Fun with Filing

By Kate Riley January 7, 2010

Ha ha.  Got you on that title.  Filing, fun ? Filing paperwork is about as fun as doing your taxes or getting a root canal.  Filing paperwork is zero fun as my daughter would say, especially if you’ve let it get way out of control, like I have.  Filing is the exactly the opposite of fun.  That is, until you come across some very pretty organizational tools. 

Hello my lovely. 

file tote scandanavian

I saw this deliciously darling file tote at the local stationery store and had to have it.  Notice how it knows how chic it is by calling itself a “pretty file tote”.  Kind of like that 80’s Pantene commercial where Kelly LeBrock used to say “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.” 

I don’t hate you “pretty file tote”.  No darling, I adore you, especially after you saved me from such wicked despair. 

Self proclaimed “pretty file tote” inspired me to tackle what was tormenting me for months – a ghastly pile of paperwork to be sorted.  I’ll spare you the photo of what my haphazard box of disorganized papers looked like a few days ago.  Let’s just agree It was the definition of a filing nightmare.  Besides, if I showed you, self proclaimed “pretty file tote” would gasp audibly and refuse to be associated with such a mess.

Enter attractive office supplies, and my dearest darling love – the Brother label maker.  

pretty files


I had a pretty good plan awhile back.  I was really good at discarding junk mail the moment it crossed the threshold.  I separated and recycled it the minute it came through the door. 

The leftovers were the true problem.  I had a mediocre system in place before, “Bills” here, “Catalogs” there.  I had all the birth certificates and legal documents kinda sorta pretty much organized.  But way too much miscellaneous paperwork was slipping through the cracks.  The “mail to be sorted” multiplied like rabbits overnight.  It became my nemesis.  I would pass by it late at night, fist in the air, and mutter through gritted teeth “Curse you, vile mail to be sorted box”.  Yes, I hated it that much. 

My previous system was like any invention.  Often it takes the first edition to reveal the kinks in the design in order to work them out.  I think I’ve finally worked them kinks out. 

I’ll agree to reveal my plan, but you’re all sworn to absolute secrecy.  Never mind that I’ve published this for the world to see.  Details.   

First, I highly recommend you arm yourself with a label maker.  As you can see, we have a mutual attraction to each other.

love brother label maker

I love my Brother label maker.  He had me at hello.  

 He helps me do this . . .

label 3

And this . . . 

label 1

Boooooo. Taxes.  Blech. 

label 2

One of my biggest organizational problems was saving, organizing, and then finding receipts.  Thanks to “pretty file tote”, my dilemma is solved.   Now, I get kind of giddy filing receipts. 

receipt file tote

And I can’t be the only one who adores this up close and personal shot of pretty labeled file folders.  Totally Flickr worthy. 

file folders up close

My next organizational stroke of luck was finding these portable letter size hanging files at Tar-jay.  Okay, they’re plastic, but that’s just fine with me, because they will be completely hidden from view.  Plus they’re cheap.  

show offs box

I printed up some Avery labels . . .

printed avery labels

Slapped them on the side of these portable holders . . .

file bins

See, they’re not completely hideous.  Apple green lids ?  Me likey. 

They store ever so perfectly inside a standard depth cabinet. 

store in cabinet

And they stack too, just in case anyone wants to store them vertically. 

stacking files

Simple pleasures. 

Don’t forget when sorting through paperwork to get yourself another muscular helper.  Mr. Shredder is short, compact, and destructive to any document in danger of revealing my true identity. 

mr shredder

But oh no, I didn’t stop there.  Important keepsakes and lesser used texts aka ‘foreign language’ *hangs head in shame* get their own personal bin. 

keepsakes trio

Coupons get their own basket, cause I’m a big collector.

basket for coupons 

I have a teensy addiction to fabric swatches, so I corral my collection in this bin I picked up last year at Michaels.  

fabric swatches in tote

Recipes go in a simple three ring binder.  I’m dreaming of laminating them all someday to keep them from getting sticky, oily, or smeared from, dare I say it, drool.  

recipe binder 

All that loose change was driving me crazy so I repurposed this candle holder.

Note to self.  Must train husband to deposit spare change here. 

rainy day fund jar

There’s just nothing better than these acid-free photo boxes for storing all those pictures !

photo boxes

Kid workbooks and art get stored in these fun magazine holders and art boxes from The Container Store.

magazine files and art boxes

We make a big production out of storing their drawings here.  Call me a mean mommy, but in the dark of night I sneak in and separate the sillier doodles from the truly charming creations.  They haven’t caught me yet.   Sssshhhh.

art boxes up close

All of their toys and stuffed animals are kept in these colorful bins and baskets with homemade labels.  

 labels together

My home office supplies are kept tidy in this highboy I refinished last year.

office supplies in highboy

I whittled down the magazines to just my favorites, and store them in these baskets in my home office. 

magazines in baskets

Computer software, cords, and scrapbook supplies all are hidden in a series of these pretty and functional woven basket boxes purchased last year from The Container Store. 

woven baskets in office

I keep CDs and other small items in these fabric boxes.

office boxes duo

I read once that organization simply requires a ‘home’ for everything.  It helps if that ‘home’ is somewhat attractive. At least for me.  

Sooooo, what’s left in my house after this mad organizational spree?  The linen closet.

   But for the sake of fantasy, let’s just pretend that my linen closet looks like this. . .

towel linen closet bhg

and my bathroom closet looks just like this . . . mkay ?

linen closet bhg Better Homes and Gardens (both images)

What’s your best kept secret for clever filing and storage ?  C’mon, spill the beans.  We all want to know.


  1. I love all of your ideas!! My husband is in the military and every single paper has to be kept, FOREVER (so he says, lol) Our file bins are a huge mess and your post has really motivated me to tackle the monster. Thanks so much!

  2. I’ve always wondered if you’re supposed to keep old statements. Every year I put my old statements in an exandable accordian file but do I really need to keep them? I’m trying to get organized and it’s happening very, very slowly. And by the time I do finally get something organized it’s become outdated. Wish we had a container store!

  3. Thanks for sharing all your ideas. LOVE organizing. LOVE my labelmaker. For recipes, mine are in plastic page protectors in my binder. Kind of like laminating, without the hassle. HTH.

  4. Wow! You are an inspiration Woman! I have been sat here in the mess of paperwork I have created for myself wondering how on earth I was ever going to be able to see the carpet again. You have inspired me (again!) to get cracking and organize this mess in a beautiful way. Thank you.

  5. You have accomplished an amazing amount of work in a very short amount of time! We will now dub you super woman. :-) My favorite tip… out with the old, in with the new. We only keep our latest utility and credit card statements, and replace them each month with the newest one. All my filing, other than the birth certificates, etc, fit into one half of a file drawer. :-)

  6. Okay. I’m buying a plane ticket to California and hunting you down, so that I can STEAL all of those beautiful containers. I’d bet your linen closet DOES look like that pic. :)
    Kate, only you could make organizing sound FUN.

  7. Don’t you just love looking at all the organized things when you are done? I am a professional organizer, and I still tell my clients that I will just look at a freshly organized spot as I walk by it. LOVE IT! Great job!!

  8. Very nice.Let me get down to organising my stuff.Am home schooling 3 of my 4 little ones.So it s soo tempting to Organise first or teach first.Did I just say that ! :-)

  9. I have a lot of those clear plastic ‘envelopes’ that are nice and large. I have them labeled with fairly generic terms like ‘house’, ‘2009 taxes’, ‘kitties’, and things like that. We have an antique oak file cabinet and all of the plastic envelopes are filed in there. I also keep the instruction manuals for all the appliances filed in there and keep the receipts for any work we have done on the house along with the business card stapled to it. That way if we need someone to do work around the house we know who did it last time…and we note if we liked their work or not too. Recipes are kept in a 3 ring binder inside the plastic sleeves to keep them from getting messy. And my sewing room is in the midst of a big reorganization too; I have a passion for needlepoint and have created lots of interesting ways to store my threads and supplies. Don’t you just love pretty organizing tools and supplies?

  10. This is my kind of stuff. I just love to organize (I know-sick) and I also actually like doing my taxes. My stuff doesn’t look this good everywhere…but, I slowly work on trading out ugly plastic containers for cute ones. I don’t see organizing as work, I see it as fun!

  11. i need more storage in my craft room and office. thinking of a good and cheap way to have some shelving in. may have to go the ikea route. i love what you have done. can we have a picture of your entire room to see how its all set up in there?

  12. I corralled all of my loose recipes that I always wanted to try (but really were just a messy stack) into file folders labeled by type: Appetizers, Brunch, Beverages, etc. These are stored in a file box in my pantry. I then committed to trying 1 new recipe a week so we could work through the stack. Those we like, get put in a “TO FILE” file folder, and eventually make their way into our family cookbook when I have time to transfer it over. Those we don’t, get tossed!

  13. Thanks so much for sharing all of your tips! I’d love to see a pic of the whole room to see how you cleverly disguised everything!

    Instead of laminating your recipes, you could always put them in those clear, protective sleeves…much cheaper! Just a suggestion. :)

  14. It’s amazing what a large amount of items an armoire can hold, especially when stocked with horizontal & vertical file storage, plastic pull-out drawers, little bins, etc. To corral the various lotions, hair products, medicines, & other personal items in my linen closet, I have simply cut down a few large, sturdy boxes & covered them with fabric. Use this trick anywhere you need some pretty confinement of various possessions. It looks cute with Contact paper or scrapbook paper as well. (When you’re done, smile at the inexpensive & triumphant outcome.)

  15. Kate – thank you SO much for your inspiration! So far I am still decluttering – going to go through the whole house which will take a while. Question for you: What is the font that you used for the “Rainy Day Fund”? It’s too cute!
    Thanks!! Maci

  16. I love your organization. It just makes me swoon with glee and delight. I pride myself on being well-organized, but I have to admit that my game has been a bit off since I moved. I’m still looking for some essential organization pieces, mainly a good filing cabinet/bookcase duo to organize my boxes and files and things so they don’t sit on the floor. I might just have found it. I think that labeler is going to be next on my list.

  17. FABULOUS blog and ideas! Love your humor too. I’m afraid I’m a little organization nut, and you’ve certainly made it appealing to be so! :-)

  18. I am so inspired by all your organization! It is a cold snowy day and perfect for a cup of coffee and tackling at least one drawer. Thanks! I might just break out that label maker…

  19. I too am a nut for organization. I bought my first home shredder the other day and I was the happiest girl in the world. I shredded to my heart’s content. Now I don’t have to save those pesky enveloped and such with my name on them. Whew! Thanks for this post… very inspirational. I’m currently re-painting a desk so I can have my own office. Should be fun!

  20. You are an inspiration! I just love your descriptions and photos! Too bad I am headed out the door to work…I would love to just stay home and organize my office this morning. I’m going to read this post again on Saturday morning and try to tackle my office and filing!

  21. Great title, and I thought to myself I don’t know if I can ever have fun w filing. Your organization really inspires me!

  22. Right now, my org skills include piling papers on desk and once or twice going through them and tossing them out. I have no skills. Do you hire out?

  23. The formerly organized girl who still lives inside me and wants to come out is just hopping up and down with joy. I had one of those Brother label makers when I was working, and as nerdy as it sounds, it was FUN to play with. ;)

    There’s just something about seeing all those bins with brightly colored folders and matching labels. :)

    I like the way you’ve organized your magazines. Mine are getting a little out of control.

    By the way, I did a little write-up of your fabulous etsy store in my post today, and made sure to link to you. :) Just fyi…

  24. I have been meaning to tackle my office for some time- I think your post inspired me to make it a weekend project! My label maker and I have got a hot date.

  25. I love labels! So many great ways to file. I am laughing to see that I have 2 of the same magazines in my stash…someday I will have the pages that are my inspiration filed from my big mound! lol Another great post!!


  26. My heart just went pitter patter with one look at all your colorful and meticulous files and storage bins. You’re a girl after my own heart :)

  27. it would be much easier to keep your recipes in sheet protectors!!! no spills or splatters and absolutely no punching holes in an important piece of the recipe information!

  28. I began with organizing/decluttering a couple of weeks ago and I’m loving that it is the focus of your blog for a few days! Your pics send me to a happy place. I have a special relationship with my label maker too :)
    You are inspiring me to post some pics of my organizing lately. I have cleaning ADD though, keep bouncing from project to project!!
    Thanks for sharing !

  29. I totally want a label maker. I think I might buy myself one next week. haha I do keep myself somewhat organized but I do confess…I have a small box under my desk and I just throw stuff in there that needs to be filed. I will call it my ‘stuff to file later box’ haha. Then I go through it and usually don’t need that stuff anyway, so it gets shredded. :) Thanks for all the super ideas!

  30. WOW. Organized lady!
    My favorite organizational thing that I do is I ROLL my towels. Yup, that’s it.
    But it’s really great actually. They are much easier to grab and they are more compact this way. We have a lot of towels..

  31. Centsationalgirl – love the organization!!

    I stick my recipes in the clear sheet protectors in two binders: Recipes to try and My Recipes (tried and true). I’d love a laminator, but the sheets work pretty well.

  32. Great job!! I do a major clean out and organizing at the beginning of the year as well, but this year its getting tougher. You have inspired me to keep at it….even if its for a half an hour after work. Can you tell me the brand of your shredder? I like the size and mine just died a few weeks ago :(

  33. Will you marry me? Ha ha, I’m totally kidding! But I adore what all you have done here. I call myself neat and organized, but you make me look like a slob. Kudos to you for finding all these great (and pretty!) ways to organize your stuff!

  34. I love your systems. I am horrible at filing. I have a big stack of paper for the last 6 months that I have to file before I clean out the files for the new year.

  35. I am so JEALOUS along with the rest of the world who could only dream to be as organized so neat and cute as you! You have it all! totally jealous!

  36. I have the Zooey issue of Domino in my fave magazine stack too!

    I love the colors and I will have to make a coupon thing like yours!! I also love the photo boxes!!

  37. Another great post! Cute office supplies always help make a mundane task better. A good hot beverage and favorite music are good motivators too. It’s too bad once we spend so much time organizing, it almost never stays that way, especially when you have a husband and kids. :)

  38. Love all the pretty baskets for organizing, thats what makes organizing so much fun! Yes, I said fun…I am a organizing junkie too! I have a binder of recipes like yours but I have put them all in plastic sleeves to protect the pages…cheaper than laminating them and I can switch them out easily if I don’t use it often.

  39. I love this post! I’m all about the organizing too- especially when you have pretty storage boxes and bins. I’m also in a love-love relationship with my labeler. It just feels so good, like a deep breath of fresh air, to have everything in order. Now, you can allow more of whatever life wants to bring your way. A good car wash helps too. I do the same thing with my recipes, but put them in a plastic sleeve to keep the messes at bay. I have a separate binder dedicated to desserts, since they’re my fave and I have so many!

  40. Ooo, I love this post! I’m a fairly new reader and just love your style and advice! Did you just recently get those file storage boxes at Target? You’ve inspired me to tackle our paper piles! Thank you! –

  41. Love it all!! I also keep recipes in a 3 ring binder but I use the plastic sleeves from Staples/Wal Mart or Target. Easier than laminating!

  42. I love it. You are so organized. I’m trying to be organize starting this new year. I love plastic bins and I just bought some at Loves that was on sale…

    You have some pretty boxes….

  43. My goodness – you did this all in one day? I heart my label maker, too. But . . . I also love bins, and files, and containers . . . I love this!

  44. Love it! Where did you get the large flat boxes for your kids artwork? BOY, do I need those!

  45. Sooo loving it! Thanks for all the tips! My year-long goal is to find a home for everything, which means the label maker will be working overtime!!!

  46. thanks for all the inspiration!! I need to get some more containers I find homes for more of our STUFF!! – I’d love to see some shots of the rooms/space where you have all of this stored!

    BTW – I just bought a great presentation book at Barnes & Nobel over the holidays that I play on putting many of my printed recipes into!!


  47. Wow! Can you come to my house?! I DREAM of having organization like you. And pretty containers, baskets and file folders. Some day. I bought a few pretty baskets but the organization is not there. Neither is the pretty-ness (it’s just a bunch of paper shoved into the pretty basket). Maybe when my office gets done… IF that ever happens….

  48. See now, I find a post like this interesting. I consider myself an organized person, but I also like it to look good ~ kind of like a laundry room, it might as well look nice since you’ve got to do it! I’ve got some projects I am working on now to pretty up some organization I already have going on, and some new storage I’ve brought in for all of the crafty supplies I’ve been accumulating. I love finding stuff like you’ve shown.

  49. What a job! Your energy seems to be boundless. Talking about organizational tips for the bathroom – I have adopted this wine rack (a thrift store find) into a towel rack hanging over the bathtub.
    Is it possible to insert a pic into this comment box? Help!

  50. For the recipes, I do something similar, only I have plastic sheet covers that I slide them into. I can remove the recipe, use it, get it wet, wipe it off, put it back, and it’s safe. Love love LOVE the system.

  51. You are inspiring. I am ready for you to visit my little dinky place and see what kind of disasters we could tackle. I am feeling motivated right now, there is so much that can be done, and I have plenty of baskets. I am really digging your “rainy day fund” vase as well. We have a quart mason jar that my husband decorated with skateboarding stickers in college, and it is almost full (once again) of the spare change we get (it’s become our Wii fund this time). I digress…..I LOVE your ideas. saving this one to refer back to!

  52. Oh how I wish we had a Container Store close by (my hubby is glad we don’t!)! Everything looks great, you’ve given me some more inspiration!

  53. I put my recipes in page protectors. Buy some and put them in!! Then you won’t have to bother with laminating. Just a thought. Abby

  54. You have been one busy girl. I know that I am late commenting but I have been busy painting so I am behind in all my blog reading. Anyway, I LOVE my label maker. He is so wonderful. I love fabric boxes like you and I love anything to do with organizing. It just makes me happy.

  55. Very inspiring. I tried to stay with you for you 5 day plan, but I’m stuck on day one and 4. But I have a big house ,and a real mess to contend with. Every day I tackle an area ,and donate. Thanks for the motivation. I can’t wait to be oganized too.

  56. OMG. I have serious organizational envy right now. I LOVE all your organizing systems AND the fact that you have a labeler. Swoon! Hopefully this will inspire me to give my study a serious organizational overhaul. It needs it….bad.

  57. I love an “over the door” shoe organizer with clear plastic pockets for organizing my linen/bathroom closet. The pockets are perfect for storing extra shampoo/lotion/toothpaste and such. Everything is easy to find and you don’t have to waste valuable shelf space for all of those small items!

  58. Wow, you totally had me for a second with that linen closet picture, I thought “Oh my gosh, if that is her linen closet I might just cry” Whew, great job on the rest though, I now realize I just need more containers, my new years resolution is to have a “home” for everything.

  59. Where did you get those acid free photo boxes? My father recently unloaded all of my baby photos on me, and I despise photo albums (the plastic eventually ruins the photos), so something like that would be perfect for storage.

  60. Such pretty storage… I especially like the Rainy Day Fund. Ours just gets thrown into a little tupperware thingy in the junk drawer. I think I need a pretty jar with a ribbon and pretty tag instead. :-)

  61. I didn’t read through the other comments, but rather than laminating the recipes put them in sheet protectors. They wipe off beautifully!

  62. I just found your blog and love it! I love organizing and I love seeing how other people organize! This post was perfect for me! Thanks for sharing.

  63. Love this!!! Glad to have been introduced to your blog. :) Can you share where I could find these lovely file folders and such???

  64. Hi! I didn’t read all the comments, so maybe someone already mentioned this, but for my recipes, I use page protectors instead of laminating.. something like this:

    These make it super handy to pull out the recipe I want and bring it into the kitchen without the worry of spilling whatever I’m making on the recipe. Plus, I can pull the recipe out if I decide I want to make changes to it, and mark the changes right on the same page (laminating might make this not so fun).

  65. Oops hit the button too soon. I also wanted to thank you for the idea of breaking down the receipts into categories. I am beginning a search for one and wish I had done it that way instead of throwing them all together (in different piles). I also recently bought some of the plastic file boxes (buy one get one free at CVS drugs) with turquoise lids. Looking forward to reading more of your posts.

  66. Ohhh, I have no clue how I missed this in January, but I am eating it up now. Feeling overwhelmed, I need to fan myself with something from one of my junk piles now to keep from fainting, maybe… ;) Love the label maker idea, might just have to get me one of those (except then how do you keep from labeling EVERYTHING? I fear I’d be a label making monster…)

  67. I use a 3-ring binder as well for all the recipes I print online or tear out of magazines. Instead of laminating them (who has the time?!) I use 3-hole punched plastic sleeves from my local dollar store. I can usually get at least a 10 pack for $1 and this way all my recipes stay clean.

  68. F….g inspirational! You make this so accessible! thankyouthankyouthankyou!

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