How to Simplify Your Paper Files

How to Simplify Your Paper Files


Organizing your files today? Or would you rather watch paint dry on a wall?  It’s seems that this is not the most exciting topic however it can be one of the most necessary in every day life and in emergencies.  Simplifying your filing and paper files includes knowing what’s holding you back as well as knowing what to keep.  Build your simple filing system with your strengths in mind.  Here’s how to simplify your paper files.


Assess what’s holding you back

What is filing for?  Here’s the first step to get clear. Files are your reference section to keep information to be used in the next year or so.  It’s not necessary to keep every piece of paper that comes into your home or business, especially if it’s not useful for you.  Be ruthless when it comes to keeping what you need now, knowing  you can use the internet, friends’ references, or other ways to get information instead of keeping extra paper.


What do  you need to keep and how long?  On, Julie Morgenstern has an extensive list.  Print this to keep as a reference while filing.  However, that’s not generally what’s causing a filing problem.  Instead it’s the articles on parenting, decorating, landscaping or other hobbies that keep holding us back.  Remember, that’s what the internet, pinterest, blogs, podcasts and google are for when we are ready to get started on a project.


Simplifying your system

What’s the best system?  The best system for you is the simplest way to move paper into a system. It’s also the best system for you to know where to retrieve the paper.  Categories are often the context that’s easiest to use in creating files. Whether there are for file folders, hanging files, notebooks or digital notebooks, using general, broad categories helps us file and retrieve.


For homes, these are the general categories I suggest:

  1. House and Auto
    1. Auto purchase
    2. Home Major Purchases
    3. Home Repair/Maintenance
    4. House inventory
    5. Insurance
  2. Financial (anything to do with money)
    1. Banking
    2. Credit Cards
    3. Investment
    4. Retirement
    5. Property Taxes
    6. Life Insurance
    7. Mortgage
  3. Personal (anything to do with people or pets)
    1. Medical Benefits
    2. Medical History
    3. Medical Explanation of Benefits
    4. Medical Paid bills
    5. School/University
    6. (Interests such as parenting, decorating, guns, etc)
  4. Work
    1. Work history
    2. CV or resume


For office files, here are categories I include:

  1. Clients
  2. Resources
  3. Vendors
  4. Projects
  5. HR or Employees
  6. Financials 20XX
  7. Expenses

Use hanging files for the broad categories and file folders for the subcategories. Use naming conventions, where the file names are created in a parallel way, in order to stay consistent and find documents.


Archive annually

Tax records for each year, legal documents such as purchase or sale of property, and final loan payments are should be kept permanently. While you only need to keep tax preparation documents for seven years, please consult your own lawyer or accountant to be sure.  It’s best to archive annually when you are preparing for tax time in the spring.


What’s left?

  • I typically keep mementos and keepsakes in a box, one box per person, in the closet of that person. A one box per person system also helps you limit keepsakes.
  • Important documents are generally kept in a safe or safe deposit box.  Here’s a list of important documents. It’s critical to keep these up to date each year. While you are archiving during tax time, update your important documents too.


Paper can be overwhelming and it’s always coming in. Always keep in mind the document’s value in terms of “shelf life.”  How long will this information be “good” is a relative value and you may be able to find information more easily on the internet or elsewhere.


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Your Most Organized Year Ever

Your Most Organized Year Ever

Each year as we start the new year, we think of ways to make a change and improve our lives.  Did you know that organizing is one of the top three goals each year?  Throughout the month of January, I will be offering 31 tips to help you have Your Most Organized Year Ever.  Implement just one of these tips, tools, techniques or tweaks this year. 


Overwhelmed by paper?


Ready to take the paperless plunge?


Not sure where to start?


Keep information digitally to access it more easily. It can be a small start.

  • It could be keeping your contacts in one place in your smartphone synced online with your email.
  • It can be finding your medical explanation of benefits online and declining paper statements.
  • It could be purchasing a scanner and scanning in your insurance documents.
  • Remember to have a back up in place to keep your information safe.


Decide what’s your baby step to keep information digitally to make this Your Most Organized Year Ever.


More ideas on Going Paperless.



Get started scanning!

It’s an exciting day! You have decided to start scanning to eliminate your paper clutter and free up time, energy and space.  What’s the first step? How do you get started scanning?  Check it out here!

get started scanning


Intro to scanning

So how did my own Neat installation go?

  • I planned on 2 hours, but it did take me more time.
  • Install your Neat connect and cloud, first, then install with the computer disk.
  • I wanted to review the tutorials too, which added  a little more time.
  • This is a powerful tool with lots of great technology. Start with a baby step that is not as important but is valuable to you.  I suggest scanning a receipt or business card first.
  • Patience is an important value in starting new technology.

Learn more creative uses for your scanner here.   Learn from the Neatologists. 


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Creative Scanning Ideas

scanning paperless


Did you know that paper is the #1 item that people hoard?


You may really hate paper and have too much around.  Scanning helps cut down on the paper clutter and makes information easy to retrieve.  Being on your computer and backed up to the cloud, it is always available.  It’s time to get creative with your scanner!


  • Create digital copies of your kids’ school papers.  Digitizing makes a permanent copy you can save and share with grandparents.  Keep only the most precious of art work and create a digital photo book.
  • Scan in important documents.  It may be for emergency preparedness or to create additional copies.  It’s easier to find these documents. Keep these files on Dropbox so that you can access them anywhere and anytime.
  • Ripping recipes, decor and more from magazines?  Scanners are a great way to categorize your information and keep it together.  Create different files for the different interests and hobbies.  Use a uniform naming convention in saving your files.
  • Keepsake newspaper articles are easier to archive after scanned.  It’s making a truly permanent copy this way.
  • Have lots of business cards or flyers from vendors? Scanning these and saving to Evernote helps you access and categorize these easily.
  • Save documents without stressing.  A sign in sheet for work or a CEU certificate for education can be scanned in and saved for later reference.

What are you favorite papers to scan?

I am a Neatologist! Check out my post on Neat about going paperless.

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Going Paperless: Scanning

going paperless scanning


Scanners are a popular way to make paper disappear. With more affordable scanners, many homes and offices are purchasing these as an alternative for paper files.  You can scan paper, expenses, receipts, photos and more with a scanner.  It’s a great way to eliminate paper clutter and its easier to find information too!


Getting started

There are many options for scanning.  The apps GeniusScan and DocScan are available on you smartphone.  Fujitsu and Neat offer portable wand scanners and desk top scanners.  Multifunction machines are equipped with flat bed and feed scanners.  The most important part is to get started right away by hooking up and testing your equipment.  Many times I find equipment still in boxes years after purchase.  Just jump in!


Setting up

Getting a good system in place makes organizing easier.  Start setting up a consistent folder system before you scan  your first document.  Write out a list or create a mind map of the information to retrieve in your documents.  Like with paper files, more general folder names are best to start. Inside these folders you can create more specific files.

For home

  • Home and Auto
    • Auto Repair
    • Home Repair
  • Financial
    • Banking
    • Utilities and Monthly bills
    • Investment
    • Retirement
    • Life Insurance
  • Personal
    • Dad medical
    • Mom medical
    • Susie medical
    • Susie school
    • Johnny medical
    • Johnny school

For the office

  • Clients
  • Vendors
  • Administrative
    • Corporate formation
    • Permits and licenses
  • Financial
    • Banking
    • Expenses (by year)
      • Assets
      • Marketing
      • Office supplies

This is just a sample of categories to get you started.

Set up consistent naming of your documents.  Write out your options and decide on one naming convention.  You will be glad you took the time to create a plan for this.  Some examples include starting with the more general, to the more specific, and maybe with a date.

  • Utilities.Gas.1.14
  • Medical.Mom.14
  • Expenses.OfficeSupplies.14
  • Administrative.Incorporation


To be scanned spot

Not all paper needs to be scanned.   Using the triage method, go through your mail, kids’ papers, receipts and other papers to decide what will be scanned.  Establish a bin, folder, or tray for items to be scanned.  By designating this spot, you are creating a baby step to get started scanning.


Scanning routines

The best organizing revolves around good routines.  Now that you know what you want to scan, set aside time once a week or once a month to scan.  Mark your calendar to remind you of your “appointment”.   This is also a task that can be delegated to your high school student.


It’s important to have your computer backed up regularly.  You can use a cloud based service like Carbonite or an external hard drive. Either way, nightly back up is best.  You will be sure your documents are safe.


As fun as scanning is, try not to over do the fun!  It’s hard not to scan too much, but less is more!


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Going Paperless: Online resources

paperless resources


You don’t have to struggle with so many papers. In a recent survey by Neat, 57% of workers  reported frustration with paper and believed there are better paper management tools.  There are many online resources that help you start going paperless.  Computer  and smartphone apps make it easy to share documents, work from a common agenda, collect personal documents and keep receipts for taxes.  Check out these 8 resources for going paperless.



File this

Automating your paper management can resolve your paper challenges.  File this Fetch automatically collects, files, tags, and organizes your online documents, bills, and statements in an easy to use digital filing cabinet.  Each month it “fetches” your documents and loads onto your computer.



Remove paper clutter by scanning your receipts with the Shoeboxed Receipt and Mileage Tracker. Simply snap a photo of each receipt with your phone’s camera and it will be digitized and uploaded to your Shoeboxed account.  Let go of receipts once these are digitized.



Genius Scan is a camera-based document scanner for the iPhone. It enables you to quickly scan documents on the go and email the scans as JPEG or PDF with multiple pages.   Easy way to share documents with your colleagues, team members or other parents.



Scan a picture with your smartphone camera. Export your documents to Dropbox, Evernote,, SkyDrive, WebDAV, and Google Docs to save them.



Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and share them easily. Upload this tool to your  computer and use it to save photos, files and folders.  Share information with colleagues, friends,  and family by sending a link. Share documents between your laptop and your desktop too.

If you have ever lost important files because of a hard drive failure or if you have forgotten an important presentation file because you couldn’t find your thumb drive, you know the importance of backups. Dropbox provides file-backup services for your desktop to deal with these scenarios by automatically backing up your files. It also grants online access to your files when you are away from your desktop.Read more :
If you have ever lost important files because of a hard drive failure or if you have forgotten an important presentation file because you couldn’t find your thumb drive, you know the importance of backups. Dropbox provides file-backup services for your desktop to deal with these scenarios by automatically backing up your files. It also grants online access to your files when you are away from your desktop.Read more :



Create digital notebooks on your smartphone and computer.  Write notes to yourself, collect information from scraps of paper, or send notes to your clients.  Whatever paper you want to eliminate and whatever information you want to keep, Evernote can keep it for your digitally.


Google docs

Share files and information with your team. With Google Docs, a free service run through Gmail, you can work simultaneously with colleagues on a document or spreadsheet.  Create and share your work online and access your documents from anywhere. Manage documents, spreadsheets, presentations, surveys, and more all in one easy to use spot.  Google docs is great for virtual meetings and agendas too.


Neat Connect

NeatConnect scans paper into digital files and sends them straight to the cloud – without a computer. At home or at the office, NeatConnect uses the Neat Desk to scan receipts, tax documents, and other important papers.  Access these documents from wherever.



Choose one of these resources to help you get started going paperless! Not sure what to scan?  Check out this resource.

More ideas on paper management on my pinterest page Paper, Paper Everywhere.