February 2019 Organizing Newsletter & Challenge

Hey there!

So this month isn’t going to be all fun & games. We are getting to some nitty-gritty stuff that most people DON’T want to tackle...

My hint in an email last month was:
Something you get nearly every day, but don’t know which to keep or throw away...

Did ya get it figured out???

It’s paperwork, people!!!

Now, I know we’re going from a really big organizing topic, DECLUTTERING, to something that seems much less “big”.

But let me tell you, paper clutter can add up quick if you don’t deal with it!

So, this month we are going to tackle all.that.paper.

For some it may be a quick & easy process, others may need each & every day of the month to get this stuff squared away.

But hopefully, by the end of the month, you’ll feel as though you’ve got your paperwork systems figured out. And dealing with any new, incoming papers will be simple as can be.

I think that one thing that can be really difficult for most people, is knowing what paperwork they need to keep, and how long they should keep it.

Now, I am not a legal professional, and I am just sharing the “guidelines” I use for our family and what I feel comfortable with. If you don’t feel comfortable throwing something away, I don’t think you should.

Here are the “guidelines” for how long we keep our paperwork. You can also click on the Picture below to grab a printable copy:)!

Get rid of immediately!:

  • Credit Card offers
  • Newspapers, after a quick scan of the ads (I don't read the paper that often)
  • Ads
  • Anything else I don't or won't have a use for


Keep for 1-3 months:

  • phone bills
  • cable bills
  • monthly service bills
  • Credit card statements (unless there is a tax-related expense, then 7 years)

Keep for 1 year:

  • Paycheck stubs, until matched with W-2.

Keep for 5 years from Date of Service

  • Insurance statements
  • hospital bills
  • car repair bills (or keep in car maintenance file)

Keep for the life of policy + 5 years

  • Insurance Policy Info

Keep for 7 years

  • Tax Files & related documentation

Keep for longer...

  • statements of loans that have been paid off


I would recommend printing that out to have handy as you go through everything, just for reference. But please keep in mind those are my guidelines. You have to do you!!

First things first.....

We gotta talk about how to organize the paperwork before we spread it all over the kitchen table.

There are two types of ways I file my paperwork.

The first type of file system I have set up are my short-term, active files. Some people call them the tickler files. I'm sticking with Short-term... You do you.

Your short-term files are the ones that hold the paperwork you are actively dealing with or reference frequently.

I keep these papers in a cute accordion file near my computer. That way I can easily grab the entire accordion to either access the files, or quickly add something to them.

**this is all set up cute...the file is not usually posed like this;)!

Now, I don’t just throw those papers in willy-nilly. There is a system in place!

**Again, this is what works for me. You can adapt this system how you see fit.**

But either way, you’ll want to set up a place with your short term, quick to reference files.

The following categories are what I have in my Short-Term accordion file:

  • Bills to pay
  • Need to Review - something I am interested in looking over again, but isn't an immediate to-do
  • Need to File (long-term)
  • Important - this is where I keep account login and password info if I need it😬
  • Taxes- Throughout the year I put receipts, documents, anything else pertinent to getting our taxes done in this section.

Click HERE for your Blank Short-Term Files List worksheet - list out all the files you will need to create!

You can use an accordion file like I do, a file box, or even paper trays to keep your short term files organized.


**hint: go check out my favorites pages for some good ideas on what you can get to organize your Short-Term files**

I would recommend going through your short term files on a weekly or twice per month basis.

Each Thursday is my "bills & budgeting day". This way I can make sure payments for bills are made and on time, plus I take the time to sort through any papers for the week. Recycling and tossing what I don’t need to keep. And filing any items that need to be filed away in the long term files.

Going through your short term files will help keep the paper clutter at bay & from taking up your counters and surface space!!


NEXT UP.......


Long term files are the files that you don’t necessarily need to reference on a daily, weekly, or potentially monthly basis. These are your important documents that you know you should hold on to just in case, but can be out of sight.

These is really where your reference sheet can come in handy! 

You may just want to keep a copy of this in your short or long term files.

I have a large tote that I keep our long term files in (& my paperwork guidelines sheet). But you could also use a small file cabinet, bankers box, or anything else that allows you too easily see your file names at a glance.

Here are the file categories I currently have in our file tote.

Yearly Files that include:
  • previous years tax files by year: I keep our tax paperwork in Manila files with the year labeled on the outside in sharpie- it’s basic, but it works!
  • mortgage info: any paperwork pertaining to our current mortgage. Plus documentation of our previously held mortgage that was paid off.
  • medical and dental statements

Additional Files:

  • bank info: where I keep important statements
  • credit card info: this is where I actually keep the cards that need to be activated (we are trying to get to a point where we no longer use credit cards!).
  • car info: documents of work done, titles, etc.
  • trailer info: documents of any work done, titles, manual, etc
  • pets: documentation regarding vaccinations, etc.
  • manuals: appliances (large + small)
  • Retirement Binder
  • Closing documents from our home purchase
  • miscellaneous personal files

Click HERE for your Blank Long-Term Files List worksheet - list out all the files you will need to create!

Your long term files should be easier to maintain than your short-term files. Basically, because the only thing that’s going in the files are items you know you need. And you’ve thoroughly processed your paperwork by the time it gets to your long term files!

I usually go through my long term files once, sometimes twice per year. And that’s usually around tax time as I’m getting all the things in order to file taxes.

Again, this is what works for me, you do you, friend.


Now the next thing I want to talk about is daily maintenance of all the paperwork.

You've likely got papers coming into your home daily. Or at least however often you check your mail!!


There are two things you must do when you bring paperwork in to your home:

1) immediately recycle items you don’t need!

If you get a newspaper, credit card offers, random postcards from a business and these are not items you will need in the foreseeable future- please, please, please, do yourself a favor and toss them.

Right now, get rid of it. Don’t even touch it ever again!!!


2) quickly file the remaining items you do need in to your short term files.

If you’ve already set up those files, this will be quick and easy to do on a daily basis.

**Side-note: if you have something that needs to be dealt with immediately and can’t wait until your weekly sorting sesh, handle that immediately**

Dealing with your daily influx of mail should really be a less than five (or 2!!) minute task. If you can get yourself into this habit you are going to be so thankful later when the paper clutter is gone and handling what does come in is quick and easy!

Alrighty my friend, now that you know how to set everything up, it’s time to sort through what you have!!

Go get out all the paperwork you can find!!

1. Start by making quick piles of items that you believe will either go in your short term files or your long term files.

2. Once you have all of your paperwork divided into short or long-term files, gather your short term files:

  • sort all your papers by the category (In other words, stack all items that need to be paid within the month for your “to pay” file, items that you need to review in your “review” file and so on from there).

  • Once you have your short term files categorized, you need to be sure to get rid of (recycle/shred) the items you don’t need!

This is key my friend!! Reduce that paper clutter!!

3. Then file your short term paperwork in the appropriately labeled file.

Next up, Long Term files!!

4. Go through the same sorting & categorizing process with the long-term files as you did with the short term files.

Be sure you keep your paperwork reference sheet handy for this part.

**But, I’m going to say it again, these are the guidelines I follow for our family. I am no legal expert, so you can follow them if you feel comfortable with it, but make adjustments where you feel necessary.**

5. And don't forget to get rid of all the unnecessary papers by recycling or shredding them.

Reduce that paperwork!!

Reduce the clutter!!

Reduce stress!!


6. And lastly, file all of your long-term file paperwork away in the appropriately labeled files.



Hit reply & tell me how this month’s Organization Challenge goes!! Or tag #fiveandbrightorganizationchallenge on Instagram (Follow me @fiveandbright) - it would be so fun to see how you do!!

If you have any questions or need to talk through any of this months organization challenge, please don’t hesitate to email me back- I’d love to hear from you!!


Click below for your February Printables:

How Long Should I Keep... Reference Sheet

Blank Short-Term Files List

Blank Long-Term Files List

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