How to Organize a Home File Cabinet

Use this simple color-coded method to sort and store your most important documents.

The top drawer of your household filing cabinet is the place you go to find critical information about your finances, insurance, cars, health care, and home.

Remember: Some important papers that you need to save do not belong in your file cabinet's top drawer. Protect important legal documents (wills, medical directives, financial trust details) in a safety deposit or fire-safe box. Organize warranties and documentation in expanding folders in a lower file drawer.

Certified Professional Organizer and Come to Order founder Kathy Jenkins recommends using 1/3-cut manila folders, handwritten labels, and four colors of hanging folders to organize your file cabinet into the following four sections:

1. Financial section: Use green hanging folders and manila folders with left-hand tabs.

Position documents related to incoming or outgoing money in the very front of your file cabinet. Create tabs for banking, credit cards, investments/ retirement, mortgage, employment (one file for each family member), property assessments, taxes (current year only), utilities, and wills/estate planning.

2. Insurance/Vehicles section: Use blue hanging folders and manila folders with left-hand tabs.

Create folders for everything related to insuring your cars, house, life, and health. You can also cluster vehicle-specific files such as loans, registration, taxes, and maintenance in this section.

3. Personal section: Use yellow hanging folders and manila folders with center tabs.

Start with one file for each family member, including each pet. Create additional tabs and folders that suit your family's needs, such as education and medical records (creating a separate file for each family member), church, sports, hobbies, and vacation ideas.

4. Home section: Use red hanging folders and manila folders with right-hand tabs.

Use this final section to organize records of past and future home projects, including decorating, furniture purchases, home improvements, repairs, landscaping, and homeowner association details.

Tip: Plan to write all labels by hand. You can purchase preprinted label kits, but your filing needs are unique. Writing your own labels lets you customize your system and helps you get to know the documents you're keeping. Also, sticking with hand-written labels lets you quickly add folders or tabs without turning on your computer and loading your printer with label paper.

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