what I do

what I do

Monday, January 3, 2011

Setting up monthly files

One of the best ways to control paper clutter is by setting up files. I have files for school records, medical records (one for each member of the family), veterinarian, tax receipts, bank statements, etc. There are a lot of intricate and detailed ways to set up files. In fact, there are entire books written on how to file your papers. But what I have found that works best for me is a simple, and quick way to file that doesn't require a lot of time to set it up or to keep up with it.

Pottery Barn's Porter Lateral File Cabinet

If I have to spend a lot of time filing, I will not do it. I will instead pile up the papers to wait until I have time to 'file' them. And it won't get done. I have devised a very simple filing system for the bills that I pay each month that requires very little time. I have to disclose that I am an old-fashioned girl and although I pay some of my bills online, I still get a lot of my bills mailed to me that I pay by check. This is how I manage that paperwork:

I have 12 files that I start with each year; one file for each month of the year. When I pay a bill, I write on my portion of the bill the date, the check number and the amount I paid, and then I file it in the appropriate month. That's it. I don't have a separate place for utility bills, and credit card bills and medical bills - that would take me too long. I simply pay everything that comes in that month and file my portion in the month that I paid it. If I pay a bill online, I print the record and file it under the current month. And then I save everything until the end of the year.

At the end of the year, I sit down (it takes me about an hour) and I go through all of the 12 files and put like bills together. For example, all the phone bills together, all the utility bills, Macys, and Visa, etc. etc. I literally sit on the floor of my office and make piles of each category as I go through each month; they are already in order by month so when the pile is done I just staple them together. I only keep the records that I need for tax purposes. If I need the records for tax purposes I transfer them to a separate tax records box for that year. If I don't need the records - my utility bills for example, I throw them out (or shred them if necessary).  In January, I start all over again with my newly emptied 12 files. It is a simple way to file, but it works for me. 


pamela said...

I love the simplicity of your methods Sherri. I wish my partner would take your tips onboard. Packing to move I saw some of the items in the thirty-plus crates of papers he has - dental bill from 1981, reminder letter from optician 1984, electricity bills from the 1990's .....no hope there;)

Luciane at HomeBunch.com said...

Oh, I greet with Pamela. I also wish my husband could see and follow your advice!!! I don't even go to his office often! :-)

Thank you so much for your comment today, Sherri! I loved to know a little bit more about Dexter and BH 90210! That's so fun! :-)

I hope you have a great week!


Luciane at HomeBunch.com

Brillante Interiors said...

Happy New Year of filing! and full of color and joy!

designchic said...

What a great system...always love others tips on organization!!

Amy Chalmers said...

I never thought of doing a month by month filing system. I have the thing set up with a file for each utility company etc...tons of files. Right now I have such a huge pile of paid bills that need to be filed and I am procrastinating...but if it were by the month, they would be filed. One question though, what if you are looking for a medical bill or something specific, do you have to guess what month you put it under? That is the drawback, but I wonder how often you are looking some old bill up?

Unknown said...

Hi Amy, Great question. My mom who is super organized taught me to have all separate files. The problem is like you said, toooo many files and it takes forever to file each bill. I used to put all the medical in a medical file and if we are going through something big (like when I fell off my bike and fractured my face) I make a separate file to manage that. I actually have an entire binder for one of my daughter's whose medical issues would not even fit in a file.
But generally, I just pile it all in whatever month it is. if I need to look it up, I just flip through the check book and see what month it is. There are probably never more than 15 or 20 separate bills in each month so it is not hard to find something. I think that anytime you have a lot of one category (more than a couple of things per month), it makes sense to set up a file just for that.

I do have files for each of us for medical but because we have had so many medical bills and I needed the records for tax purposes, I liked having them in the monthly files so I could easily access them at the end of the year. I keep medical records (test results, etc) in each person's medical file. Paid bills -generally in the monthly unless like i said, it is something unusual.

pve design said...

Excellent, I do the same! I have a file by month for invoices and receipts and it makes it easy for the year end taxes.
Thanks for your comment about my wee package to My Notting Hill.
Happy 2011~