Setting up Your Files for the New Year

by Tina ~ January 14th, 2015.

organized filing systemThe start of a new year is traditionally when we begin developing new habits: more exercise, less junk food, more productivity, less clutter… you know how it goes.

January is also the perfect time to set up or update your filing system, and not just because you’re already thinking about making improvements. For individuals and most home-based businesses, it also represents the beginning of a new fiscal year.

Where to start

If you don’t yet have a good filing system, this is not the best time to deal with the backlog. Just take all your old papers and put them in a box (or multiple boxes, if you have a lot). Once you have your new system set up and it’s working for you, then you can deal with the old stuff.

If you already have a good system in place, now’s the time to archive or destroy your oldest files and set up new files for this year.

What papers to keep

Everyone has a number of VIPs (Very Important Papers) which should be retained for as long as they’re valid, and sometimes even permanently. Your VIPs may include any or all of the following:

  • Adoption papers, birth certificates, baptism and confirmation records
  • Business ownership papers, patents and copyrights
  • Citizenship and naturalization papers, passports, social Insurance cards and numbers
  • Financial accounts, credit card information, debts
  • Educational records, employment records, military records, identity cards
  • Family history, marriage certificates, divorce papers, death certificates
  • Household property inventory, safe-deposit box inventory
  • Income and expense records, net worth statements, investment records, pension plans
  • Insurance policies, funeral and burial plans and records
  • Medical records, veterinary records
  • Memberships and subscriptions
  • Property appraisals, deeds, titles, easement papers
  • Tax records (Refer to Canada Revenue Agency for their requirements)
  • Warranties, guarantees, and owner manuals
  • Wills and trusts, powers of attorney, advisers and contacts lists

(Source: Organize Your Important Household Papers, eXtension)

How to get rid of old documents

For your protection, any documents containing personal information should be shredded. You have essentially three options:

  • Take your old paperwork to a local office supply store or shredding facility
  • Hire Enviroshred to pick up your old records for safe destruction
  • Buy your own shredder, ideally one with a cross-cut design to prevent reassembling of the pieces

How to set up a new filing system

Your filing system consists of three major categories, which should be stored in a way that makes the best use of your available space.

“Active Hot Files” are items that you receive and access daily, weekly, or monthly. These should be kept close at hand, whether they’re in a drawer beside you, sitting in a hanging file box on your desktop, or on floating shelves within easy reach.

Since you rarely need to access many of the VIPs listed above, there’s no need for them to be kept in your living or working area, especially if you don’t have a lot of space. They may be tucked away in a closet or anywhere else that’s out of the way but can be accessed when needed. If you decide to store any files in your garage or basement, be sure to use plastic rather than cardboard boxes to prevent damage from moisture.

As you sort out the rest of your paper, they’ll generally fall into categories such as taxes, banking, utility bills, manuals, resources, references, and so on. Each category will need its own heading on a hanging file and a separate file folder for subcategories. For example, in the hanging file labelled BANKING, you would have a separate file folders for each bank where you do business.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to use the boring filing cabinets you see in offices all over the city. Create a system that suits your décor and your personality!


Traditional Home Office by Birmingham Interior Designers & Decorators AMW Design Studio

For more details about this process, read how Spot On helped to organize Becky’s Studio and Steve’s Office.

photo credit:  tpholland via photopin cc

Categories: home organization, office organization.
Tags: .

Leave a Reply