How to organize your personal files

EEOC Regulations require that employers keep all personnel or employment records for one year. If an employee is involuntarily terminated, his/her personnel records must be retained for one year from the date of termination.

Under ADEA recordkeeping requirements, employers must also keep all payroll records for three years. Additionally, employers must keep on file any employee benefit plan (such as pension and insurance plans) and any written seniority or merit system for the full period the plan or system is in effect and for at least one year after its termination.

Under Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) recordkeeping requirements applicable to the EPA, employers must keep payroll records for at least three years. In addition, employers must keep for at least two years all records (including wage rates, job evaluations, seniority and merit systems, and collective bargaining agreements) that explain the basis for paying different wages to employees of opposite sexes in the same establishment.

These requirements apply to all employers covered by Federal anti-discrimination laws, regardless of whether a charge has been filed against the employer.

When a Charge Has Been Filed

The EEOC Notice of Charge form that you receive should explain the agency’s record keeping requirements. When an EEOC charge has been filed against your company, you should retain personnel or employment records relating to the issues under investigation as a result of the charge, including those related to the charging party or other persons alleged to be aggrieved and to all other employees holding or seeking positions similar to that held or sought by the affected individual(s).

Once a charge is filed, these records must be kept until the final disposition of the charge or any lawsuit based on the charge. When a charge is not resolved after investigation, and the charging party has received a notice of right to sue, “final disposition” means the date of expiration of the 90-day statutory period within which the aggrieved person may bring suit or, where suit is brought by the charging party or the EEOC, the date on which the litigation is terminated, including any appeals.

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It’s a good idea at least once a year to take some time to look at your personal files and find a better way to organize your papers. Start by taking every paper you kept for your tax returns and pulling them out of your files.

Get a folder or expanding accordion file just for these, and mark it by the appropriate year, “Taxes – 20XX.” Keep them for six years, just in case you’re audited. Otherwise, you never have to look at these again.

With those papers out of your way, it’s time to look at how you organize your current paperwork. When you last did your taxes, did you find yourself wishing you’d organized things differently? Now’s your chance.

How to organize your personal files

Basic Home Filing System

The purpose of keeping your papers organized is to make sure you never miss bill payments or can’t find paperwork you need when you need it. Whether you keep them in a drawer, a file tote, a binder or somewhere else, here’s a logical way to arrange and use them.

  • Bills to be paid. This file goes up front and contains all your current outstanding bills that need to be paid. Once you pay them, you’ll file each individual bill elsewhere.
  • Monthly Bills (or Utilities). Depending how many bills you have and keep in paper form, one file may be enough for all of them. If not, I suggest making a file for each vendor. As you pay bills, they get put into this file (or files) and most likely won’t be pulled out again.
  • Receipts (not for expenses). Put all your receipts for stuff you might need to return to the store in here. Throw them out (shred them if they were paid by credit card) once you know you’re keeping the item (or the time to return it has passed).
  • Receipts for expenses. Receipts you can deduct from your taxes need their own separate file. You may even want to break them down into files for the various types of deductions: entertainment deductions only get 50% off and utilities taxes may get a different percentage off, so you may want to separate them from deductions you can take off 100%. You may have a coupon wallet for storing these, but if not you’ll need a file for them. Remember to check it before going to the store.
  • Bank statements and canceled checks. Put everything from your bank into one folder for reference.
  • School records. If you have kids, or you yourself are in school, set aside a folder for all the documentation that comes with that. This is especially helpful if you have school loans, since it’s likely you’ll want to call your loan provider at some point in the loan either to bargain for a better interest rate or to consolidate that loan with some others.
  • Correspondence. You may want a file for letters or greeting cards so you can remember to correspond with people who include you in their correspondence.
  • Insurance. When you actually need insurance papers or contact information, it’s nice to have it handy.
  • Medical. You may need a separate folder for everyone in the household, depending how many medical issues you have in a year. I personally don’t keep documentation on every doctor visit, but if you have surgery or unusual treatments, it’s a good idea to hold onto things until you’re sure they’ve been paid by insurance. That way you’ll have less stress if someone tries to charge you for something you know got paid.
  • Warranties and Product Information. Keep all your warranties and product brochures in another file. This one can be challenging since vendors insist on making gigantic and awkward-sized folders full of crap for your warranty.
  • Car Maintenance and Repair. If you own a car, it’s a good idea to hold onto records of repairs and maintenance. That way when you go to trade or sell it, you have proof it’s been kept in good shape.
  • Miscellaneous. There is a hard and fast rule in the universe that once you become completely organized and have a place for everything, the universe will throw you something weird to handle. That’s why every system needs a place for stuff that has no place.

Another option is to do this same filing system digitally. Keep only the original papers you think you need, and scan the rest. Set up a folder on the computer called “File Cabinet”, then set up subfolders (and sub-subfolders, if you want) with the same names as you would give to physical files to organize your scans. If you’re new to scanning, this might sound intimidated, but it’s very easy to get used to – and no more clutter!

How to organize your personal files

One of the biggest questions we get asked on the blog and on social media is “how do I organize my paper and documents?!” Try as we might, the paper and documents keep coming. We must constantly sort, toss, replace, and organize our important documents or we will quickly be overwhelmed by piles and piles of paperwork. Aside from being a cluttered mess, not having important documents in order can be scary when you can’t find something you really need.

How to organize your personal files

While it can seem overwhelming to deal with paper clutter, once we get it decluttered, sorted, and organized, we need to put a system in order that has us in a routine that deals with new paper immediately and files it where it needs to go, and then tosses the things we don’t need.

Creating a routine that helps you keep paper in check is key to maintaining organized paper and documents for your entire family. So let’s get started!

Organizing Paper And Documents

Before you begin, if you do not already have one, get yourself a firebox for your important documents.

1. Get your office supplies ready to go for this project. The best things to have on hand are items like:

  • files folders,
  • labels,
  • pens,
  • a scanner,
  • and a shredder if you think you will need one (if you need to shred documents and do not have one, place these documents together in a box and shred them at your local office supplies store, like Staples or Office Depot.)

2. Now you will start organizing your papers. Create files for each category you create. Here are the most popular categories you can use:

  • Legal
  • Money
  • Taxes
  • Insurance
  • Medical
  • Home
  • Auto
  • Business

3. Next, scan all of your important documents and save them to both a dedicated pen drive and on the cloud.

4. Place all of your documents into the designated files you have created. Remember to label your files. You can label them as you go using post-it notes and then replace them with file labels.

5. The next step is to record, organize, and keep your documents safe. Make a list of what is in each file. Print this list and keep it inside your firebox.

6. Finally, choose a place to keep your fireproof box somewhere that it is easy to get to in an emergency.

Deep dive: How to Organize Your Document Categories

We are going to go through how to organize the categories of the files that you created. For our purposes, we will break the file categories into five as we organize your papers:

  1. Permanent documents
  2. Money/taxes/property
  3. Medical & dental, shot’s records
  4. Credit cards,
  5. Bills.

Under each of the five larger document categories, we have all of the files that you created when you were organizing and sorting earlier. Let’s see what files go under what category.

  • Permanent documents – Items to include in this section are documents, such as:
    • birth certificates
    • social security cards
    • marriage certificates
    • divorce decrees
    • power of attorney
    • will, and living will
    • green cards
    • military discharge paperwork
    • Money/taxes/property – in this section you will keep paperwork, such as:
      • deeds
      • bills of sale
      • insurances
      • inventories of collectible items
      • property surveys
      • rental agreements
      • and property insurances
      • Keep the latest policy agreement sent by your providers
      • Medical & Dental – This category will hold:
        • insurance cards
        • your list of providers
        • policies
        • Keep the latest policy agreement sent by your providers
        • Credit cards – For this section, you will want to make a copy of all of your credit cards, front and back, and keep a copy. Keep the latest agreement sent.
        • Bills – keep a copy of all of your service providers and keep them here for when you need to reference them. To make your life simpler, you can get your copy of the Home Management Binder to organize everything in one place.

        You will find a full list of what to put in each important document categories in this week’s home organizing challenge printable checklist.

        How to organize your personal files How to organize your personal files


        The most successfully organized papers and documents are organized ina way that works for your life.

        As you are going through this challenge, take note of anything that seems off or doesn’t belong to you. Maybe you need to move a few things around or add or remove a category.

        Using these tips as a guideline will help keep you on track as you organize your papers and documents in a way that makes all of those important papers easy to find when you need them.

        I’d love to see your before and after paper and document organization! Share with the community using the #helenaalkhas

        How to organize your personal files

        What’s on your bucket list? Maybe you want to travel to Paris, hit a hole-in-one, or simply spend more time with family.

        Each of us has a unique list of things we want to accomplish in life, but one activity that should be on everyone’s to-do list is getting affairs in order. This includes gathering and organizing personal information, financial records, and legal documents.

        After a death occurs, loved ones are often tasked with many responsibilities. By compiling, sorting, and organizing these important papers, you can relieve your loved ones of this work.

        Continue reading to learn the most important personal information you need to gather and how to organize it.

        How to organize your personal files

        This article on important planning documents is provided by Everplans — The web’s leading resource for planning and organizing your life. Create, store and share important documents that your loved ones might need.

        Your personal information will be essential for your family to wrap up your personal affairs.

        By organizing your personal information, you can help your family more easily:

        Learning how to organize personal information, is very important and should be one of your categories when you set up your paperwork system. On the page which discusses your home filling system, I talk you through picking a consistent system, which will work for your needs and the way you think. However, when you organize your personal information there tends to be a mix of paper based and electronic files, not to mention all those codes and numbers which belong to each individual person nowadays. This page looks at all of those tricky bits of information and aims, to give you a host of ideas which will help you to organize personal information in your household.

        How to organize your personal files

        Do you get hit with late fees because you forget to pay your bills on time? Do you constantly waste time searching for that cable bill you left somewhere in the house?

        Spend an hour organizing your personal bills and papers now, and this will save you time and frustration in the future. Plus, this helps make tax time easier because you already have everything in one place.

        First of all, have a place where you sort your mail every day.

        Junk mail gets trashed or recycled right away.

        Magazines and catalogs should go in a rack to read later.

        Open your bills, make a note of the due date and immediately put them on your desk in a small file until you write the check.

        A small letter file that sits on your desk works well- no need to buy any fancy tickler file unless you think that will work better for you.

        It's best to start in January, but you can begin to set up your filing system at any time during the year.

        Use a filing cabinet or plastic storage box to store all your files. I prefer a plastic file box because at year end I can carry it to the basement to store with other old records.

        More than 10 bills a month

        If you have more than 10 bills a month, use a separate manila folder for each company you write a check to. I prefer to use the manila file jackets instead because they have closed sides that prevent small receipts from falling out and getting lost.

        Create a folder for Miscellaneous for those people or companies you only pay once or twice each year, such as insurance or magazine subscriptions.

        You can also use this folder to keep those occasional letters you need to write during the year but don't know where to file them.

        Make a folder for bank statements and another one labeled For income taxes. As you pay a bill that can be deducted on your tax return (such as real property tax or medical bills), file it in this folder instead of your paid bills file.

        Name one folder Investments for any paperwork that comes regarding your 401(k) or IRA during the year.

        Less than 10 bills a month

        If you pay less than 10 checks a month, you don't need a separate folder for each company-you can manage with only one file folder for all of your bills for the whole year.


        Keep all your paycheck or direct deposit stubs in an envelope or folder, newest one on top. I use a regular letter envelope for mine, and always keep them until I verify that my W-2 is correct when it arrives in January.

        Paying bills

        Pay your bills as you get paid- either weekly or bi-weekly.

        If you are paid monthly, chances are you will have to pay some of your bills during the month, so schedule time to pay bills every other week.

        Be sure to allow a week's mailing time if you pay by check. If you pay online, this chore will be easier, and in most instances you can set up your payment in advance of the due date.

        After you write the check or pay online, be sure to mark the bill Paid with the date and check number before you file it in the folder you have set up.

        At the end of December, create new files so you can be ready for the next year.

        By organizing your bills and setting up a filing system, you will wind up spending less time on this chore every week. And, next tax season all you will need to do is pull the file ìFor income taxes to begin preparing your tax returns.

        How do you organize your file cabinet? Let me know in the comments!

        Thank you for stopping by and supporting the Krafty Planner! Happy Planning!

        Working from home can be super comfortable and productive — unless your home office is a disaster. Follow these 10 simple tips to help declutter your space.

        Related To:


        How to organize your personal files

        Pile of Papers

        It’s easy to let papers pile up in your home office. Get control of the clutter before it takes over your space. Go through every piece of paper in your office by using the System of Three: shred/toss it, file it or take action from it. File your important paperwork in a color-coded filing system.


        Create a Mail Organizer with File Folders

        Everything needs a home, even stacks of mail — get things under control by creating a mail organizer. Make labeled folders for incoming and outgoing mail, mail to file, bills and for every family member. A folder organizer or a box can serve as a handy holding place for your newly created mail folders.

        A well-organized filing system is a good indication of a functional office space. To organize, separate the filing system into five color-coded categories, and label each hanging folder according to your needs.

        GREEN: Financial
        RED: Medical
        ORANGE: Personal
        YELLOW: Insurance
        BLUE: House


        How to organize your personal files

        Bins Used to Sort Mail

        Simple office bins are attached to a slat wall that can be used to sort incoming and outgoing mail.

        In order to maintain control of the paper coming into the home office, create a mail station. Make a folder for incoming and outgoing mail, mail to file, bills and a folder for every family member. As soon as the mail comes in, file it in the mail station. Then once a week, take a few minutes and go through each folder.

        10 Stylish Mail Organizers That’ll Help You Avoid the Annoying Junk Mail Pileup


        How to organize your personal files

        DIY Fauxdenza

        Build a fauxdenza for the home office to conceal the hefty printer, miscellaneous chargers and immense amount of paperwork. Get the step-by-step instructions here >>

        Designate a space in your office to house the printer and printer supplies. If you have a wireless printer, it doesn’t need to go on your desk. By placing it in a cabinet or other area in your office, you will gain much more space on your desk for other items.


        How to organize your personal files

        Drawer Divider in Organized Home Office

        Drawers can quickly become a disorganized mess. Separate small items like paper clips and pushpins with a drawer divider. When each item has its own place, keeping things organized is easy!

        Photo by: Melissa George, Polished Habitat

        Store all your office supplies in containers, drawers, baskets and bins. Putting all these supplies out of sight will give your office a decluttered look.


        Organized Labeled File Folders

        Depending on the amount of paper clutter, you could use a small and simple 12-tabbed file folder or an entire office-style filing cabinet. Start by clearing off the kitchen table and creating stacks of the same type of paper or mail: car insurance, health insurance, utilities, taxes, credit cards, bank statements, receipts, etc. It may be easier to combine certain areas and create broader subjects like bills, insurance and personal. The important thing is to have a go-to file for each subject for reference. Anything that requires a response in the near future should be placed in an "action stack" that will eventually be filed away once that particular bill is paid or form is filled out. For any papers you don’t find file-worthy, create a "shred and recycle" stack.

        As a small business owner, you’re no stranger to long to-do lists. This is especially true if you’ve begun hiring, which generates a lot of employee paperwork.

        But if you’re like most startups, there’s no room in the budget for an administrative assistant, never mind an HR specialist. How do you get ahead of this issue when you’re in charge? What’s the best approach to tackling employee recordkeeping as your business and staff grow?

        Here are some guidelines for setting up an efficient and compliant recordkeeping system for your business.

        Paper or Electronic?

        Many businesses start out with a paper-based recordkeeping system. This can make sense when you have just a couple of employees, but eventually it can become cumbersome. For most growing businesses, electronic documents are easier and less costly to maintain, organize and store. Plus, when records are stored “in the cloud” (online), you can access them anywhere, any time you have Internet access.

        Whether you use paper, electronic files or both, consistency is the key to effective recordkeeping. For example, if your hiring records are sorted by employee name, organize payroll records the same way. Keep the same system across all types of records, and make sure your file folders have accurate, uniform names.

        Set Up Your Essential Employee Records

        In most cases, you’ll need to maintain three types of employee records: personnel, payroll and medical files.

        Personnel files cover employment history and should include hiring documents, employee and emergency contact information, and a signed acknowledgment of your company’s employee handbook. Over time, you can add performance reviews, disciplinary forms, employee awards, training records and termination letters.

        Don’t keep I-9 forms (used to verify employment eligibility in the U.S.) in the personnel file. Store these forms all together in a separate file. If your business is selected for an immigration-related audit or investigation, the investigator will ask to inspect these forms. Keeping these records separate helps to protect the privacy of your employees and reduces the risk of exposing your business to additional employment investigations.

        Documents related to salary, benefits and financial awards should be filed under payroll. Examples include time sheets, direct deposit information, and W-4 and W-2 forms.

        The medical file should include application forms for health, life insurance and other employee benefits if you offer them. Other possible medical records include requests for reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), injury reports required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and paperwork concerning employee leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) should those laws apply to your business.

        Know What to Keep and for How Long

        Federal employment laws specify how long you must keep certain employee records. It’s important to adhere to those timeframes to avoid penalties. At the same time, holding on to documents longer than necessary (instead of discarding them) isn’t recommended, as any retained records could still be used against you in the event of a lawsuit.

        Below is a list of required employee records and the retention periods mandated by federal law:

        • Resumes, job applications and hiring tests – 1 year (no requirement for unsolicited resumes)
        • Form I-9 – 3 years from the date of hire or 1 year after termination (whichever is later)
        • Payroll documentation, including wage and promotion information and timekeeping records – 3 to 4 years for most documentation
        • W-4s – 4 years after taxes due or paid
        • Performance reviews – 2 years
        • Physical exam results – 1 year after action taken based on physical exams
        • Drug test results – Most recent year’s report on file for one year
        • Request for reasonable accommodation – 1 year after action taken or document created, whichever is later
        • Benefit plans – 1 year after termination of plan
        • FMLA documentation – 3 years after leave ends
        • Termination records – 1 year from termination date

        Maintaining an effective recordkeeping system is challenging when you don’t have dedicated administrative personnel on staff. But with proper planning and follow-through, you can get organized and meet the legal requirements.

        How to organize your personal files

        What’s on your bucket list? Maybe you want to travel to Paris, hit a hole-in-one, or simply spend more time with family.

        Each of us has a unique list of things we want to accomplish in life, but one activity that should be on everyone’s to-do list is getting affairs in order. This includes gathering and organizing personal information, financial records, and legal documents.

        After a death occurs, loved ones are often tasked with many responsibilities. By compiling, sorting, and organizing these important papers, you can relieve your loved ones of this work.

        Continue reading to learn the most important personal information you need to gather and how to organize it.

        Legal Documents

        A will is arguably the most important document to prepare. Yet, 51% of Americans between 55 and 64 are without one.

        If you already have a will, be sure the information is up-to-date. If you haven’t yet prepared one, consider writing a simple will, which you can legally prepare on your own, if you choose.

        Those with a substantial amount of assets may also want to consider a trust. They can be useful for estate planning, but there may be high expenses associated with opening one.

        Should you become incapable of making your own decisions, you will also want to have a durable power of attorney in place with someone you trust.

        Personal Records

        While everyone’s list of important personal records will differ, below are examples of records to consider gathering.

        • Identification information such as full name, social security number, birth certificate, drivers license and passport.
        • Family information including names and addresses of your children and spouse.
        • Certificates of marriage, divorce, adoption, citizenship and other.
        • Medication, allergy and other healthcare information, in case of emergency.
        • Login information for your personal computer, cell phone or other electronic devices, as well as to all online accounts. Some preplanning forms include a “tech custodian,” who will need access to this information.
        • Additional personal information to create a story of your life, such as military records, education, employers and awards.

        Financial Records

        Collecting and organizing your financial information allows you to protect your assets for loved ones. Read on for a few examples of financial information to gather.

        • Proof of ownership documents, which could include vehicles, homes, a cemetery plot or stock certificate ownership.
        • Bank statements and bank account access information, as well as an explanation of how cash flows through your accounts.
        • Credit card accounts, as well as any debt or account access information.
        • Social security and Medicare or Medicaid
        • The locations of any safe deposit boxes and instructions for access.
        • Insurance information, which could include anything from health, home, life and car insurance.
        • Home mortgages, listing the account numbers, names on the account, location of paperwork and other pertinent details.

        Final Wishes

        Along with your current and past financial records, you should also consider the finances of your funeral or cremation, memorial services and other last wishes. The average cost of a funeral is between $7,000 and $10,000.

        Consider preplanning your funeral, which offers significant benefits for you and your family. Not only do you save them from taking on the financial burden, by preplanning your funeral they won’t have to make crucial decisions as they mourn. Discuss and document your final wishes, so your family knows exactly what to do when the time comes.

        Learn more about the financial benefits of preplanning your funeral in our Seniors Guide to Preplanning.