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Spring Cleaning Your File Cabinet

As Published In Smead Organomics
Spring Cleaning Your File Cabinet

Publicity -- Smead Organomics

Spring cleaning isn’t just for home — and it isn’t just for spring, either! Your home and office filing systems need the occasional organizational deep-clean, just like your kitchen cabinets and closets.

Clear Out The Clutter

Your filing system is a lot like your junk drawer. Every time you find a reference item that you think might be useful, you stick it in the drawer — some of those documents come in handy later on, others just take up space. Every once in a while, you have to clear the decks and start fresh with your paper storage (otherwise your folders become overstuffed and unmanageable). So let’s begin!

To start spring cleaning your office, empty every folder out of your file drawer and ask if that category is still meaningful and relevant to your life — keeping in mind that completed projects, old client files, and obsolete reference topics may be able to go away. Then sort through each “keeper” folder, cleaning out unnecessary/outdated paperwork. Only current and relevant documents should reside in your active files — if you don’t use it all the time (but may possibly refer to that information again in the future), place the item in your archive files. If not (and there is no legal reason for you to keep it), toss or shred.

A New Coat Of Paint

While you’ve got your file system emptied, take a minute to look at your supplies and see if they pass muster. Are your folders getting old and raggedy? It might be time to swap them for new, clean files. Are your labels a mess? Too many cross-outs and write-overs make it hard to find the folder you need — get some fresh labels and neatly type or print the correct title for each. Are your filing cabinets dysfunctional, with dented and hard-to-open drawers? If you have to fight with your equipment, consider a replacement.

Also examine your naming convention, double-checking to see that your files are labeled in a way that makes sense. The goal is to start each file with the larger category to which it belongs (“utilities”) — then add a descriptor that lets you know exactly what paperwork that folder contains (“utilities: water” or “utilities: electric”) — moving from general to more specific. Color-coding your files and/or labels is another great way to distinguish categories of files from one another.

Put It All Back In Order

Finally, it’s time to get each document back in its home. Once you have all of your file folders labeled and placed in the drawer, look around and see if there are any loose piles of paper sitting out — on a desk, shelf, or credenza. Go through each stack and clear out the junk (following the guidelines in our first step above) — then file those papers in your existing categories. By the time you’re done, every document should have a logical home. And if you missed “spring” this year, don’t worry — you can clean up your paper management act any time you need to. Don’t put it off until next year!

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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

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