Files have a funny way of multiplying. If your home office filing cabinet is overflowing – then consider creating some file cabinet organization categories to keep things under control.
However, before you begin, it is a good idea to make a plan.
Assess Your Available Space
The first thing you need to do is figure out how many file drawers you have available.
If you have just one drawer – then basically everything will need to fit inside.
Ideally, you will have a few drawers available.
This way you have the option use each drawer for a different category.
You may find that you don't have much space at all – in which case you might want to take a look at some of these fun file cabinets for your home office and do a little upgrade.
Take a Close Look at Your Paperwork
The next step is to survey the paperwork that you actually need to organize.
What type of documents do you need to file away? Some common types include:
- Bank statements
- User manuals
- Kids papers
- Medical records
- Real estate information
Look at what you have and divide things into piles based on commonalities.
Basically each pile can become a category.
Of course, everyone's situation is different.
So, below, I will outline some common categories and subcategories that people use to organize their own file cabinets.
Depending on how many files you have, you can either designate a whole drawer to one category – financial information, for example – or just a few files to that category – bank statements, credit cards, etc.
Gather Your Supplies
I don't like to put the cart before the horse, but it is a good idea to pull together a few supplies before you get started.
You probably won't know exactly what you need until you've mapped out your categories, but at the same time you don't want to create a big mess and have nowhere to put it.
So here are a few things you might want to have on hand.
- manilla file folders in either letter or legal size – depending on the size of your file cabinet
- hanging file folders (I just found these in Aqua and now I want to replace all of my boring green ones!)
- and a label maker to keep things looking neat
Sample File Cabinet Categories and Subcategories
You can use each item in this list as it's own category or you can group related files together as subcategories in one bigger hanging file or file drawer.
- Financial information
- Bank statements
- Credit card statements
- 401K statements
- Pension info
- Social security info
- Tax documents – current year
- Tax documents – prior years
- 2nd mortgage
- Monthly bills
- Bills to pay
- Documents to scan
- Papers to file
- Financial planning and research
- Real estate transactions
- Home improvement
- Life insurance
- Car insurance
- Home insurance
- Renter insurance
- Umbrella insurance
- Insurance for products
- School information
- Legal papers
- Automobile titles
- Boat information
- Marriage license
- Birth certificates
- Divorce papers
- Licensing and professional papers
- Medical info – per family member
- Medical bills
- Medical doctor contact info
- Product manuals
- Home inventory
- Valuable item documentation – jewelry, electronics, etc
- Recipes – you want to try
- Recipes – tried and true
- Ideas – for craft projects, writing, other hobbies
- Airline cards
- Hotel cards
- Destination research
- Alumni associations
- Professional organizations
- Business Information
Examples of How I Use Categories
I know that a big list of categories can be overwhelming, so I will give you some examples of how I arrange my own file cabinet.
Current To Do Items
The drawer within closest reach to my home office desk is the one the I use the most.
This contains file folders for the things I need to get done now:
- bills to pay
- documents to scan
- paperwork to file
I also have folders in this drawer for each member of the family.
My kids are young adults and largely responsible for their own schoolwork etc.
But sometimes I get mail or important documents that pertain to them.
So I put these items in their folders and once a week or so, I will sit down with them and go through the collection.
I use another file drawer for filing away financial information including monthly bills.
Over the years I have gone back and forth between two methods for filing my monthly bills.
Some years I have used one folder per each type of bill – so phone bills in one folder, electric in another etc.
Other years, I just create a folder for the month and file all the different bills in the monthly folder.
Things are a little more complex now that many bills arrive via email – but digital organizing is a topic for a whole different post. 😉
Your Organization System Is Your Own
Use the categories above to create an organization system that is unique to you.
It also helps to write your plan down, especially if you don't finish organizing in one session.
This way you can easily pick up where you left off.