that organized paperwork will save you lots of time, money, and stress later on — so it’s worth it!

TIME –> no more wasted time searching for what you want

MONEY –> no more over-due bills or late fees

STRESS –> peace-of-mind knowing things are under control

You can read more about how I set up our filing systems over here.

My Best Paper Tips:

  • Invest in a good shredder.
  • Get some type of filing system for your paperwork {you can probably find a nice filing cabinet on Craigslist!}
  • Don’t go crazy — the only “tools” you need are hanging files, manila folder, tabs, and labels.
  • Don’t worry about getting it exactly right the first time. It might take a few tries to figure out what works.
  • Run your tabs all in the SAME DIRECTION {all on the left, all in the center, or all on the right} — this saves lots of time because your eyes only have to look in one direction.
  • Alphabetical order make the most sense to me, but there’s more than one right way — do what works for you!
  • I hand-write my labels so it’s super easy to add another one {as opposed to typing them}

How Long to Keep Your Papers:

{These are just my opinions. You should talk to a licensed attorney for specific questions about your paperwork}

Bank & Credit Card Statements:

You only need to hold onto these statements for one month…or until your next statements comes. I do all my banking online so I don’t even keep any paper statements. Now days, you can find any of this information on line, or by simply calling your bank or credit card company.

Utility Bills:

Again, you don’t need to hang onto these for more than a month since you can find all the information online or by calling the utility company. If you want to track your yearly utility usage, you may keep them for a year…but there’s no need to keep them any longer

Warranties & Receipts:

I keep all warranties until they expire and all my receipts until I use the product or give it as a gift. I have a manila folder for different warranties and manuals and a separate folder for receipts.

Insurance & Medical Statements:

Some of this information should be kept forever, other information {like routine bills and check-up info} can be purged at the end of the year.

Tax Documentation:

All tax documents must be saved for 7 years. I keep one manila folder for each year and after 7 years, I shred the oldest file.

Personal Info:

Most personal information like birth certificates, marriage licences, passports, etc. should be kept forever.

More Paper Organizing Resources:

1. Organize your Email

2. Organize your Coupons

3. Organize your Finances

4. Organize your Receipts

5. Go Paperless

How do YOU organize YOUR paperwork?


Filed under: OrganizingPaper

Leave a comment


  1. J


    I know this is a late comment but a real serious tip. Make sure you keep your tax documents forever. I work for the State working on taxes and they will come after you for years well past the 7 years.


  2. Robbie


    I keep a couple of categories of files, one alpha and the other actual categories. I file in the alpha file until a category forms and then I make a folder for those specific papers. The monthly issues, as I call them (bills, statements, etc.), get their own folders in a different drawer. I put all my labels right down the middle, that way I don’t have to rearrange when a category is added or deleted. I am working every day to get ALL my papers in the cabinet, should have that done this winter, just a few more scraps of things to get organized.


  3. BeingJennifer


    Great ideas! I really like the idea of the tabs all in the same sight line. That will save a lot of hassle if I ever want to change things up in my filing. Thanks for the photo too. I’m a visual person so that helped a lot!

    I would suggest you keep at least the filing statement of your taxes for every year you file. The IRS can ask for proof that you filed even past 7 years. Just that one or two sheets will save you a lot of trouble if you ever need them and not take up too much space over the years.


  4. Lynda



    Just wondering if you can give a general idea of labels that you use in your filing cabinet – we do have one and it is overflowing, so is the desk, the floor – quite embarrassing. I so need to sort it out… Thanks


    Andrea Reply:

    I’ll work on that Lynda…and get back to you! You’ve just given me an idea for a new post 🙂


  5. Jill


    This really helps. I have a habbit of keeping everything from bills to bank statements. I am afraid to throw anything out. How do you get over that fear?


    Andrea Reply:

    I guess I just realized that I can get almost ALL the information I need online or by making a couple of phone calls. So, I’d rather just get it out of my house! I do keep anything tax related though…just to be on the safe side!


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  7. Stephanie


    Great post! I am so thankful that I am organized in this department. In fact I will make a post about it next week sometime! Currently house sitting for parents so not at my apartment to take pictures! I have a great system though! Great post!


  8. Kari


    Why have the tabs going all the same way? I’ve never done that before…but you’re the pro. I’m getting ready to re-do mine and might try this.


    Andrea Reply:

    I always put all my tab in a row so my eyes don’t have to move all over the place. It really saves time when looking for something.

    Plus, if you do your tabs from left to right, you have to re-do them every time you add another tab…which is super annoying and time-consuming!