Recently someone asked if my filing system still consisted of piles everywhere because they knew I struggled to declutter paper piles in the past.
While that question made me squirm at one point in my life, now I laugh at it because I found a great way to get around the massive piles of the past.
When I shared this system with a friend, she asked where this system had been all her life because it was the first time she felt like she could get her personal paperwork in order.
Now I’m sharing it with you.
Filing by piling
Believe it or not, the piling system worked for years.
Before I had children and even for a while after, I always had at least one paper pile, two feet or higher.
I knew where everything was in that pile.
Since I hated filing, I only did it once or twice per year.
Then, I was so burned out, I started piling again for at least the next six months.
While I know now there so many better ways to declutter paper piles, and I even write about it in The Magic of Fifteen Minutes, back then, I didn’t get it.
If it’s cute, I’ll file it, won’t I?
I tried everything, but I was a horrible filer.
I tried cute file folders, fun labels, colored hanging files, different file cabinets.
For a week or two, I excitedly put every paper in the proper folder, but nothing worked long term.
I got bored, and the piles sprung up again.
By the time my third child came along, I was in a mess.
The thing is that I knew how to file and declutter paper the way my mom taught me.
What I didn’t know was how to make myself do it on a regular basis.
The day that rocked my filing world
Then one day, I wish I remember where and when, I learned about an entirely different way of filing, by date instead of by subject.
I learned each bill needed its own file so the phone bills, utility bills, mortgage payments and bank statements each had a separate file.
That’s my mom’s way to file.
Now someone said I could do it differently.
I was astounded by and skeptical about how easy it sounded.
It cannot be that easy
The basic premise is that you make twelve file folders, one for each month of the year.
Instead of filing everything by category or vendor, you file by month.
At first, I admit this new filing system seemed ridiculous because I thought the way I learned how to file was the “right way”.
Because of my ongoing filing and piling issues, though, I decided to give it a try.
I still wanted it to be fun, so I chose colorful hanging folders like these.
I figured a bit of color might help, and I still have those folders several years later so I call that a great purchase.
Guess who learned how to file? ME!
I must tell you, this filing system changed my life.
I started filing instead of piling!
The towering piles disappeared.
Occasionally a small one pops up, but because I have a simpler filing system it doesn’t last long.
I process mail faster because it all goes in the same folder for the month.
I pay bills on time because I schedule them online and put the bill in this month’s folder.
When I look for something, there are a maximum of twelve files to look through, and truthfully, the number of times I’ve had to search more than a minute or two are more than worth the time I save every month.
Friends, this is like magic if you don’t keep up with your filing and paper decluttering on a regular basis.
What about the items that don’t “fit” in a monthly folder”
Some items have their own files.
Birth certificates, insurance policies (not bills), automobile titles and appliance guides get their own space.
Tax returns do too.
Otherwise everything goes into the monthly file folders, and I file items daily or weekly rather than a few times per year.
I keep two years of records handy, the current year in the front and the previous year behind.
That way, I have access to the previous year for taxes or the odd search of last year’s records and when it comes time to switch from one year to the next, I move the oldest year to a bin in the basement in minutes rather than combing through several file folders.
When I started this system, I felt like a filing success for the first time in my life.
Success is not perfection
It’s not a perfect system, but it’s so much better than what I had before.
It’s even more fun when I tell people about how I file.
So many of them have the same response I did.
They can’t imagine filing and paper decluttering is that easy, but it is and the ones who try it are amazed.
I know how they feel, and it’s thrilling to see them succeed.
Anything that makes taking care of our home, our finances and our lives more efficient, is beautiful to me.
This method saves me so much time and makes me so happy, and that never happened with the old filing system.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes
If you’re filing challenged, try this method for the rest of the year.
My bet is that you will have a new way to file, and everyone in your household will benefit too.
So, do you have any other household challenges you could use help with?
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