Your file cabinet is the core of your paper management system — it can make or break all your other good efforts to get organized. How do your files measure up? Can you find any document in seconds? If not, try this customizable and entirely scalable system for personal or business files.
find a good filing cabinet
check to see how easily the drawers slide when full
make sure there are rails for supporting hanging files
more flexibility if drawers can hold letter and legal files
lateral file drawers hold paper more efficiently
if you prefer open storage use file crates on book shelves
hanging file folders — letter or legal
manila interior file folders– letter or legal
1/5 cut plastic tabs for hanging files
adhesive labels or label maker for manila folders
take any pile of papers — start sorting it into broad filing categories
ex: “financial paperwork” or “car” or “insurance”
then divide each large category into smaller subcategories
ex: within “insurance” would be “car”, “homeowners”, “medical”, etc.
you want your file labels to uniquely express how you view your files
but your labels also need to make sense so no one has to guess what is stored where
start with a noun rather than an adjective — not “past clients” but “clients: past”
move from general (“clients”) to specific (“past”)
files with the same prefix will be together alphabetically in the drawer
try to avoid vague and nebulous categories like “miscellaneous” or “other”
99% of the time, you can think of a specific category that encompasses that document
use a different color folder or tab for each section of files
ex: all “financial” folders are green or have a green label
color-coding makes it easier to find the file you need quickly
run down the row of major categories until you find the right one
ex: if hunting your Visa bill, you would look for “credit cards” or “finances”
then slide over to the appropriate color-coded subcategories
make things even easier with a file index that lists categories in alphabetical order
color-coding makes it easier to put folders back in the right place — find the right color section
remember that your filing system is dynamic and ever-changing
as interests and responsibilities change, so should your filing system
don’t be afraid to abandon a category if you don’t use it anymore
don’t hesitate to add a new category if you need it
consolidate folders that seem to go together under one larger heading
split categories up into smaller pieces if your folders get too stuffed
set aside time once a year to purge obsolete information from your filesClick here for reuse options!
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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and RamonaCreel.com.
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