I am continuing this week to take baby steps toward a more organized home. In case you missed it, check out Part 1: Mini Command Center and Part 2: Rolling File Cabinet. Today, we are going to take a peak inside my file cabinet at all the pretty files. Hmm…pretty files…two words you don’t often hear together.
I know myself well enough to know, if the experience is ugly, I won’t do it. I have to make even the mundane tasks in life pretty. Files are about as utilitarian as it gets, but with a few simple steps I made our filing system functional and pretty!
How To Make File Storage Pretty
First of all, if I can’t find pretty, then I go neutral. The typical bright blue or dark green hanging file folders are not my definition of pretty. So, I aimed for something neutral. Staples carries recycled hanging file folders that almost look like kraft paper or cardboard. They are the perfect neutral base for the file system. Plus, I love the contrast of the bright teal cabinet with the neutral hanging files.
There are lots of pretty file folders, but they are pricey compared to plain manila. I knew there were other less expensive ways to add a pop of color, so I chose the budget-friendly box of 100 plain manila folders. I prefer the three-tab file folders, because the tab area is wider.
Now for the pretty part, I used my vast collection of washi tape to decorate the tabs of the manila folders. It is the perfect way to make boring label-maker labels pop! I placed a piece of colorful washi tape on each tab and then added a clear printed label from my label-maker.
Bonus: Labels from the label-maker do not remove cleanly from a folder, but most washi tapes do! That means you can easily re-label the file folders, just peel off the washi tape and start over.
To avoid color overload, I went clear for the hanging file labels. They come with white labels and clear tab protectors. I left out the white labels and just used a clear label directly on top of the clear tab protector. I love being able to see through them. Simple and streamlined!
To keep this pretty labeling system easy to maintain, I keep all the necessities in the file cabinet. In the back of the cabinet, I put the whole box of empty manila file folders. I simply cut the side off the box and dropped it in the back of the drawer.
At the front of the file cabinet, I keep my label maker, washi tape, and clear tab protectors. To keep the washi tape and tab protectors neat, I put them inside a magnetic pencil holder. It sticks right to the inside of the file cabinet.
Having all the pretty labeling supplies handy makes it easy to whip up a new folder whenever I need one.
What’s in the Pretty Files
Now, because I am sure you are curious, let me share what all the files are. Remember, this is part of our family command center and therefore part of our daily routine. This cabinet will never hold more than 12 months worth of records, other than manuals. The intent is for this cabinet to be our active files. The files we are accessing regularly. Our long-term files will stay in our home office, for any records older than 12 months.
I labeled each hanging file folder with a main category. The categories I created, so far, include:
Inside each hanging file folder, there is more than one manila file for the sub-categories. The sub-categories, so far, include:
- Paid Bills Prior Month – I plan to keep all paid bills for the prior month in this folder until payment is verified on the new bill.
- Elementary School – Important information from school, like calendar, notes from teacher, quick reference sheet, policies, etc.
- Daycare – Important information from daycare, along with bills.
- Medical Bills/Receipts – Records for flexible spending account reimbursement.
- EOBs – Explanation of benefits from Insurance Company, best to keep for one year, which is usually the window of time for appeals.
- Records – Immunizations, instructions from the doctor, growth charts, etc.
- Pay Stubs – Jose – All pay stubs from this year.
- Pay Stubs – Jackie – My job is less traditional and I don’t actually have pay stubs. But, if I receive payment from a sponsor, the record goes here. Also, this is a spot to keep reports of income from clients and students.
- W-2s – W-2s and other important tax forms. Come tax time we always appreciate having a consolidated landing spot for all the papers we need to do our taxes.
- Donations – A spot for all the donation receipts throughout the year. Easy to find come tax time.
- Mortgage Statements – All mortgage statements for this year.
- Improvements – Plans, payments, permits, etc. for all home improvements. For us, that includes the deck and basement finishing.
- Repairs/Maintenance – Paperwork from any home repairs or yearly maintenance. We keep these as long as the warranty period, in case we have any issues with the work that was performed.
- Homeowners Association – News and policy updates.
- Appliance Manuals – I couldn’t wait to get these out of my kitchen cupboard.
- Electronics Manuals – We are a tech-savvy family. Here we keep camera, phone, and other electronic manuals.
- Lego Manuals – Now that my boys are getting more involved sets, I needed a place to keep the manuals for that inevitable day I know they will ask to re-make the original creation.
- Cards – Birthday cards and other paper ephemera I plan to later add to a scrapbook.
I mention these are the categories and sub-categories so far, because this system is a work-in-progress. I created folders for all the types of papers we currently have. I expect new types to arise, which is why all the file making supplies are on hand.
Good idea with the Lego manuals. I currently have an 18 gallon rubbermaid bin almost full of Lego manuals.
If you haven’t already, sign both of the boys up for the free Lego magazine on their website. They will get a magazine every other month (Lego Jr for 6 and under, Lego for over 6) with free model directions, stories and games.
Adrienne P, Chicago says
Hi, I’d like to offer a suggestion re: health EOBs. Many health insurers now offer electronic access to your claims information (register on their website), with a feature for downloading this data into a spreadsheet. I “turn off” paper EOBs to eliminate a lot of incoming paper. Once a year, I download all of our claims information and store electronically by year. I also sort the spreadsheet by family member, print, and store in my health files for a health history for each family member. For high users of a medical plan, this saves a lot of paper and time. One word of caution: if you are going to change health plan companies, be sure to download your claims information before the end of your policy period to ensure full access.
Such great advice. The ones in my file were from a previous insurer that did not offer an electronic option, but with our current provider we have that…hooray! I never thought of using a spreadsheet…great idea! Thank you so much for sharing these tips!
Terri A. says
Very nice!!! LOVE the clear label tape. Might have to upgrade my label maker for one that does that.
Terri, For mine I just had to buy a replacement label tape in clear!
LOve the command center! You did a great job of creating something that can work for your family.