Files, and bills, and paperwork, oh my! How do you keep that all straight? What is the best way to manage and organize bills and paperwork at home for both you and your loved one with dementia? What is a good way to set up a filing system?
your bill organization filing system should be simple
As a caregiver, you have to find a way to keep all your own paperwork organized as well as that of your loved one with dementia. Furthermore, it has to be easy and not take up too much time because you are busy and may very well have a family and children. Whatever filing system you have must be easy, quick and doable.
file folders, expandable envelopes, and an inbox tray
My way of organizing bills and paperwork (see picture below) consisted of plain, reused manilla file folders left from my teaching days, plastic expandable files, a black plastic inbox tray, a plastic bin, and a mail sorter.
The mail sorter is where I kept the bills to be paid. I wrote the due date on the outside of the envelope.
Once the bill was paid, I wrote the date paid on the top of the bill and it went into the inbox tray.
When the inbox was full or when I noticed that it was time that I filed, then I did so. Utility bills and credit card statements went into the small coupon-sized envelope and the bigger stuff went into file folders which were kept in the filing bin.
My paperwork was kept completely separate from my mom’s, but basically, my system was the same. I used a combination of the small envelope, the bigger expandable envelope (like below) and storage bins.
How to organize your paperwork filing system
Before you get your filing system actually going, there are some decisions and groundwork you should do first.
1. Survey your documents and paperwork
Lay all the bills, the receipts, and any other paperwork out on the floor or a large table. See what you have to file. You might want to make a list on paper.
2. Decide what kind of container to use to hold the bills and paperwork
Looking over what kinds of documents you will be filing, decide on what you actually may need to hold the bills and paperwork. Will you be using a file cabinet? A file bin like I did? Expandable files?
3. Super organized and/or color-coded or plain jane
If you’re one of these people that has things super organized you might like to file in a color-coded way. For instance, all credit cards in green for money or blue for all the doctors.
Will you want your file folder tabs to be 3 tabbed (left, center and right) or all the same tab?
I could never be that organized because I was always changing or adding file folders. Just when you had it worked out so that each one was tabbed differently, you added a folder and that messed up the order! I finally just gave up trying to be so orderly.
Will you print out file folder labels or just pencil in the title? Since I’ve always been a thrifty person and reuse file folders, I just wrote in pencil.
4. Decide what your file folder categories and subcategories will be titled
This is where your file organization gets harder. Looking at your list, decide what your labels will be on your file folders.
My mom was under the care of 3 different doctors. One for her heart, one for kidneys and her general doc. You probably will file bills/receipts in separate file folders but will you file them under D for doctor then each in alphabetical order or will you file them alphabetically by their last name?
Another one is insurance. Will you file both homeowners insurance and auto insurance under I for insurance? Or will you file homeowners under H or the name of the insurance company? For auto insurance, will you file under I for insurance or A for auto or say S for State Farm insurance?
What about credit cards? Do you file under C for credit cards or alphabetically by the company?
Whichever way you file, it should be automatic for you such that you don’t have to stop and question how you did it.
tips for keeping the bills and paperwork organized
- Already mentioned this but it’s worth repeating – keep your bills separate from your loved one’s. May be more time consuming but it’s easier that way.
- In your busy life, it’s very easy to skip the filing part of the routine. I finally found that setting up a reminder on my phone helped me with the paperwork. Whether you use your computer calendar program, the one on your phone or a paper calendar, set up a weekly or bi-weekly time to file the paperwork. If you don’t let it pile up, you can file bills in less than 30 minutes.
- Once a year, purge/shred the old bills like the utility ones and the credit card statements unless there was a charge for a large purchase that you might want to keep. I hung onto Mom’s Medicare stuff longer than a year.
- After the school year has started, check out the school supply clearance area of stores like Walmart and Target for products that have been marked down.
- Get a shredder and put it right in the area where you file.
your way of organizing files has to work for you
To summarize, how to organize bills and paperwork depends upon quite a few things. Whatever system you use for filing your documents as well as those of your loved one has to be one you are comfortable with. As a caregiver, your time is precious and you don’t want to be bogged down with filing so make it easy, quick and doable. I would also add one more qualifier – it has to be easily changeable!
If you’ve found an easy way to file your loved one’s bills and paperwork, let us know. I would be interested to read about your filing system.