What the world really needs is more love and less paperwork. — Pearl Bailey
I am a bookkeeper by profession, and I am often asked what is the best way to handle filing paperwork. Really, it depends on how your mind works and how you can easily retrieve the information you are looking for.
I have three different methods that I recommend.
- File by Date of the Record: This is the method that I generally use for financial records, just because when you are dealing with financial information, it is nice to keep paperwork together by tax year, so you can easily archive and then depose of paperwork when needed. I make separate folders for bills, deposits, bank statements, insurance/medical records, tax agency records and so on. For those files that get overwhelmed with paperwork, I sub-divide either by month or quarter. I find it easy to access these records by looking at the date of the transaction in my check register.
- File by Type of Record: This is the method I like to use for any non-financial record, but it can also be used for financial paperwork. Personally, I just find it harder to archive financial records with this method, but again, it all depends on how your mind works. I prefer to use this for records I will possibly keep indefinitely. For example, paperwork of important medical records, school records, car repair records and so on. When using this method for financial records I recommend keeping like-bills together, ie your utility bills, phone bills, etc.
- File by Project Related to Record: This is a method sometimes used in filing financial records when you deal with clients that you are doing a short-term project for. I don’t generally recommend this type of filing system for large companies because it can become really complicated, but I find sometimes that small business owners prefer this type of filing because frankly, it is just how their mind works. For non-financial records, you could use this filing type for construction projects at home.
Which ever method you prefer, just remember the most important part is keeping up so you don’t get buried underneath your paperwork. That is one of the things that stress me out most. I hate to see a pile of paper staring at me, begging to be taken care of.
A couple other tips to keep in mind when dealing with paperwork;
- If you wonder if you really need to keep the paper, you most likely don’t. Don’t be afraid to let go, especially now that you can access most records online. Sometimes it is really liberating to let go!
- When filing financial paperwork, I have found that keeping the most current papers in the front of the file makes more sense than in the back. You generally look for your most current bills/papers, so it is so much easier to just have them up front. But if you can’t get your mind to switch, just remember, you have to do what works best for you!