“Paperwork wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for all the paper. And the work.”
– Darynda Jones
Have you done a good job of getting rid of all that unneeded paperwork? If so, you’re ready to begin your new minimalist filing method. If not, finish decluttering first.
If you already have a file cabinet, feel free to use it, but don’t be tempted to keep more paperwork just because you have extra space. You can use empty drawers to store other items, or sell the cabinet to someone with more papers than you.
Don’t buy any type of file organizer until you’re down to the papers you really need to keep. You might find you need less than you thought. You may even be able to fit everything in an accordion file.
“Sometimes when I have a mountain of paperwork, I dream of how many paper planes I can make.”
– Anthony T. Hincks
Of course, you’ll base your minimalist filing system on the paperwork you’re keeping. To give you an example, I’ll tell you how we label our files, which easily fit in hanging files in a small file drawer.
* Coupons (we don’t generally buy processed food and have no need for food coupons; the kind of coupons I’m talking about are for restaurants and stores)
* Home (appliance instructions, receipts for repairs, paint color chips). Yes, we could just keep electronic copies, but this way it’s easy to give the file to the new owner when we move.
* Income Tax (with subfolders for each year). Remember you don’t need to keep these forever. See what the recommendation is in your country.
* Insurance (policy booklets). Because they don’t take up that much space and would be a real pain to scan.
* Medical (only what’s often needed in paper, like vaccination records and eyeglass prescriptions). I keep digital records of visit info, test results, etc.).
* Miscellaneous. Many people say a “miscellaneous” file is bad. It works for me, though.
* Pets (paper vaccination records). As with our human medical records, most information is in a typed computer file or scanned in.
* Vital Records (certified copies of birth certificates, marriage certificate, etc.).
“Getting paperwork under control makes me feel more in control of my life generally.”
As you can see, the real goal is to have very little paperwork. Some of you may want to save less paper than we do. I know many people scan nearly all records and print them when they need them. Others would be happy to give the new owner of the house relevant documents on a disk.
Like me, you’ll probably find that, over time, you become more comfortable with getting rid of your paperwork – whether because you don’t need it at all or because you’re keeping it electronically.