Paper seems to be the number one organizing challenge for most people. Think about it. Paper enters our lives six days a week via the postman. Decisions are required on each piece of mail. For the pieces that aren’t immediately recycled or identified for shredding, further action is then required. Then there are the emails, paper-ish items you pick up when you’re out and about, schoolwork and artwork your children bring home. Are you nodding your head yet?
Even my most organized friends sometimes struggle with finding the right system or maintaining an existing system. Heck, even I don’t really enjoy filing. I may pile paid bills and other papers for several weeks until I feel like filing them — as utterly shocking as that may be.
I believe there are two things you need when it comes to having an organized office or office space:
1. A Simple File System (that works for you)
2. Commitment to using the File System
Filing isn’t just for putting papers away; it’s also for retrieval. Keeping it simple and not too complicated will make it so much easier for you to maintain and use your system. I like to use a series of tabs and corresponding file folder labels. Let’s use the category “Insurance” as an example. We all have at least one insurance policy and need to access it to pay a premium or file a claim. Create a tab labeled “Insurance” and file folders labeled with each type of policy you own (Auto, Life, Homeowners, Renters, Medical, etc). Each year clean out the file or files, keeping only the current policies and paid statements and shred the older versions.
Create your tabs with the Insurance model in mind. I have found that other typical “Tab” categories may include: Credit Cards, Medical, Travel, Auto, Utilities, Phones & Cable/Internet, Computers, etc. Go through all of your paperwork including monthly bills, insurance policies and other paperwork to identify the Tabs you need. Beyond the monthly bills you may wish to file articles to read/keep, restaurants to try, etc. The key is to create files that you can easily retrieve. The system can be as creative as you like as long as it works for you.
Having a filing cabinet or some facsimile is critical to keeping the files orderly and accessible.
There are so many options out there, depending upon your space and budget. If you work from home you may want to keep files on your desk for current projects. Some options include:
Another incentive for filing is to use some stylish file folders, boxes and other office products. Kinda like decorating your desk.
Obviously a lot of things can now be stored electronically, obviating the need for a paper file. I have found Pinterest to be a fun way to store everything from decorating ideas to recipes. You can either create your own pins or repin items found on other people’s boards. Once you pin something to your own board you simply click on that pin to go to original website. At that point you can either purchase the item, print the recipe, or get more information.
Once you’ve established a filing sytem make sure that you set aside time for filing. It may only take five minutes a week to do your filing so think about it as a break from doing something else. With a system in place you’ll be surprised how quickly you can find things and how quickly they can be stored. My clients who formerly were overwhelmed by paper, now easily maintain their filing systems and almost seem to enjoy the task!
At the end of year clean out your files and prepare any new files you need for the coming year. This is also a good way to pull what you need to prepare for tax season. Remember to shred items with open accounts (bank, investments, credit cards), your social security number and other personal data you wish to remain private.
Do you have filing sytem that works for you? What are your tricks and tips for keeping your papers in check?