Professional Organizer's Document Organization System
Updated: May 3, 2020
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One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing piles of paper, half stuffed envelopes and folders full of random "important" documents. But I must admit this was me at one point in my life, so when I started my decluttering mission. I resorted to throwing a lot of my paperwork out.
I was quite pleased with myself until I got a medical bill (On a debt I had already paid off) and I didn't have the documents to support my claims. Of course, I was able to resolve this matter anyway through my bank BUT it was a time-consuming task and incredibly frustrating to know that I HAD everything I needed to solve this issue quickly but I had tackled my paper clutter the wrong way.
So as much as I hate clutter I realized documentation and evidence are extremely important. Some documents, in fact, should never be thrown out. I sought out to find the most clutter-free-friendly approach and discovered that by far the easiest and most convenient way to keep your files organized without the clutter is going digital.
20 years ago this would have been hard to do but technology has provided A LOT of options that can even make going digital more affordable than having to invest in paper storage solutions. So here is my smart and simple document organizing system.
01. Get the necessary tools
In order to start digitizing files, you need:
Something to create the file with: Scanner
Something to keep the file in: Hard Drive or Online Storage
Something to make sense of it all and always find your items: Organizing System
Phone App Scanners
These are popular but cumbersome and time-consuming. I much prefer a desktop scanner but if you are looking for a more affordable option these phone apps will do:
Tried and true. Fast and convenient. Great if you have a TON of paperwork to get through.
Brother Mobile Color Page Scanner
Trust these for documents you wouldn't mind someone else stumbling upon.
Keep an external hard drive along with a backup and your vital documents: Will, Life Insurance, SS cards, Deeds, Birth Certificates and, other priceless and important documents in a fireproof bag.
02. Set up your main folders
Personal - Everything that pertains to you and your personal finances and documents.
Business - Everything that pertains to your corporation (If you have one).
03. Set Up your Personal Folder with the following Sub-Folders and any other you may need.
Vital - SS Cards, Birth Certificates, Deeds, Wills, Life Insurance Policies, Diplomas, Medical Insurance information, Summary of bank account information, Home/Renters insurance policy and a sub-folder with (insurance claim information) and any other document that is of the utmost importance. A lot of the documents in this folder will also be in other folders.
Professional - Licenses, Certificates, Registrations, ID cards, Continuing Education Credits, etc...
Financial - Tax documents, Bank Statements, Retirement/Savings documents, Paycheck stubs, etc...
Medical - Medical Bills, Insurance documents, Medical Documents.
Auto - Documents, Registration, Insurance ID cards, Lease, Repair statements as well as anything related to a car accident or traffic violations etc..
Family - I encourage having 1 folder per family member (including your pets) and within these, you can store Veterinary documents/bills, your kids clubs/sports memberships, School documents, your own gym membership bills, Personal achievements, Certificates, Hobbies, etc...
Home - Deeds, Insurance documents, Receipts/Bills from big purchases like furniture, electronics, appliances, jewelry, decorations (You need these to file an insurance claim).
Professional Organizer Tip:
Take pictures of your home and store them here, they can come in handy in case of lawsuits or insurance claims.
Related: Organize your bathroom in 15 steps
04. Set up a file-naming system
There are multiple smart ways of naming your files but this is MY favorite: A 3-factor quick search system: numerical-type-name:
- The Number in your file name will be the YEAR.
- The Type will be one of the following: Document, Workbook, Picture, Bill or Receipt.
- The Name is whatever it is you are scanning.
My 2018 Tax Return would be named: 18-D-Tax Return
My Dogs 2014 Vet procedure bill would be: 14-B-Fluffy Spay
My Roomba purchase receipt would be: 16-R-Roomba
My Roomba warranty would be: 16-D-Roomba
My Budget 2020 would be: 20-W-Budget
My Home pictures taken before the hurricane for insurance purposes would be: 17-P-Home
My CPO certificate? 10-D-CPO
How does this help?
It lets you find what you're looking for without having to open multiple documents.
It lets you sort things by year or type.
Start sorting your files into their respective categories and before you know it you will be clutter-free.
I hope this paper to digital organization method helps!
If you find this doesn't work for you and need some extra help feel free to contact me here for more tips and tricks.