Simplified Filing Station via Clean Mama

A great way to simplify things before life gets busy is to finish up any looming projects. My looming project was my file cabinet. I’ve been working on and off on it for the last two months and finally finished it up yesterday and it feels so great to have it completed. Your project might be something completely un-paper related, but if you have been wanting to create a grown-up file cabinet or file your 2013 papers, now is the time to do it. The timing is perfect – categorize, file, and shred. Pretty simple, but time-consuming. I’m so excited to go into 2014 with a plan for the files, bills, and paper clutter.

Part of the reason this project took me so long is that I couldn’t decide on what categories I’d use and how I’d work the cabinet itself. So after some careful consideration, list making and planning I came up with a simple system that works for us. I’m sharing it today in case your brain processes like mine and it’s helpful for you.

Close Up File Cabinet via Clean Mama

Here’s how I went from accordion files to grown up file cabinet (and you can too!):

Bought a large file cabinet – you might already have a file cabinet, I was using accordion files (gasp!)

Wrote down all of the possible categories and subcategories and then narrowed and combined

Bought 5 colors of hanging file folders

Used this label maker to make the folder labels

Filed, filed, filed, and filed some more.

Categories 101

I have oodles of paper ideas on my  organize: paper Pinterest page if you are interested in perusing that too. But here are my categories and how I broke them down.

HOME + AUTO (together in the file cabinet, but separate subcategories)

File Folder Organization via Clean mama

Then I broke down the categories into specific SUBCATEGORIES. The thing that I love about how I filed these is that I alphabetized the subcategories but I kept each subcategory in line so if I add or take away it won’t mess up the system.

My subcategories look like this (I’ll give examples of money and taxes – it’s very important to break everything down into specifics – each account gets its own folder:


January-December – separate file for each month for the year

bank account : bank name (separate file for each account)

credit card : credit card name (separate file for each account)

loan : loan name (separate file for each account)

paid off


paystubs : person (separate file for each account)

retirement : person (separate file for each account)

tax : deductions

tax: donations

tax : expenses

tax return : 2013 – 2008 – separate folder for each year


one for each family member

medical : dental

medical : prescriptions

medical : vision

paid : doctors’ bills


insurance : accidents

insurance : autos

insurance : homeowners

insurance : life

insurance : personal articles


home : address

home : improvements

home : landscaping

home : mortgage

home : warranties


auto : service

auto : one for each car


licenses : one for each



Files via Clean Mama

I used a piece of paper to jot down my ideas as I was working through this, but after working through the system I thought it would be more FUN to have a printable to work with so here’s a very simple one if you’d like to jot down filing ideas and categories as you work through this.

File It Printable via Clean Mama

Go here to grab the freebie File It printable.


It sounds so easy, and on the screen it is, but in real life it can be daunting and overwhelming. I am so happy to have this corner of my office and life working in a functioning and helpful system. The key to organization is that it should make things EASIER. If you are organizing something purely based on looks it’ll look great and you can take some nice pictures, but it has to be workable for your life and family. This filing system is going to save us TIME, ENERGY, and it will make paying bills and doing taxes EASIER. That’s an organizing project WIN.

How Long Should I Keep It For - Clean Mama

If you haven’t seen this post with the FREE How Long Should I Keep It For? printable, go grab it if you are working through your files and need a quick (and cute) reference sheet! (You’ll also see that I officially started this project at the beginning of August!)

I also use The Simplified Life Kit and The Simplified Life Budget + Bill Pay Kit in my homekeeping notebook and for keeping on top of the budget and bills (seen pictured in the wall organizer). You can see them in my shop!



This post is part of a series designed to help you Simplify the Season. You can see all the posts here.

Simplify the Season via Clean Mama