52 projects: week seventeen

Am I allowed to skip week 16 and go right to week 17?  Of course I am – I make the rules here.  Because between actually tackling week 16’s to-do and now, I’ve stuffed a bunch of surprise birthday room redo stuff into the previously pristine area that was week 16, so now I’ve got no photographic proof that anything of benefit was actually achieved.  Funny how cleaning up and making space often leads to filling up said space with more stuff.  I’m battling that continually.  No more stuff.  No more stuff that isn’t useful or beautiful, I should say.  Which segues nicely into week seventeen’s subject:  clean up my (filing) act.

IMPORTANT files can be a useful thing, but only if they are carefully curated from time to time.  When they aren’t (which mine hadn’t been in quite awhile) they are no longer useful, and they are certainly not beautiful.  Mine were so overstuffed that the very act of filing new things wasn’t happening because it was just a big royal pain in the tush to sit down and remove hanging files and then interior files because I was no longer able to shove anything else into them without this multi-step process.  So my files (while hidden) looked a mess, and my desk and chair also looked a mess because they always had a stack of unfiled papers sitting on them.  It was time to clean up my act.  Correction:  it was past time.

In our house, M does all the bill scheduling and paying – mostly because he spearheaded our shift to online banking and Quicken budget tracking years ago and just kept doing it.  I got the better end of the deal – he actually has to keep up with things, while I can just let the file pile get taller and taller with no real consequences.  Working through the process of setting up our trust and wills and all that jazz a few weeks back did two things:  it highlighted just how important it is to be able to get to the information that you need when you need it, and how equally unimportant all the rest of it is.  I had instituted a filing system years and years ago, and I had file tabs and folder tabs all carefully labeled but I still couldn’t find anything that I needed.  I would sit down to file the pile and the top sheet would be our personal property tax receipt.  The system was alphabetized but what was that file called?  Taxes?  Autos?  Or did I call them Cars?  It was too complex, and it didn’t need to be.

It seemed like it could be a lot simpler.  How many components to life can two (fairly simple) people have?  House.  Cars.  Health.  School.  Work.  Money.  Insurance. 
I didn’t need to store random photos in a file titled miscellaneous photos.  They can find a home or get pitched.  I have a separate system for filing away sample invitations and sign patterns, etc…  miscellaneous artwork that didn’t need to populate these files either.  Wedding mementos?  I love my husband, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think we need to file random cards and photos between our 401K’s and our earthquake insurance policy.  Things like that should be in an album, or a nice memento box – not a manila file folder squishing up my file drawers.

So here’s my solution.  It may not be perfect, but it’s so very, very much better than the previous one.  No more hanging files (I loathe them and the way they always come off the track).  I now have stand up – flat bottom files that are color coded to those simplified categories above. 

I haven’t even physically labeled them though, because I have another labeling system in place.  Labeled tabs seem like they should work in theory, but unless you are filing at eye level, I always find it annoying to lean down off the chair towards the floor just to be able to read what the tabs say.  It seems like it would be way easier to read something that faces straight up. 

Enter the overabundance of binder clips in my possession, as well as some leftover Label Once tabs from my homemade baby food days.  I LOVE those labels, but don’t have as much need for them anymore, and they were here and free and perfect.  I labeled each group of files (Volvo Title, Volvo Maintenance, Car Insurance, etc.) and clipped them on.  Now when I have to file something – or find something – it’s so much easier. 

I should also say that we do keep longer term files in Rubbermaid bins in the basement.  I have been pretty good about sorting through those and pitching as necessary – that’s sort of the seven year rule going on.  Keeping records for seven years, except for the big things of course, like mortgage information and the like.  Those papers slide into big white envelopes and get labeled with the category and the year.  I ended up with about eighteen of those with this big purge so I wasn’t as up-to-date on the archiving as I thought I was.  Having so many records online helps reduce the paper as well – but there’s always something that needs to be filed.  Hopefully this new system will put the emphasis back on file and less on pile.

As with anything that I tackle around here, one project always leads to another.  I have a box with house related stuff that I need to combine with an entire cabinet of house related stuff and all of it needs a good system for archiving.  We’ve done a fair bit of work on the place in the past dozen years (understatement of the year) and so we have a lot of documentation.  Part of me wants to save it all, but another part of me wants to sort through it and pitch most of it.  So there’s still that.
Baby steps, baby steps.  There are still a lot of weeks left in the year.

Check in later for how I rewarded myself for tackling this to-do.

9 Responses to 52 projects: week seventeen

  1. I know this post is old, but can you tell me what the brand of folders you are using? I want to do this for my office.

  2. Pingback: 15 Binder Clip Tips And Tricks That Will Organize Your Life | Animals News

  3. This is a fabulous idea. Its’ simple, inexpensive, and shouldn’t take much time.

  4. So interesting… I had a hunch about this very type of system.
    I’m going to run with this.

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  6. You could also save some space by staggering the clips. I would just do it within each category, so it would be easy to find. You would increase the available space quite a bit.

  7. Pingback: 13 Ways to Organize with Binder Clips | Tip Junkie

  8. You know I just ran across this and found your input to be very simple and direct. I’m going to try it. We are in the middle of transferring everything into our computer but I always like a paper trail back up.
    I also liked “LastKevin’s” input about monetizing. Something to look into.
    Thanks again.

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