Paper Filing

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People often ask me what to do with paper. What do you keep? How do you store it? When do you sort it?

I love digital, and keep much of my brain in Evernote, but there are some papers you really just need to keep in physical form and I don’t have time to decide what those are on a daily basis. I found my favorite solution almost 10 years ago in FreedomFiler, a system that requires minimal set-up and then almost zero maintenance. I bought the kit and some folders, read the instructions, set it up, and then moved on with my life.

The genius is that everything gets put into a color-coded folder, and then the system tells you when to sort things. For example, I dump all receipts and papers I get throughout the month that don’t immediately get recycled into that month’s folder. I have 12 monthly folders for odd years (2019) and 12 for even years (2018). At the end of this year, I’ll switch out the odd for even folders, and then sort through that year’s papers as I go. By two years from now, I’ll know for sure whether I needed that receipt, bill, or other miscellaneous document. This month, I took five minutes to sort through March of 2017’s papers and tossed all of them.

Semi-permanent papers, such as hospital discharge papers, go into folders, and then you decide when to sort through them. Permanent papers get their own permanent folders. Tax papers rotate every 10 years, so I know how long to hold on to those. I’m so thankful for this system! Whenever I need a receipt for a return or auto insurance papers, I know just where to go.

It might sound complicated, but I promise it’s not. And the investment is so low—I think I spent about $30 for the kit and $30 on files almost 10 years ago. That’s well worth the money for freedom from the paper crush.