If you are anything like the average person you might struggle with paper organization and you probably have a stash somewhere in your home of random papers, receipts and forms. Flipping through them is a bit like an archeological dig as it provides a snapshot of your life in the form of a pile. Plenty of people live in fear that they will accidentally toss or shred something important so the stash, piles and files get bigger and thicker with time.

I am here to help you go through your papers once and for all and to help you designate just what you need to file and what you can shred or recycle. If you are looking for a method to keep all those papers organized once you have gone through them, I recommend looking here for the process I used when I set up our grown up filing system.

If you are starting this process with no filing system to speak of, I recommend investing in some file folders so that you have somewhere to put the papers when you are done with them. Begin by deciding just what you need for categories and individual files. This may vary from person to person depending upon your family structure, finances and other variables. You can choose to color code the files- red for medical, green for finance etc.- or  you can use file folders you may already have. These categories are intended to be idea starters and are by no means conclusive, so feel free to adjust or retitle so that it fits your needs.

Important Documents:

  • birth certificate
  • marriage certificate
  • social security card
  • passports
  • power of attorney


  • retirement and 410K
  • checking
  • savings
  • loans
  • tax documents
  • insurance
  • credit card information


  • insurance
  • bills/receipts
  • coverage documents


  • title, loan, or lease documents
  • insurance
  • maintenance


  • transcripts
  • individual child education folders
  • diplomas


  • childcare
  • clubs
  • travel
  • family history

Print out this free printable and keep it handy with your filing system as you go through your piles and files. Enjoy the satisfaction that an organized filing system brings.

Go here to download your FREE How Long Should I Keep It Printable!

How Long Should I Keep It? Infographic via Clean Mama