Updated: Jul 10, 2019
On to the final 3: permanent filing, household manual & warranty filing, and kid's keepsake filing.
No matter how much I hate to store paper, there is some stuff that I do need to keep. My permanent files are those documents that I keep and store long-term. Because they are so infrequently accessed, they live in a basement storage room, and while I do love a good printed label and pretty file folder, I actually don't splurge on any fancy filing items for this collection because it is hidden away and accessed infrequently. I do my best to keep permanent paper storage at a minimum, and because we lead a fairly minimal life, I have simplified and reduced my permanent filing categories over the years. I am happy to report that the following fits into one tidy plastic filing bin that I keep in our basement.
Social Insurance Cards
*these papers are all kept up front for quick and easy access
Pension – Adult 1
Pension – Adult 2
Banking (All Accounts)
Credit Cards (All Cards)
Taxes ( folders, labeled with numbers from one to seven, one for each of the seven years worth of tax information that is recommended to keep) Insurance
Life / Disability
Titles, contracts, deeds
People & Pets
Academic – Adult 1
Academic – Adult 2
Employment - Adult 1
Employment – Adult 2
Employment - Child 1
*All of the family's medical records go into one folder. If we happen to find ourselves dealing with a specific medical situation where info needs to be stored and access regularly (e.g. an upcoming surgery, chronic illness, braces) I will create a new folder for that specific issue and add it to my action files.
Manual / Warranty Files
Home ownership is pesky in that you must buy so. much. stuff. to maintain it. And all that stuff comes with warranties, receipts and manuals that pile up.
I have come to realize over the years that that total number of times that I actually accessed and used this type of info is minimal, and so when I read Marie Kondo’s advice on the topic, a lightbulb went off for me and I stopped stressing so much about coming up with the perfect filing system for this kind of paper. In her book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, Kondo writes that:
"The filing method I recommend is to put them all in a single clear file without separating them into categories. Warranties are only used once a year, if at all. What point is there in carefully sorting and separating them when the odds that they will be needed are so low?"
With that freeing statement, I went through my huge pile of warranties and manuals, meticulously stored in binders over the years, and kept only those manuals that I knew I wouldn’t be able to find online (hello, gas fireplace manual from 1989) and only those receipts that were attached to a warranty of some kind. Then I stacked them up tidily and put them in a plastic storage bin. Because I want to feel somewhat fancy, I used the same brand and size of plastic bin that my permanent files are kept in so that they have a cohesive look on the shelf. No fancy filing needed here because I rarely access these papers. I maybe go through it once/year to purge whatever we no longer need.
Kid’s Keepsake Files
Throwing out my kid’s papers is a bit tricky for me. I don’t know why I am sentimental about these things, but I am. Before instituting the keepsake file system, I had stacks and stacks of kid’s artwork and school papers shoved into bins. It was hard to access and hard to enjoy.
The keepsake file system I use is a Pinterest fave, and popped up in my feed for several years before I finally bit the bullet and made one for each kid. Once I started, it was quick and easy for me to set up using legal-sized file folders – a size I don’t normally use but worked great for the larger art pieces that I wanted to keep.
After prepping the bin with the file folders and labels, I poured myself a glass of wine and started sifting through the memories, choosing only those items that represented the best of each child’s development during that year. The kids hung out with me while I did the initial sort and purge, which was great, because they had a say in what got tossed, and now also have a vested interest in keeping their bin up to date.
Now that the keepsake bins are set up, they are quick and easy to maintain. The selection of items we file changes from year to year, but generally includes high quality schoolwork that demonstrates their age and stage, class photos, report cards, and artwork that was particularly stunning. Recently, I have added additional file folders to keep mementos and accolades from sports and activities they participate in.
I would up with one bin per child, with a folder for each of the following categories:
Grade 1 – 12 (one folder per grade)
Special Cards and Letters
I know this bin will have to be purged some more in years to come, but in the meantime, I have my children’s most precious keepsakes filed away, easy for them, or for me, to access when we want a trip down memory lane.