Filing with zip top bags

Reader Arnette has created an unconventional filing and reminder system that works wonders for keeping her organized. She wrote to me about it, and I wanted to share it with you because it’s unlike any system I’ve used. From Arnette:

This idea came to me when I was trying to find a way to file small notes to myself or related small pieces of paper on a particular subject. For example, each time I set up an appointment with a new doctor or dentist, I prepare a “baggie file” and then any time I think of something to discuss with the doctor, I put a note in the file, which I review just before the appointment. I currently use quart freezer bags as a mini filing system. I place a used white envelope (appx. 4×9″) into the baggie after writing the “label” information on it at the top (on the clean back of the envelope). I put all info related to that subject in the labeled baggie. I then place these mini files in a small crate or bin which can then be placed on a desk or in a file drawer. This system works very well when traveling, also (minus the bins) especially if the trip involves many different locations. Each baggie contains everything needed for each location, such as maps, hotel info, etc. I always have one labeled “home” in which I place receipts and notes to review when I get home. If needed, I place all the quart “files” in a gallon baggie and zip it for security. I also use a similar system when shopping.

If zip top bags you can buy at the grocery store aren’t professional looking enough for your needs, check out Uline’s selection of reclosable bags. Some of the options are professional enough to take to meetings.

Thanks to reader Arnette for sharing her system with us.

42 Comments for “Filing with zip top bags”

  1. posted by JMP on

    I do the same thing with coupons. For each store, I have a snack-size ziploc bag, which is labeled with the store name in black Sharpie. I’ve found that this works much better than carrying individual paper envelopes with coupons, because all the coupons for that store go in the bag and are protected from getting folded, crumpled, or otherwise destroyed in my purse.

  2. posted by Lose That Girl on

    Wow. Such a unique (and easy) system! I use Ziploc bags for traveling. Why spend oodles of cash on those packing cubes, when Ziplocs of various sizes work a treat. I use them to keep socks and underwear in their own compartments, and even roll up shirts and sweaters — and then put them in their very own bag. Makes packing easy – plus if you ever have to open your case at customs, everything is organized and will remain clean. It’s also a good system to keep dirty clothes from infiltrating your clean items. There are so many different sizes of Ziploc, you can use them for virtually all your packing needs. Just the best.

  3. posted by Ann on

    I’ve also used this system for some time now, and it works wonderfully for me, too. Also, whenever I’m going out, I put a gallon size ziplock bag in my purse, with all the paperwork I’ll need for that trip (prescriptions to be filled, addresses or maps, grocery lists). The items are easy to find, and any receipts or new paperwork I receive on that trip go back into the bag until I get home and file them.

    I use the same system for any rebates or returns until they’re completely dealt with, and I put all tax receipts in a gallon size bag labeled with the year. It works so much better than files for items like small receipts, and for those of us who need to see things (pilers vs filers), the clear bags help tremendously. I like Arnette’s idea of the used envelope as a label; I think I’ll use it.

  4. posted by Wendy on

    I use sandwich bags to organize receipts till the bank account is reconciled and its time to shred them.

    I also use sandwich bags to organize nylons labeled with permanent marker to identify navy and black.

  5. posted by Jude on

    I’m currently scanning thousands of slides (3000 down, 4000 to go). After I add an accession number to the slides, I store the slides I need to scan in Zip-loc bags. I’m also scanning all my files with my Fujitsu ScanSnap. While I recycle most documents after they’re scanned and triple backed up, I place the ones I want to keep in large Zip-loc bags. Eventually, I’ll move them to acid-free file folders.

  6. posted by Sarah on

    Traveling for work at least 12 years ago, I was killing time at a dollar store and picked up a set of three 5.5″x8.5″ plastic envelopes: green, purple, and gray. I put receipts in the green one, scrapbook-style memorabilia in the purple one, and paperwork in the gray one. Money = green, fun = purple, boring = gray. How’s that for a mnemonic?

    They’ve lived in my suitcase ever since. Definitely got my dollar’s worth out of those!

  7. posted by strabes on

    Sounds like this person needs an iPhone with TripIt and the calendar syncing with google calendar or something. She could just put the details of the appointments into the “Notes” section for events. Why carry around paper any more?

  8. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @strabes — An iPhone with a service contract costs more than $1,000 a year. A box of zip-top bags is less than $30. I can see why someone might not want to go the iPhone route.

  9. posted by JustGail on

    New uses for zip-top baggies – love em! I’ve often used them to keep small bits and odds & ends together, but not paperwork.

    strabes – an iPhone can do a lot, but it’s easy to forget that not everyone can afford one. I’d like one (or something similar), but the cost for initial purchase and more inportantly the monthly plan make it a bit out of reach right now. And even then, if entering information is no easier than on my PDA, I’d still not use it to full capability. As cool as it is, the high-tech way might not always be the best.

  10. posted by Dawn F on

    I used this time recently when we had a week of fun activities during a stay-cation. Each day a bag containing important information about the day’s activities, map if applicable, gift card if applicable and coupons. Before we headed out the door each day I grabbed the labeled bag for that specific day.

    While the system isn’t glamorous or cool, it is super easy and affordable. Plus, I never worried about a coupon getting misplaced or left at home – each day had a designated Ziploc bag.

    I look forward to reading other reader’s comments and how they use Ziploc bags for their organizing.

  11. posted by Violet @ Clutter. Coffee. Chaos. on

    Great idea! I may have to try this system, especially since I’m in my car a lot.

    I love the giant ones- 12×12″ in a red box (not ZipLoc but I can’t think of the brand name)- for organizing scrapbooking projects. All the little receipts, momentos, and photos go into one bag until I have time to sit and scrap that page. Of course, I do have a pretty good sized pile of bags to be scrapped now, but at tleast the stuff is organized in the mean time!

  12. posted by Claudine on

    I’ve used the ziplock approach for most of my hobbies.

    For sewers, store the pattern envelope, pattern pieces, fabric clippings and notes in the ZLock.
    For fiber spinners, store a sample of the fiber, purchase info and resultant yarn in the ZLock.
    For painters, store all the ref photos and notes for the projected painting.

    The fact they are clear plastic makes searching a breeze.

  13. posted by judi on

    Besides travelling, I use them for crafts, art supplies and odd tools and the kids small toys and game parts that need to stay together. Thanks for the other ideas!

  14. posted by Mletta on

    We’ve used them to store receipts (and the elements of various “projects”) for years.

    It started when we ran out of various sized envelopes that we had used previously.

    The plastic is great because you can protect from water, moisture, critters, dust, etc. LOVE them.

    Of course, if you use in any quantity you want to be sure to buy in bulk at a discount.

    To the person who mentioned an iPhone: In the real world, even folks who have the money for the phone and the service, do not always find it useful for such things.

    Methinks people who buy iPhones and the service convince themselves that it can do everything to justify the cost!

    (Would I love it if all receipts could be easily and quickly scanned and stored? Of course, but seriously, we barely have time to sort/file. Let alone scan!)

  15. posted by heidi y on

    I use zip top bags ALOT now, especially with my 2 kids in school. It does help group things together, esp in my big-tote/purse. Over the summer I kept all our theme park passes/badges & coupons (for friends to come) in a zipped baggie. Anytime we wanted to go it was all together, and the kids even knew where to find it! And in the waterpark area, it always stayed dry! But I do think it is very helpful to group things, esp odd-shaped items which doesn’t always fit nicely in an envelope.

  16. posted by hmr on

    I use the ziplocs (or their equivalent) for small parts.pieces when working on a project or when moving. For instance, I put all the bolts from the bed into a ziploc and label it “Bed Bolts.” Then all of those miscellaneous baggies go into one large sturdy shopping bag which travels with me, not the movers. That way, as soon as I am ready to set something up, be it furniture or electronic equipment, I know all the parts are in one location.

    Last tip: I don’t use sharpie on the bag. Rather I use a label maker to mark the bags. Then later I can remove the label and reuse the bag for another project.

  17. posted by Morgan on

    @Erin – “A box of zip-top bags is less than $30.”

    You meant less than $3, I hope?

    I am using a similar system, and it’s great. The envelopes idea is fantastic. I’ll have to steal that one.

  18. posted by chacha1 on

    Great idea. I’ve been using zip baggies for years to organize craft supplies and finished work. It never occurred to me to use them for paperwork or trip-planning, but I can see it would be a very useful solution – better than my usual “binder clip on stack of paper” system. Fire Mountain Gems sells zip bags in lots of sizes, I’m going to look for a 9×12 size … .

  19. posted by DJ on

    I love this… I often jot down little notes and what-not on small pieces of paper. Transient things that I don’t need to keep forever or put into my permanent filing system.

    I’ve struggled to find a system of lists that works well to capture all of these “must ask X” or “must do Y” or “buy this one-off item” tasks, but find that lists don’t work, since I jot things on so many pieces of paper, wherever I am at the time, lest I forget them.

    What a brilliant idea, just bring the papers to the baggies.

  20. posted by Anita on

    Neat idea. I’ve been using zip top bags to organise my small supply of craft/beading stuff, as well as small electronics (e.g. mp3 player accessories, driver, warranty info and user’s manual in one bag).

    For lists and notes to myself, I prefer having a notebook. My Moleskine planner also has a notebook insert which I use to make non-”to do” lists, take notes etc. It’s small, always with me, and everything’s in one place.

    Finally, for small scraps of paper (receipts, random bits of paper with info scribbled on them, small souvenirs etc), my Moleskine also has a “filing pocket” that these things get stashed in until I get home and sort through them.

  21. posted by Kristine on

    Good Housekeeping just had an article about Jamie Lee Curtis, who has a “soup file” in her freezer–she freezes soup flat in Ziploc bags, then “files” it in a container in the freezer.

  22. posted by Gil on

    Excellent idea for small paper items. I’m considering this to store the few dvd’s I have left and just junk the cases.

    I do use them to store nails, screwws, tacks, etc in my workshop. Transparency and portability!

  23. posted by Cerrissa on

    Ziplocs are the best! You can see what’s in them without having to open a file or envelope and protects them getting wet or spilled on by stuff hanging out in the same bag. When looking at apartments I kept all my documents, realtors cards, applications in a gallon sized bag with me at all times. and now i just have to throw that into the file. The zipper can get annoying if you are in and out of it all the time. for this reason i’ve started using plastic document sleeves that would normally go into a binder in my tote bag separating all my documents, cards, to do lists, paint & fabric samples, and coupons.

  24. posted by Rebecca on

    Oh, Ziplock baggies, how I love you, let me count the ways . . .

    I use them to keep our manuals and warranties in place for items we own. Each has its own bag, washer, dryer, tv, tools, etc so I can find it easily.

    I also keep our tax returns in 2 gallon size bags, one per year to keep everything in one spot.

    In the car I have a small bin with a bag for each child, containing diapers, wipes, a full change of clothing and anything else, like water or a bottle that the child may need. Along with an emergency kit and a few snacks and a blanket, this lives in my trunk all year long. It makes our diaper bag much smaller, and we are always prepared for those accidents or emergencies. Because if I have it, we won’t need it, but if I don’t have it along, someone will need it. Never fails.

    My kids esp love the slider bags. The boxes their games and puzzles wear out so fast, so when they do I take all the pieces and put them in a big slider bag, and cut out the cover picture so you can tell which game it is. The bags are stacked in a box at kid level. Works for puzzles too.

  25. posted by Jon on

    @ Erin Doland

    Obviously an iPhone or equivalent is not for everyone. However, if you’ve already invested in one for use as a phone or any of its hundreds of other uses (through the use of Apps) then there’s no reason not to leverage your purchase with yet another app.

    For the organization of physical and tangible things like coupons and the like, clearly re-sealable bags are the way to go. No pun intended.

  26. posted by Rae on

    @Morgan – “You meant less than $3, I hope?”

    She mentioned a year’s cost of an iPhone and contract, so I’d imagine she was recounting a year’s worth of plastic baggies.

  27. posted by Amber on

    If people are using $30 worth of quart-size plastic baggies every year for this system, then it’s a ridiculous system and and devastating to the environment. I, too, hope Erin meant $3, as the bags can certainly be reused, no? Especially as Arnette described, by labeling an envelope within the bag and not the bag itself.

    Interesting system. I’m going to suggest it to a friend of mine who owns over 20 rental properties and often has to keep receipts together with keys, utility bills, and other stuff that doesn’t work well electronically or in a paper file.

  28. posted by Klyla on

    I use the really big zip loc bags to store each of my hats. Lined up on a closet shelf they don’t get dusty at all. Red hatters, take note!

  29. posted by Pammyfay on

    From the really large Ziploc bags (for storing spare pillows) to the small ones (screws in one, nails in another, all my 3M Command hooks and extra adhesive strips in another, picture-hanging supplies in another, etc.), the zip-top bags–as long as you buy ones you are secure in knowing that they ARE sealed when you do that–are great tools for the entire home, not just food storage.

    Great idea for the receipts/coupons. I hate it when I reach into my purse and realize that the coupon is torn or the receipt is raggedy. At one time, I used a smallish zip-top pencil pouch. But “clear” is better than not!

  30. Avatar of

    posted by Sky on

    LOVE these ideas! I use a small Ziploc in my purse for make-up. It’s easier to see what I want.
    When I take something apart, I put the small pieces (screws, nails, etc.) in a Ziploc and staple the bag to the largest piece.

  31. posted by Sharon on

    Someone needs to invent something that melds a ziploc with a file folder. Because it’s really just a closeable file folder.

    I keep a ziploc in my purse and put receipts there so they don’t clutter my wallet.

  32. posted by Kathy on

    I use ziplocs to put assorted audio/visual/ computer type wires, connectors, extension cords, hdtv cords, adaptors, power cords and assorted wirery from my son’s video games. I have a rubbermaid container full of these. Whenever I need a usb or a power cord or phone cord I just got to the container. Much of it goes to electronics– pda’s, phones, radios. This keeps them from getting tangled. I put like with like. Some are in sandwich bag size, others in quart size.

  33. posted by Malena on

    Awesome – zip lock bags are one of the most used tools we have! When I carried a larger purse I would use a strong clear envelope from The Container Store and stash all of my receipts there to keep down the clutter. I’m prone to losing things, so I only cleaned out the envelope every 3 week so – invariably I’d need to return something, so I just needed to go there for the receipt. I also used one for coupons so I had them on me at all times.

    When my kids were small and were going to stay at their grandparents for a few days, I would use the gallon size bags and put a clean change of clothes in each one – underwear, everything. It made keeping the suitcase neat a lot easier, and no one had to think about what to wear with what.

  34. posted by Karla on

    I do something that sounds similar to Kathy–plastic bin for bathroom supplies, with samples organized in ziploc “files–” hair, face and teeth, body. And one travel-ready compilation with a few days’ worth of shampoo/conditioner, moisturizer, lotion, etc. that I can grab when packing for a trip.

  35. posted by Erin on

    I love ziplocs! I’ve used them for years for earrings – it’s the only way I’ve found to keep them untangled and keeps the pair together. I love pouring out my little box of earrings and being able to see everything at once, and all together. So easy to find exactly what I want! I also recently decided to use this for my lingerie collection – all my bras and knickers that match, I pop in an oversize zip loc, so again I can go through and see exactly what I have, what I want to wear, and I know the bra and knickers are in the same place – fantastic!

  36. posted by Dawn in NJ on

    As a scrapbooker, I use a ziplock system to keep track of my vacation memorabilia. I use one bag per day, and throw all my brochures, local maps, receipts, postcards, and small purchased nicknacks in the bag. I also tend to journal my trips, so when I get home, I print out each day of journaling and throw that in the bag too. Then when I’m ready to scrpbook my vacation, I have each day well organized, and I could even toss photos in the bag if I wanted to, to keep literally everything I need for those layouts in one bag per day!

  37. posted by Robyn on

    Also great for storing spare parts for assembled furniture and those little random tools they give you (hex keys, etc). After assemby I throw the leftover bits in a ziplock, label it and keep them all together in a plastic file storage box. So if I need to disassemble something later or need a spare screw, I can find it.

  38. posted by Wendy on

    Make a travel scrapbook for kids.

    Take a handful of Ziploc bags, punch two holes in the bottom of each bag and insert between a piece of folded paper cut slightly bigger then the bags and tie together with yarn or ribbon. The kids can decorate the covers.

    The kids can fill the bags with mementos from their trip.

  39. posted by JessieJack on

    @ Rebecca – I also use the 2 gal ziplocks for each year’s tax returns- so easy!

  40. posted by Ruthcarol on

    This is a great idea for those without hoarding tendencies…my 83 year monthe uses baggies and has perhaps 50 Xerox boxes full of baggies with clippings and articles, notes, coupons. All in storage, left for me to deal with. Remember to sort and discard your baggies.

  41. posted by Sabrina Mix on

    I think post-its in an appointment book will work better.

    For me it works!

    xoxo

  42. posted by Manja on

    What a brilliant idea! I planted new trees and shrubs in my garden, and wondered how to store the tags that belonged to them. Now I know! Off to the kitchen for a Ziploc bag.

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