Organizing my file cabinet!!

So this is the truly geekiness that is my love for organizing.  I spent almost my entire weekend (the last three days) organizing my file cabinet.

It’s a 2-drawer, double-width file cabinet.  The top drawer is active files or files that are important enough to have up top.  And the bottom is the archive space for things that need to be kept for a while but I don’t need to see, possibly ever again.  But it was a mess!  The last time I went through was probably this time last year.  Things seemed pretty organized up through September of last year in a lot of cases.

The big exception was what was taking up most of the bottom drawer.  Several months ago, we got a box full of paperwork from Justin’s mom—medical records, school loans paperwork, all these things that I’d been wondering where they were hiding and suddenly I had them!  Which was great!  But I didn’t have places to put them yet, so they got stuck randomly into folders and stashed away, with the plans of organizing them “soon.”

Friday afternoon I got home, paid the bills, balanced the checkbook, and decided it was Time to Tackle the Mess.

It’s amazing how something as thin as paper can make such a heavy mess.

Also, it’s sometimes really complicated to work someone else’s filing system into your own.

And yeah, it took me from Friday afternoon all the way through Sunday afternoon to finish it up.  But now that I’m done? Ooooooh . . . .  It’s a thing of beauty.

(Geek!)

Anyway, some thoughts about organizing and how I managed my project.  First off, I went through the active files to see what was happening there.  Mostly they were good.  There were a few that hadn’t had anything added for a while, either it’s someone we don’t use anymore or we’ve gone paperless or something.  If the file wasn’t used in 2009, I pulled it to put with the archived info.  And then I separated the data from previous years and paper clipped them together with a sticky note telling which year it was for.  This one thing is going to be a HUGE time saver later on.

And then I figured out how I was going to categorize the files.  I’d started to do this last time—I had a bills section and a loans section, each holding things that had to do with bills (water, electric, cable) or loans (credit cards, school loans, car loan).  Now I also have Automobile, Banking, and Work categories, and a few others.

I didn’t finish up on the top, though, before I hit the bottom.  I pulled out the things that were basically already organized first, just because I felt like doing the easy stuff first and then the harder, but that’s totally up to personal preference.  Again, I sorted out by year so I could see what was what, labeling with sticky notes for easy reference.  I also put sticky notes on the hanging folders so I could flip through quickly.  This one took me a while to figure out but after digging and digging and digging to find the stupid VSAC folders, I finally just put notes on all of the folders and saved myself much time and frustration.

Slowly, I made my way through old bank statements, medical expenses, pay stubs, and so many other things.  I had to take the papers from my mother in law and integrate them into my own system, which probably took me the longest.  Some of what she sent was duplicates of information I already had, some was integrated, but not duplicated, and a lot of it was totally new to me.  So I found what it was, how it fit into the scheme, and organized it by year.

And then I made up a label template on Word, typed up the labels for all the new folders, categorized into sections, naturally, and printed them off.  A little bit of cutting and labeling, and now my file cabinet is fantastic!

There are still a handful of things I need to address—like how long to keep a few things.  I’d assume I could throw them away, but I’m going to double-check it before I do.  Plus, it’s good research.  I didn’t go through one of the folders yet just because it was more than my brain could handle in one weekend, but I’m planning to get through it “soon.”  I promise!

But it’s absurd how very pleased I am with myself about this project.  I kept dragging Justin in to look at my progress.  I had papers strewn all over the floor of my office, stacks of full and empty folders on my trunk and the top of the file cabinet, and paperclips and sticky notes and pens everywhere.  But the files didn’t have paper popping out of the top and I could find what I was looking for and they’re all paper clipped together with sticky notes saying the year!

And did I mention that the reason that’s helpful is because at the end of the year, I’ll pull out the papers from this year, paper clip them together with a 2009 sticky note and put them in the archived folder, pull out anything past its expiration date, and be done with organizing for the (first half) of the year in less than 30 minutes?  Yeah.  That’s going to be sweet.

These are the kind of things that get me excited.

Pictures!

This is my file cabinet
This is my file cabinet
This is the top drawer.
This is the top drawer.
This is the bottom drawer!
This is the bottom drawer!
This is what I'm shredding so far.
This is what I'm shredding so far.
This is what I'm recycling.
This is what I'm recycling.
And for giggles, this is a paperweight.
And for giggles, this is a paperweight.