When we create new filing systems for our clients, we always recommend using 1/3 cut reinforced file folders inserted into a hanging file system. The reinforced file folders stand up to wear and tear so much longer than standard file folders, especially if you have an over-stuffed file cabinet where the files pop up and rub against the top when you open it :-/ The flimsy top of standard manilla files get tattered and torn quickly. The simple reinforcement allows the file folder to last much longer. If you’re going to go through the effort of updating your filing system, it’s worth spending a few extra dollars and purchasingreinforced file folders especially for files that you plan to keep for a long period of time.
We hear good reviews from our clients all the time. Karen, our office manager says her favorite part of the day is following up with clients and hearing them rave about our organizers and the services they provide. It’s extra special when a client goes out of their way to put it in writing. Thank you Joan K!
“The whole process was amazing. In three hours, my office was orderly and neat. I had the papers I needed to work on first organized and I had a clear idea of what I should do next. Candace has lot of suggestions on making things work the way I did so I could keep the office orderly going forward. She moved my desk and printer table so they were connected, something I would never have thought of and a much better solution for how I work. She was a delight to work with and I even had fun throwing away all the stuff I don’t need. I enthusiastically recommend Candace and Chaos to Order. Next will be the guest room closet!”
We recently received this question and I thought it would be good to address it on the blog because knowing how to properly store papers is essential to keeping desk and office space organized. We have always referred to our Record Retention Document as the standard for what to keep and then advise that your accountant would have the last word on your own personal matters. A paper copy of the most important documents is always a good option for long term record keeping, but the computer continues to progress as a terrific storage solution. Not only does it save an incredible amount of documents on small hardware such as a DVD or external drive, searching for something doesn’t have to involve crawling in a dark place with a flashlight, you can simply type in the key search words on your computer and viola–it appears!
If you’re going to store documents on your computer, the Fujitsu Scansnap would be a great companion. It makes getting papers out of piles and into computer files very quick and easy. But wait…once the document is scanned, what do you do? Throw it out? When I worked on the show, “Hoarding: Buried Alive”, I suggested that the client (a paper hoarder) scan all of his interesting articles so that he could walk in his house rather that crawling over the paper piles. He thought it was a great idea and we were all thrilled at his agreement to scanning. The problem was that once scanned, he still wasn’t willing to toss the papers! Don’t use scanning as just another place to hoard papers, once scanned you need to toss or shred the document.
As for what to store in file folders, I suggest that mail and papers that are transient be held in files. If you need access to them and have to work with them, they are better off staying on paper. If they are just a resource, you might want to consider the scan and toss option. If you’ve got papers piled, take some time to determine what the best storage system would be for your needs and then carve out some time to get the ball rolling. Of course, our professional organizers are always here to help!
January is the best time of year to revamp your filing system. It’s a new year, so you can start fresh and feel organized by paying some attention to those all-too-forgotten files. Any files that you create yearly will need to be re-created. For example, I create monthly files each year. Rather than having individual files for all of the different payments, I make January – December files each year and can quickly file all paid bills at once. At the end of the year, the files go into storage and new ones are created. I save my monthly files for 7 years, so each year I also remove the oldest box. Although monthly file tabs are great, they don’t work for everything, so you will need to update any other files you have.
If you are going to create new files, invest in good ones. I love the Reinforced Manilla file folders by Pendaflex. Files are kept for a long time, some are kept indefinitely and others 4-7 years–here’s our document retention schedule for tips on how long to keep specific papers. With the heavy use that some files get, it’s worth it to pay a little extra for good, reinforced tabs on top of the file. When your drawer gets stuffed and the files start to pop up and rub across the top of the drawer when you open it, the label part of the file folder can get tattered quickly. The reinforced files stay strong and last much longer. Take the time to revamp your file system (of course, our organizers are always here to help you with fun projects like that) you will start the year off right, your tax preparer will thank you, your file drawer will no longer look like a bomb went off in it, and you will certainly feel more organized!
Today my Friday Favorite involves a personal story that relates to some recent computer nightmares we’ve had here in the office. On Monday morning Karen powered up the computer to a scary looking screen saying it needed to restart—in many languages— major sign of trouble. After restarting several times, I rushed off to the Apple Store only to be told that the hard drive had crashed. Well, I didn’t think of it as a very big problem because we have learned from past issues that it is vital to our business to have back up systems in place. So knowing we were well backed up, I opted to replace the hard drive and reinstall from our backup drive, only to learn that the files in the Time Machine backup drive had corrupted! Thankfully we just recently started a regular upload of our database to Dropbox. It was only because of the Dropbox backup that we were able to salvage our most critical data. We are hearing more and more about “cloud computing” these days and although many people feel that if they can’t see the back up source they’re afraid they can’t count on it. Today I’m here to tell you that Dropbox.com was the only source that pulled through for Chaos To Order and I am a fan. If you have critical data that is backed up locally, consider a second back up on Dropbox, I can’t tell you how glad I am that we did!
In order to have an organized space, you need to have a place to put all of the items you have. I have an 8 year old daughter who loves art, reading and playing with a multitude of “little” things. We moved into our house when she was two and the space was perfect for her then, but as she has grown, so has the accumulation of stuff!
Since I’m always talking to other people about how to put their own stuff in order, it was time for me to practice what I preach with my daughter. Her room seemed to be a sufficient in size, but the problem now was where to put things. Remember, if you want easy access and organization, everything needs a place to belong. Clean up time is a whole lot easier when you know exactly where to put things. So we decided to remove a dresser on one wall and replace it with a desk, but not just a desk because, after all, how much stuff is going to fit into three drawers of a little desk? I consulted with my friend and awesome designer at Closet Works—Sue Tinker. We decided to create a desk surrounded by bookshelves, not just for her books, but also for her many knick knacks and collectables. In addition to the desk, bookshelves and drawers, we also added space for a bulletin board to hang the most recent drawings and creations. The result was the desk in this photo, she and I both love it. My daughter now has the perfect place to sit and color, read, create etc… and I have the perfect storage solution to finally organize all of her “little” things!
Tax time is over, but now you’re wondering what to do with all of those old files, receipts and other sensitive documents. They take up needed space but throwing them out is not a good option. We’ve all heard the stories of theives rummaging through garbage cans and dumpsters looking for personal information to steal. If you buy a personal paper shredder it could take hours or even days to shred all of the papers. Looking for a better solution? Use a commercial paper shredding and recycling company like Shred Spot.
Shred Spot charges $.45 per pound for the first 100 pounds and $.35 per pound thereafter. The shredders they use are very powerful and can tear through staples, paper clips and binder clips, as well as cd’s, credit cards and floppy discs with no problem. All of the paper, cardboard and metals are recycled. Shredding companies take your shredded paper, mix it with other shredded paper (this also helps with security) and then bale it into 1,000 lb to 1,800 lb bales which are then returned to paper mills to be converted back into recycled paper. Each ton of paper recycled saves 17 trees!
Shred Spot can take care of all of your document destruction needs. You can drop off papers at their Northbrook location and see them get shredded or they can pick up at your location (north side of Chicago through the north shore and northwest suburbs) for a $25.00 fee. Just call (847)291-0100 for an appointment. They are open 9:00-5:00 Monday through Friday and Saturdays by appointment but please call first. Don’t forget that no matter the color of your papers, the shreds are always green!
For our clients in the Atlanta area, we recommend I-Shred
Here’s another product I found last week at the conference for the National Association of Professional Organizers that I think is great. “Viewables” Color Labeling System. This “Viewable” file labeling system by Smead really stands up to its name because you can read them from the front, top or back! They are great in a file drawer that holds hanging files close together. Most of the file systems we create for our clients use hanging file folders as the category and reinforced 1/3 cut manilla file folders inside for the sub-category. They work fine when used like this, but they work even better when you have many categories for the hanging files close together. The matching file folder labels look great too. But they don’t just look great, they are also very customizable. You can create tons different colors and fonts with the software (included, but PC only). You can also get refills and reprint when you need more. Smead products are available at Staples and are great for good looking, long lasting, organized filing.
Very soon the kids will be heading back to school and now is a great time to get organized. Before the start of the school year, it’s important to have your kids feeling prepared and ready for the year ahead. Go through their closet item by item (with them preferably), asses what their needs are and make purchases accordingly. It’s also a great time to organize the rest of the room: desk, bookshelves, cluttered corners etc… Make sure they not only have supplies ready to go to school, but also a good place to work at home with everything they need to get their homework done. August is the best time to purchase school supplies, stock up now for the year. Before shopping, gather all the school/office supplies you have lying around the house. Place them in a container and assess what you need from there. Avoid going to the store and purchasing before you know what you already have, this is how clutter is created! Remember to keep one item at the desk, and extras of that item in a container elsewhere. When you run out of something, you go to the container to refill. This can cut way down on clutter at any desk.
Not only is this a great time to get the kids organized, it’s also a great time of the year to do planning. Schedules are coming out for school and extra-curricular activities. Input all activities and schedules you receive into your calendar ASAP. Take a look at the calendar you are currently using. Is it working for you and for your family? If your writing so small that you can hardly see, it may be time to switch from a week at a glance to a daily calendar, or vice versa. Electronic calendars are great, if your kids have iPods, they can sync to your household calendar and contacts. if you use an electronic system, everyone can have the family schedule on hand. Re-asses what you’re using and make sure the system you have going into the school year will work for you.
It’s easier to keep up with the demands of school and all the related events when you’re organized. Get systems in place now, clear space for incoming backpacks, books and supplies. Good organization at home can lead to better learning in the classroom.
The key to being and staying organized is having good systems that work for you, not against you. Chaos ensues like crazy in my very busy household, but one of my favorite vices is my secret drawer. I have a 5″ deep drawer at my desk where I hide all of my current papers. As a business owner, wife, mother of three and community volunteer, paperwork abounds in the office–especially when I am out more than I am in!
Here’s how it works…When the mail comes and I am on my way out, it goes in my drawer. When I have to run out of the office and have papers strewn about my desk, I quickly file what I can, but what’s left goes into my drawer. When I come back to my desk, I know that what I was working on is in that drawer along with the mail and papers that need attention. This drawer is not a place where papers continue to pile up, it is only for the current stuff I’m working on that hasn’t yet landed in a file. When I have a few extra minutes, I always go to the drawer and clear out what I can. The secret is in the depth. I can’t stuff it full or it won’t function. If used properly, it’s a great way for your desk to be clear in the midst of the chaos of life!
This designated day presents the perfect opportunity to carve time out of your busy schedule to clear the clutter off your desk. Here are four tips to get you started:
Start with the papers right at your fingertips. It’s always best to start organizing with your most current papers. Gather them into a pile and start going through one sheet at a time.
Start Fresh. If your files are all over-crowded, get a file box and create new temporary files so papers can be put somewhere. Remember, everything needs it’s place. One of the biggest organizing mistakes is taking the time to go through papers and then just putting them into another pile!
Pare down on office supplies. Take a close look at how many pens, pencils, rolls of tape, sticky notes, etc. you have at your desk. Keeping too many supplies can add considerably to the clutter. Frequently do a supply check to refill or eliminate what you keep right at your desk.
3-Way Toss. Divide what you toss into three categories: Trash, Recycle and Shred. Make it easy to fling the papers into something with a wide opening. Quickly tossing can help cut down on the time the project will take.
Take time on this designated day to clean off your desk. You will be amazed how much more productive you can be if you spend time to focus on getting organized!