I use a very effective system that Deb Stanley of Red Letter Day Professional Organizers helped me set up. (See, I’m not so smart. I just know how to hire smart people:)).
I had to get a file cabinet, some manila folders and some hanging file folders. I got a 2 drawer cabinet. You can get those small ones that you can carry around, but I would get the biggest one you can afford. Oh, and get a permanent marker to label your files. I know you want to use a fancy label maker, but it will just get you sidetracked.
Deb and I went through all my papers together and sorted them by what they were. We used a piece of paper to label the piles. Deb made me think of what to call each pile and decide where things went, because she said that the system had to make sense to me.
I have hanging file folders with labels on the far left for each category. Some of mine include:
These are section dividers; nothing is filed in them. They serve as place markers for the files behind them.
Under cars, for instance, I have a hanging file folder for each car we own and a few that we’ve owned recently. The lables on these folders go in a notch or two.
In each hanging folder, I have manila folders for things like titles, repairs, etc. If that’s too complicated for you, just put everything in the folder with the car’s name on it.
Under family, I have a hanging folder for each member of my family, plus the pets and my dad. Each person’s name folder is empty; it serves as a place marker for the folders behind it, and the label is indented a notch or two.
Behind that are files appropriate for each person. The kids have school files, everyone has medical files. My dad’s files cover much of his life, such as finances, bills, etc because I’m the one who handles that for him.
Get the idea?
My favorite idea that Deb came up with was for all those owners manuals and stuff you get when you buy a new appliance or something big for the house.
Behind my house folder are folders for every room in the house, including the garage and one that says Whole House. If I buy a new refrigerator, the manual and warranty goes in the kitchen folder cause that’s where the fridge is. Get it? If we got a new roof, the paperwork would be filed under Whole House.
Insurance for the house goes in the insurance folder, and the Permanent folder holds things like birth certificates, our marriage certificate, etc. Those should probably be in a safe deposit box, but at least I know where they are.
It might take you a few days to go through and set up your own system, but it will be worth it.