A home filing cabinet is a great way to organize papers, bills, and other important documents related to the running of your household or home business. But, just like every other storage space in your home, filing cabinets also have to be cleaned out and organized once in a while. Without a little file purging, the file drawers become impossible to access and important documents can get lost.
After losing the lease to one of my rentals three times in a single month, I decided it was time to clean out and organize the filing cabinet in my home office. The system I used for cleaning out and reorganizing my filing system will work for you as well.
1. Find a suitable work area. Before emptying out the cabinet, find a suitable and well lit work area to hold your files over the next several days. Since my office is adjacent to my dining room, the files get sorted on the dining room table. Card tables, portable buffet tables, or even the floor can all be used as place to work.
2. Purchase replacement file holders. Over time, file folders become worn and torn, and no will longer hold those important papers in an orderly manner. Purchasing some replacement file folders and file labels prior to reorganizing the file cabinet will have you ready to replace torn folders as needed. File folders come in legal size and letter size, in standard widths and accordion style; the size and type you purchase depends on the bulkiness of length of the papers. For home business files, tax records, and legal documents, the legal size is best. Household bills can manage with the letter size.
If your filing cabinet doesn’t have a stop to prevent files from falling over, a file rack with hanging file folders should also be purchased. These racks run about $20 each, with hanging file folders priced at $15 for 25-ct box.
3. Thinning out the files. So once the files have been dumped on the table, now comes the fun part of cleaning them out. Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer or magic formula as to what to keep and what not. Files that SHOULD be kept in your filing cabinet include:
* All IRS and state tax forms and supporting documents.
* All legal documents, deeds, insurance records, car and home loan documents, bank statements, stock statements, etc.
* All records relating to your home business and related home business expenses
* Currents school records for yourself and your children
* All receipts for deductible expenses for the current tax year
* Warranties, service agreements, maintenance contracts, bids, and other contracts.
As far as the rest only you can decide what should stay in the filing cabinet for your home business, what documents can be moved to deep storage or put in a safe deposit box, and what can be shredded or thrown away. These two articles can help in determining what is safe to shred; How long do I hang onto my tax documents and How long should I keep my credit card receipts? both by C. Jeanne.
4. Returning files back to the filing cabinet. Depending on the amount of space and files you have, you’ll have to choose some method of organizing the files as they are returned to the cabinet. The system I use is to organize personal & household files in one drawer, home office files in a second drawer, and tax returns & legal documents in a third file drawer. As far as the files that have been thinned out, they are packed into a portable file box and then stored in a dry place elsewhere in the house.
Now that your filing cabinet has been cleaned and reorganized, keeping it that way is easy with a little routine maintenance. It’s an orderly file cabinet that will help keep your financial life in order as well.