Just to clarify in case this is confusing. I did two posts this week, one on paperwork in general that you can find here. And then a follow up post which is this one, about the pros and cons of specific paperwork systems.
There are many different ways to store papers, receipts, product manuals and documents. With a solid system in place, you'll save energy and time in finding what you need, when you need it. Consider the following types of systems and think about how often you reference these things, how often you like to look through them and what you think might work best for you. In some cases you may find it works to use multiple styles for different types of paperwork. If you create a system you love, you'll be more inspired to use it and keep it working for you.
1>> Files in a filing cabinet
-Easy to take one file out to find more detailed information
-Files are low cost to buy
-File cabinet is not going to get lost or misplaced
-Easy to add and subtract files to cabinet
-Easy to set up system
-The cabinet itself can be expensive
-Files need to be put back in order to use again
-Pieces inside the files can get messy and fall out
-Limited amount of storage space per file and per cabinet (if you overfill the files they can fall off the hanging track)
-Depending on how many files you have and how many cabinets, the system can take up physical space in your home
-Can be unpleasant to look at
2>> Files in a file box. Most of the same pros and cons as the cabinet, but they take up less space, can be moved around more easily and come in a variety of styles and lid options. You may not want a lid at all, or you may want the lid so you can stack more than one box together in a closet or shelving system. If you do get a file box, make sure that it is sturdy enough to hold the weight of the files. Also, I think it is important to have the ledge / hanging track on the inside edge so you can vertically hang your files inside the box. Without the ledge your files are going to slide all over and get messed up pretty quickly.
3>> Magazine files. Similar to a filing cabinet, magazine files are miniature boxes that can store files. They have most of the same pros and cons as the filing cabinet, but my favorite part is that they can be displayed beautifully in your home on a shelf if you don't have a lot of extra closet space. I think the most important part is to have the label area on the outside so you can see which file holds what. Also, there are several styles with the label area on the front or back. Personally, I like it when the contents are on the back side and you just see the label and spine of the box so it is very streamlined and papers / files are out of sight.
4>> Three-ring binders with plastic sleeves or three-hole punch
-Easy to keep individual pieces organized in the binder
-Can be kept in chronological order since they are attached to the binder
-Easy to page through without having things fall out
-Easy to add and subtract sleeves from binders
-Easy to label from the outside
-Binders and plastic sleeves are inexpensive
-Binder styles come in many colors and patterns and can be personalized
-Small enough to be stored in an existing storage closet, drawer or shelf
-Easy to transport
-Easy to set up system
-Binder can get misplaced
-Limited amount of storage space in each binder
-Binders can take up space depending on how many you store in your home
-Have to hole punch pages or stuff sleeves
5>> Accordion folders. These can have some of the same pros and cons as the magazine files and of the three-ring binders, but they are especially great for holding small things like receipts or coupons. These come in a wide variety of sizes and many have a sleeve that folds over the top to keep things from falling out of the top of the files.
6>> Electronic / Digital
-Can easily find things by searching file names
-Easy to send a file to someone else if needed via email
-Takes up very little physical space
-Virtually unlimited storage (not limited to file or binder size)
-Easy to delete or add files
-System must be backed up
-Files could be lost forever if not saved and / or backed up properly
-Have to scan each item through a scanner
-Scanner and back up system can be expensive to buy and maintain
-Need some technology understanding to set system up
-Scanner may need to replaced over time to keep up with technology
-Documents can be forgotten about if "out of sight, out of mind"
This just in from my tech guru friend, who always has the best electronic recommendations. For the scanner he recommends the Fujitsu iX500 ScanSnap. It rips through stacks of paper scanning both sides and has options for the exported file like scan to hard drive, scan to email, or scan to mobile device.
In terms of recommendations for the other things mentioned above, I have not bought things from all of these places but from the research I have done on them, these would be good starting places at least.
poppin.com This is a modern office supply store that I am really loving, but have not bought anything from. It looks like they are located in New York and that it is an online company so I don't think they have any physical stores. I'll give you an updated post when I make my first purchase, because I really think I need to get some things from here. They have everything that I've listed above including filing cabinets, but no scanners.
Office Depot / Office Max Office Depot and Office Max have merged. I've been pleasantly surprised by the updated offerings here. I've used them for printing and while waiting for my order, I did some browsing around. They have a wide variety of things and some nice updated designs and patterns in a few things that I didn't expect. Depending on what you are buying, it might actually be cheaper than a big box store, but I would price everything out if you have the time. They might also have some things you can't find elsewhere like the file folders, accordion folders or the filing boxes depending on where you shop.
The Container Store This is one of those places that I can shop in for hours, drooling all over the pretty boxes, storage devices and everything that have there. They have everything listed above and then some, except for the scanners. It might be a bit pricier, but they definitely have quality things and designs and styles you might not find other places.
IKEA If you are lucky enough to have an IKEA in your area, then you already know how awesome their stuff is. The only thing is that they really don't have a huge office supply area. They do have some nice magazine files (which is where I bought mine) and a good selection of filing cabinets and other storage cabinets.
Target The stationery department has really stepped up its game with stuff from Threshold (the fancier Target's owned brand) and office supply lines from Nate Berkus (interior designer). They have everything I've listed above. Full disclosure: My day job is in the corporate offices of Target, but they do have affordable options and are quite accessible so you make your own choices.
Amazon Of course there is always amazon.com. I am not a prime member, but if you do a lot of shopping there, it is apparently the way to go. They have everything on the list, including the scanner.
Let me know if you have other favorite ways to house your paperwork, or other office supply / organizational stores or websites you like to shop at in the comments below.