An Experiment In Simple, Sustainable Life

Our 9 Step Paper Organization System

Our 9 Step Paper Organization System

Take a look at the amount of filing you do and tell me how simple your life is.  Every year around this time, we have to deal with a fun thing called taxes.  The last year can be seen in one big glance as we put together our tax returns.  This is the time of year where I love getting to clear out old papers from the previous year, but at the same time, it’s a lot to deal with.

Filing for us has become essential because we both have our own businesses, we have this fiber farm, and we have all the normal tax stuff that a married couple in the United States might deal with.  It became necessary may years ago to come up with a system to keep it all straight.  For the most part, I’ve been using the same system for about ten years and it’s been working fairly well.

Our 9 Step Process To Paper Organization

  1. The hubby does most of the bill-pay setup and keeps that all rolling each month.  
  2. Bills that are paid go in a specific spot and then it’s up to me to file and organize them.  
  3. I have one main file box (a plastic rectangular crate) where I have all fo the current files.  This includes current statements and documents, as well as some of the ongoing statements of things.  For example, I have a file folder with our neighborhood covenants that just stays in this main file box so that we know we can refer to it as needed. 
  4. About once every few months I file all the papers that have built up in the pile of “to be filed” papers.  
  5. As I’m filing, I record the vital numbers for each month.  These are things like utilities, car insurance, mortgage or rent, and more.  Since I use part of my home as an office for my business, I know I’ll need these totals at the end of the year.  By tracking this as I file, it makes tax season a TON easier.  
  6. Each January, we pull out all of the papers that need to be scanned and then archived.  
  7. We scan all of our documents and save them to a secure cloud storage folder, as well as run regular backups to a hard drive.  If we ever need to refer back to files from previous years, we have digital backups!  
  8. Once scanned, we stack all of that year’s documents together and bundle them with a large rubber band, store them in large zip lock bags and put them in a large 20 gallon storage bin in the basement.  
  9. After so many years, these stacks can get shredded and tossed.  I suppose we could do that right away, since we have the cloud backups, but while we have the space to do this, it just has been one of those things that we haven’t really worried about.

Could we go paperless?

While I’m all for less paper, I’ve discovered that in our household, we NEED to visually see what bills need to be paid.  This is even more true when we’re working together to keep track of things.  Getting invoices via an inbox can be difficult when you have different email addresses and you get a lot of emails each day.  The last thing I want is to be late on paying something because it got buried in my inbox. 

We also haven’t fully embraced paperless yet because I haven’t figured out how to keep things straight when you have some things digital and some things paper.  The truth is, there are just some things that you can’t fully digitize, so there will still be a huge mix of the two types of documents.  Sometimes it’s more simple for me to know that all of specific types of documents have a physical folder where they belong, especially when it’s not just me who may need to access them.  

That’s not to say we don’t go paperless when we can, but we also know our limits.  



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