Simplify the Season : Organize Your Paperwork

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

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!

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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


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  1. I’m curious what you put in the January-December money folders?

    • Hi Annmarie!
      I just put the paid bill stubs for each month for the current year in those spots – then at the end of the year I can shred them.
      xo, Becky

    • I was wondering where you purchased the wooden Stoll next to your filing cabinet?

  2. Hi Becky, I just want to thank you. With your photos and tricks, I will try to make my own filling station! Xo

  3. Evelyn Kelly says:

    In my home paper documents are the most cluttered things. Becky…you have provided wonderful information to organise my documents. I am glad to come across your blog. Thank you so much for sharing this post with us.

  4. I’m curious how many sets/boxes of the hanging file folders you ended up needing? I want to get our office organized once and for all and love your way of doing it! Thanks for sharing!

    • Good question! I bought 5 boxes of 25 file folders (125 total!) and I have extras (shown in the file cabinet – I put all of them in).
      xo, Becky

  5. Hi,
    The way you organize you organize your filing system truly amazes me. I let my husband organize ours and its truly chaotic! I think tomorrow I will be following yours
    Thank you!

  6. HI. This would work but I also own a trucking business where we have expenses like fuel, scales, tolls, and parts and repairs. Could you please help me

  7. Pamelotta says:

    Just wondering where you file your personal stuff. I have things like all of my family member’s important information and letters and information on the compassion child we sponsor and random things that pertain to different members of our family. Do you have a separate place for personal stuff?

  8. Pamelotta says:

    I think I may have found the answer to my own question when I looked at your home home keeping binder.

  9. Hello just wondering where you purchased the wooden stool by your filing cabinet?

  10. Love, love, love it! Where did you purchase your wall files? I’ve seen them at pottery barn and other places, but really love the look of yours. Thanks for the organized inspiration and I hope to incorporate even just half of some of your ideas.


  1. […] Clean Mama has a simplified filing station for the new year and a free printable.Want to tackle paper clutter in the new year? Start with a filing cabinet and system that works for your life. See how she went from file box to grown-up file cabinet! […]

  2. […] Clean Mama has a simplified filing station for the new year and a free printable.Want to tackle paper clutter in the new year? Start with a filing cabinet and system that works for your life. See how she went from file box to grown-up file cabinet! […]

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