Filing options to keep your papers organized

Many people feel the only way to file paperwork is in a filing cabinet in filing folders.  I like to say some people file horizontally using files and something to hold them. While other people use files and stack them vertically.  Both types of people are doing the same thing in a different direction. Are you a filer (horizontal hanging files) or are you a piler ( vertically stacking files)?  Learn about 5 ways you can keep your paperwork controlled.

1. Traditional Filing Cabinets

They come in many sizes and colours.  Make sure to get one with drawer sliders so you can easily reach the back of each drawer.  Some come with locks others do not.  They can be vertical or horizontal.  Horizontal cabinets provide a space to set things on, a printer, a plant etc.  You can buy a stand that has wheels to set under the filing cabinet to make it easier to relocate.

grey metal 2 drawer vertical filing cabinet

2. Binders 

Binders are a good solution for visual people.  You can have them on a shelf and easily see all your files.  The binders can be colour coded to make it simple to find the correct binder. Use dividers, pocket dividers or sheet protectors to file papers. Set up the categories you need:  household bills, bank statements, warranties etc.  Some binders also have a set of accordion files attached to the binder.  Here is a review of this product. 

Black 3 ring binder with attached accordian file

3 Rolling Crates/ File Boxes on Wheels. 

Use hanging folders and file folders. The advantage to this is you can take them to whatever room you want and the top is open so you can see the files easily.  With the crates, you can stack them for easy storage. 

Whtie plastic crate with hangin file folers

Crates make your files portable

black metal box on wheels with red, orange and yellow hanging file folders.

Crates on wheels make it easy to store away and then move close to your desk

4. Expandable Files

Use one section for each category of paperwork. For example household bills, income tax, financial documents,  insurance policies, warranties, etc.  They are great to have one for each member of the family to store papers relating to them, report cards/school documents, immunization/health records, passport and other documents, certificates etc.  You can also colour code these files.

Blue accordian file with clear sections for papers

Some come with special hooks so you can store them in a filing cabinet or crate.

Blue accordian file with hooks to hang in a black filing cabinet drawer

5. Magazine holders

Magazine holders come in paper and plastic.  They are available in many colours and patterns. Try to buy ones with solid sides so papers will not get caught and it can be hard to slide in.  Use a holder for each category of paper you need to file.  You can colour code your systems making it easier to quickly access the files you need.  You can turn them so the spines are facing out, and label them, to reduce the visual clutter of seeing all the papers in each box. 

White cardboard magazine holder with papers and file folders in them.

What is your preferred method for filing paperwork?  Tell me about your system. 

Julie Stobbe, professional organizerJulie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer and Lifestyle Organizing Coach who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, virtually using Zoom. She has been working with clients since 2006 to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She uses her love of teaching to reduce clutter, in your home, office, mind and time. She guides and supports you to be accountable for your time, to complete projects and reach your goals. If you’re in a difficult transition Julie can coach you to break-free of emotional clutter constraining you from living life on your terms. Online courses are available to help instruct, coach and support your organizing projects. Get started by downloading Tips for Reorganizing 9 Rooms.

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  1. Seana Turner on October 28, 2019 at 9:00 am

    I love that you showcase the fact that storing paper is not a “one size fits all” issue. Factors such as quantity of paper, room layout, and decor preferences all play a role. I still find that a file drawer is my favorite because it functions well and is easy to use. However, a student may only need a file box. And someone with lots of shelving but no drawers can have great success with binders and magazine boxes. The solution that works for YOU is the best one, right?

    • Julie Stobbe on October 29, 2019 at 4:22 pm

      Thanks for pointing out additional issues that affect the best filing system for a person. Room Layout is a perfect example of how one system might work better than another system. Thanks for your comments

  2. Janet Barclay on October 28, 2019 at 9:24 am

    I don’t use paper nearly as much as I used to – I guess most of us don’t – but I’ve always loved paper organizing, and seeing these pictures was almost as fun as visiting the stationery store!

    • Julie Stobbe on October 29, 2019 at 4:19 pm

      Now that Revenue Canada will accept electronic copies of receipts I think we will be seeing an even greater shift to digital. Since I don’t have an encryption program I use paper to keep some information safer. I can do this because I don’t have a lot of files with personal information.

  3. Linda Samuels on October 28, 2019 at 10:10 am

    It’s fascinating how much things have shifted with paper. While my clients over a certain age still have a lot of paper, many of my younger ones rely more on digital storage. So paper storage needs have changed. A filing cabinet used to be a “must-have,” but that’s no longer the case. Although when clients DO need filing cabinets, it’s essential to have one that works well, with well-made ball bearings. When the drawers don’t hold the weight of the files or easily open and close, it becomes a deterrent to file.

    • Julie Stobbe on October 29, 2019 at 4:17 pm

      I have seen the same thing with a shift to digital filing. However I find some of the smae problems occuring, what did I call it where did I file it. There are some apps that you can scan a receipt and the app will file it.

  4. Nancy Haworth on October 30, 2019 at 8:55 am

    Thank you for sharing all of these great options for keeping paper organized. My personal preference is a file cabinet drawer or a file box. The type of organizing product you choose really does depend on your learning style and personal preferences. I have used all of these products with my organizing clients, depending on their individual situation, and the products have all helped to contain and organize paper.

    • Julie Stobbe on October 30, 2019 at 11:28 am

      Now that I think about it I use most of these products depending on what I am filing. Paperwork that needs to b kept goes in a filing cabinet. Things to do over the next month for in file folders in a step file holder. This weeks stuff goes in a tray. Reference materials go in a magazine holder.

  5. CoachMaureen on November 2, 2019 at 1:39 pm

    Love this thanks Julie just more if your wonderful organizing finesse,

    • Julie Stobbe on November 4, 2019 at 4:55 pm

      Everyone needs their organization personalized to suit them. I enjoy doing that.

  6. Diane N Quintana on March 13, 2023 at 7:30 am

    I really like that you highlight the fact that organizing papers can be handled in a variety of ways. No one way is the correct way. Finding out which way works best for the client is the most important piece of this puzzle.

    • Julie Stobbe on March 14, 2023 at 3:09 pm

      I was talking with a person’s assistant about filing and she was telling me what she did, a typical filing system. I made an off the cuff statement that there are about 5 ways to file and she was amazed. That is why I like this article. Filing only works if you like your system or if you get someone to do it for you.

  7. Hazel Thornton on March 13, 2023 at 12:00 pm

    Here are a couple of paper organizers I like: Pendaflex PileSmart Project Binder and EZSTAX file organizer trays.

    • Julie Stobbe on March 14, 2023 at 3:11 pm

      I have plastic hanging file folders from Pendafles. I really like them. They are so durable and have top edges of different colours.

  8. Julie Bestry on March 13, 2023 at 11:50 pm

    When I worked in an office and had limited filing cabinet space but extensive shelving space, I used binders but found it far less convenient to punch holes and put things in binders than to plop things in folders in the filing cabinet. Now, I only use file crates, and I really appreciate the portability of a semi-heavy file crate vs. the stuck-in-place heaviness of a filing cabinet. But you’re right, the key is to find which option works well for you!

    • Julie Stobbe on March 14, 2023 at 3:14 pm

      I use binders for a few things and I find that they don’t up nicely on shelves. Sometimes the shelves are too narrow. I do suggest crates for my clients that like to work in many different locations in their homes. For some clients dividing the files into crates helps them to feel less overwhelmed than a big cabinet, oh where could the file be! lol

  9. Jana Arevalo on March 14, 2023 at 9:11 am

    I love this and have been trying out different systems of paper in our own home as well. Right now everything is in 3 ring binders and plastic sheets, but I’d love to get those even more uniform. I agree with the above commenters that everything continues to shift to digital more and more which is great! But there will always be those documents that one really should keep. Thank you so much for this Julie!

    • Julie Stobbe on March 14, 2023 at 3:16 pm

      For some people filing the paper makes them feel more secure that they will be able to find those important documents when they need them. They feel that they would get lost on the computer. Things keep changing and it is hard to know when you need the original and when a digital copy will be ok.

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