Organizing Year-End Files

NOW is the time to go through and clean out your files! Maybe you also need to freshen up your filing system. Maybe you need to create a filing system! Whatever the case, paper piles can be overwhelming. Creating and maintaining an organized filing system makes year-end file clean up easy – saving you valuable TIME! Another good reason to have a filing system: Save MONEY! Many of our clients have found checks that were not deposited, and bank accounts they had forgotten about. One client even found his Will!


Start by collecting all of your papers. Sort papers into 2 piles: Keep and Trash. Next, sort the keepers into categories. When choosing category/files names, think about retrieval. When you are looking for a car repair receipt will you look under Car? Vehicle? Buick? Receipts? Don’t worry, categories will reveal themselves as you go through your papers.

Some categories to consider:

• Bills

• Employment

• Health

• Home

• Insurance

• Investments

• Legal

• Medical

• Military

• Payments

• Receipts

• Retirement

• School

• Statements

• Taxes

• Wills

I also include a file for each family member.

I highly recommend using labeled hanging folders, but you can also use a file box or binder. Some categories may have subcategories. Use manila folders for subcategories.

Label files in pencil at first, and use for a month or so, in case you want to make changes. Then you can permanently label each file. I also recommend arranging the file tabs in one row. This makes it easy to add or delete files.


1) Gather Supplies: stapler, post-it notes, paper clips, rubber bands, sharpie or pen, manila folders and a file box or other storage container. Use plastic if storing in a garage, attic or basement, where water/weather damage may occur.

2) Take out each file individually. As you go through the file, decide what you can toss, what you can remove for the year-end file box, and what you can keep in the file.

3) Keep sections together with a staple, paper clip, rubber band, or place in a manila folder.

4) Label each section.

5) After going through every file, you should now have your year-end files ready for storage.

6) Bind all sections together and label by year.

7) Place in File Box. Several years may fit in one file box.

8) Don’t forget to label your File Box with appropriate dates. “Year End Files 2010-2013”, for example.


You should now have space in your file cabinet for the new year!


1) Keep a “Working File” for all papers you need to file later. Sure, it’s great to file each paper as you receive it. But, at least for me, this is not realistic. I place papers I need to file in a separate folder on my desk. You could also use a basket or paper tray designated specifically for this purpose. File these in the right place weekly.

2) Keep a “To Do” file. This would be for things like bills to pay, forms to fill out, etc. File once the task is completed.

3) Be smart – shred all personal documents before you toss them!

4) Keep your year-end files WITH that year’s Tax Return.

5) Keep Vital Documents in a fireproof / waterproof box or cabinet, or a safe deposit box.

6) Maintenance is the key – find time daily, weekly or monthly to keep things filed properly. The more often you do this the less time it will take.

7) Work where the action is. Set up your file system in the kitchen, if that is where papers tend to accumulate. This is MUCH easier than retraining yourself to take them to the office upstairs. The fewer steps involved – the better.

8) Go PAPERLESS! Opt for paperless statements, pay your bills online, and use a computer financial program, such as Quick Books. I also recommend using an Online Computer Backup system like Mozy or Carbonite.



ATM receipts

Bank Statements

Monthly Bills: until paid


Credit Card Statements: until paid

Home Improvement Receipts: until home is sold

Investment Statements: replace quarterly with new statement

Leases: until moved out and received deposit back

Paychecks / Pay Stubs: until you receive W-2 form

Monthly Statements: 1 year if needed for taxes

Sales Receipts: life of warranty or for return purposes

Vehicle Records and Titles: as long as you own it


Childcare Costs

Deductible Business Expenses

Investment Records

Medical Costs: paid out of pocket

Mortgage Interest

Property Taxes

Tax Documents

W-2 forms

Year-End Statements


Academic Records

Adoption Papers

Baptismal Certificates

Birth Certificates

Death Certificates

Driver’s Licenses

Employment Records

Insurance Policies

Home Improvement Records

Marriage Certificates

Medical Records

Military Records


Receipts for Major Purchases

Retirement / Pension Records

Social Security Cards


Yearly Tax Returns

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