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Creating An Organized Household File Ottoman

The paperwork in this house seems to breed like bunnies overnight. I gave you a sneak peak of Step 1 of my Cutting the Paper Clutter plan a couple of weeks ago. Today I’m going to show you the final product! This was the ultimate Before/After transformation for my paper clutter! We have an ottoman in our family room that was bought with the intention of using it as a file cabinet. Unfortunately it quickly became a dumping ground for all the files and random, unorganized papers in the house.

None of the files in the pink crate were organized, they were all just stuffed full of random papers. The stack next to the crate was stacked all the way to top of the ottoman with loose papers. Are you twitching and foaming at the mouth yet? It’s okay, I won’t hold it against you.  I started by taking every single thing out of the ottoman.

I sorted and separated and shredded for what seemed like days but in reality this part took me about 3 hours. I will say that it’s a project best done without the pitter patter of tiny toddler feet around. Ask me how I know this. Go ahead, I dare you.

I bought a frame for the hanging files at Office Depot and set it up inside the ottoman. It was fully adjustable and really easy to fit.

I lined up all the hanging file labels on the left side because I’m completely anal-retentive like that. I can’t stand the staggered file label look, it drives me batty. I made each hanging file a broad subject such as Utilities, Household, Vehicles, etc. I’ll go into a lot more detail down below so keep reading.

I sorted every single piece of loose, random paper into appropriate subsections. I used plain folders to separate each subsection within the hanging files.

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I have to admit that it did my little OCD heart good to sort the massive stack of paper into multiple subsections. Sigh. I know, I’m sick. I can’t help it. I love starting with a huge mess and ending up with a totally organized, functional space. It’s a high.

Now for the details. This is for those of you who are struggling to know what to file and where to file it. My goal was to have enough subsections that I could easily find what I needed. My labels and subsections may not work for you, tweak them until you get what you need.

Label 1: Utilities
Subsections: Water Bills, Power Bills, Gas Bills, Cellphone/TV

Label 2: Household
Subsections: Maintenance, Lawn Service, Irrigation Service, Pest Control Service, Security System

Label 3: Vehicles
Subsections: My Minivan, Matt’s car, Taxes & Registrations

Label 4: Maia School
Subsections: Kindergarten, 1st Grade

Label 5: Ty School
Subsections: Kindergarten, 1st Grade, 2nd grade, etc

Label 6: Taxes 2012
Subsections: Income, Deductions/Credits, Medical

Label 7: Medical 2012
Subsections: Matt, Delia, Ty, Maia, Mase, Zoey

The next several labels are for Medical 2006-2011 with a subsection for each family member. I also have a label for Past Medical that holds all the important medical papers from prior to 2006 that I might need to access.

Label 15: Pets
Subsection: Bailey

Label 16: Insurance
Subsections: Car, House, Life, Medical

Label 17: Vital Records
Subsections: Social Security Cards & Birth Certificates, Personal Records, Deeds & Titles, My Adoption Records
{Note: We only keep copies of the SS Cards, Birth Certificates, Deeds & Titles, Wills & Health Care proxies in our files. The originals are locked in a safety deposit box}

Label 18: Adoption Records
Subsections: Ty, Cam, Adoption Assistance

The next 7 files are taxes for the past 7 years. They each have subsections for Income, Deductions/Credit, Medical & the actual tax forms we file

Label 26: Loans
Subsections: Mortgage, Equity Line, Car, Personal, Matt school, Delia school

Label 27: Financial
Subsections: Pay Stubs, 401K, 529’s, IRA’s, CD’s, Stocks

Label 28: Banking
Subsections: Checking, Savings, Credit Cards

Are your eyes crossed yet? See why it took me so long to organize every single piece of paper? That’s a lot of paperwork to keep track of and even more that I shredded because it just wasn’t needed.

I briefly told you about my Tickler Files in Week 2. I put a folder for each month in the back of my hanging filing system and added one plain folder.

Anytime something comes in to the house that needs to be kept and used, I jot down a note on the dry erase magnetic board on the fridge. Then that paper gets filed in the appropriate month. For example, the wedding invitation to my best friends wedding in June is filed in the June folder. The list of shots that Mase needs at his next check up is filed in April (when his appointment is). The forms I need to take to sign Maia up for gymnastics are filed in the month of May. Make sense? So I have a visual reminder on my dry erase board and I know exactly where the papers I need have been filed.

It feels so good to be organized and to be able to open the mail and immediately file a piece of paper in the right place. Ahhhhh…..

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  • Maja Schelski

    I’ve been looking for an ottoman that is just big enough, but not too big to do exactly the same! Can you tell me the dimensions of your ottoman, please?

  • Omg thank you for this. I’ve been trying to think of a way to make our office/guest room/junk room less..junky, and this is a brilliant idea.

  • Great organization! Thank you for joining me at Home Sweet Home!

  • super impressive! i would love for you to link this post or any other posts you want up to my weekly link party called spread the love. it’s a weekend wrap up party where you can share anything and everything you want! there is also a really awesome vinyl giveaway going on there right now too, so go check it out! http://www.lovenotesbylauryn.blogspot.com/2012/04/spread-love-5-decallove-giveaway.html
    have a wonderful weekend!
    {love} lauryn @ lovenotesbylauryn.blogspot.com

  • I get your system and love all the filing you got done. I purchased a filing system years back and it works if I am disciplined enough to use it. However, disciplined filing = organized papers = very full filing system in not very long! My question is, what will your strategy be for purging and being able to close the lid! (LOL)Thanks!

  • I love that we can celebrate our OCD ways 🙂 great job!

  • Wow, This looks great! I look forward to seeing you at My Dream Canvas.

  • Good stuff, and encouraging. I have a file cabinet sorely in need of updating as my job as homeschool mom is coming to a close. I’ve been holding off cleaning it out because I’m not quite ready to not be homeschool mom, even though my kids aren’t getting younger! Thanks for sharing.

  • I love your ottomon filing system! I recently started a tickler file, too. It’s helped keep my desk a bit more under control. I have a bag full of stuff to shred under my desk – uggh! So don’t want to do it!

    • We were on the verge of being featured on an episode of Hoarders with the amount of paper in this house. The ottoman filing system was a last resort! Ha!

  • Wow! Great job… That is one thing on the “to do” list… Purging and organizing the files…. UGH…

    • It took forever but it was so worth the effort! It’s really helping to cut the paper clutter on my counters too!

  • Awesome awesome job!! Love it! I learned about the tickler system at the power of moms and love it! I have some file cabinets in the garage I need to go through- afraid to go out there though

    • There are 3 binders full of medical records in my garage for our special needs son. I need to go thru them and see what I can shred. But, they’re in the garage. There might be spiders. ‘Nuff said.

  • Holy Cow! My tickler file is two large bins. I can barely snap the cover on them. 🙁
    I’m so impressed!

    • I purged. Boy did I purge. I shredded anything that I absolutely did not need. I found a bridal shower invite from last July. Ugh.