Organizing Files- 3 Files Every Household Should Have (But Doesn’t)

We started to organize files for your household a few days ago, and today you’ll organize the 3 files that every household should have, but doesn’t.

How to set up Vital Records Files

It’s tempting to think that the mess on the kitchen counter and dining room table is just a monolithic thing, but it’s not. It’s files waiting to happen.

Imagine for a minute if you piled everything in your house, like we do with mail, paper and catalogs.

Pots, plates and forks piled in the middle of the kitchen floor.

Tools, dog food, and bikes creating detours in the middle of the driveway.

Socks, jeans, and pajamas languishing in the middle of the bed.

Well, that last one might not be too much of a stretch some days, and you know how well that works. But when things actually have a place, you can picture them put away. As soon as you read, “dog food,” you could picture where that actually goes in your house. As soon as you read forks, you could picture your silverware drawer. True, things might not always end up there, but they have a place.

Like these physical objects, paper should also have a home. And that home is generally (although not always), in files. So if you can’t picture your filing spot (a filing cabinet, drawers, or bins), then we need to fix that first.  To conquer your paper piles, you need a spot for your papers. So go get one. Here’s a sturdy Mesh Rolling File Cube that I like. It has the advantage of being an actual file storage, and can roll in and out of a closet, but it could also stay out in a corner of the dining room, if you truly believe that out of sight means completely out of mind.

Organizing Files- 3 Files Every Household Should Have (But Doesn’t)

You’ve already started to set up your file system, but there are some files that even partially organized household file systems usually miss. Every homes needs these files.

1. Warranties/Manuals File

When you are young and the only major appliance you own is your phone, you don’t really need this file as much. But once you own a home or get involved in a lot of activities that require gear, then you acquire paperwork on that gear. I think my file is three file folders deep at this point.

Keep any manuals and purchase records for major purchases, including the original receipt, stapled together.

I separate things that go with or are attached to the house, versus things that do not belong to the house. That way, when we sell our house (which we hope not to do again for a very long time), all of the household records and warranties that transfer can be easily passed onto the new owners. There’s no rule that requires that, but I like to do it anyway.

There is no extra credit for getting that file pretty. I’ve seen plenty of binders and household management folders. Even ones that look like cute little briefcases. But as long as you can put your hands on the file with warranties and manuals when you need it once in a blue moon, that’s all the time you need to spend on it. Don’t over-organize if you don’t love organizing.

Here’s a short list of what you might need in this file:

  • Major appliances (fridge, washer, dryer)
  • Small home appliances (stand mixer, slow cooker, even high end pots and pans with warranties)
  • Tools (lawn mower, power tools like drills, household generators)
  • Computer gear and accessories, including cameras, phones, and other electronics
  • TV
  • Major home repairs items, whether installed by you or not
  • Costly sporting gear, like bikes and skis
  • Baby toys
  • Lawn furniture (our has a 10 year warranty)
  • Musical instruments

2. Pet Records in Files

When did Fido have his teeth cleaned last? Did Fluffy every get her township tag this year? My cat never wore her annual rabies and registration tags because she was 100% an inside cat, but those metal tags went in the file each year, instead of on the counter. Are your fur babies bred from royalty? Maybe you want to keep their kennel club info. Each of them should have a file for important records, just like real children do.

3. Vital Records File

Yes, I bring Vital Records up every time we talk about files, but it’s IMPORTANT. Every home needs a vital records file. In fact, I just checked all of our passports again just now to make sure they are still valid. Did you know that juvenile passports are only valid for 5 years, while adults’ are good for 10? Did you know that in some cases, you will not be allowed to travel is your passport has less than 6 months before it expires? Did you know that your Social Security card says right on it, “DO NOT CARRY THIS CARD WITH YOU”? Files are the way to go.

Do You Have These Three Files Organized?

If you haven’t started setting up your files, you can start with these three, then work your way back to this article on organizing household files. Setting up the actual folders takes less than 30 minutes. Filling them with necessary paperwork from the piles you’ve accumulated can happen in 15 minute chunks over the next two weeks, when we’ll be through GO month (aka January), and you’ll be a whole new organized, Clutter-Free person.

If you’d like hands-on filing help, contact me for in-person or virtual appointments to get you set up on the FreedomFiler.

New Year's resolutions, organizing goals, 31 day organizing plan



This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Pat Young

    Years ago my mom told me I needed a file called “Safe Place”, LOL. It has been a very important file over the years, passport, birth certificates etc. Somehow I managed to figure out warranties etc on my own.

    Still struggling with paper and my physical desk tops, have hopes tho. Pat in SNJ

    1. Darla

      Thanks for sharing. As you’ve pointed out, it doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as your brain knows that your “safe place” is for those really vital and important papers (as opposed to the drawing your 5 yo made, which is also important, but not quite in the same way), and the records actually do get stored together. Thanks for keeping up with us here. Miss you.

  2. Chandra Thomas

    When my daughter and her best friend graduated from high school, I gave the girls 2 gifts: a jar full of miscellaneous nails, screws, picture hangers, etc…. and a file box with folders labeled with their immunization/medical records, school papers, and important identification papers. The girls are now 25 and tell me that those 2 gifts were the ones they have used most often since leaving the nest.

    1. Darla

      Oh my gosh, I love that!!! I have often given a toolbox full of basic tools and a few shares of stock. Same idea.

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