Filing is a task that is often thought of as drudgery. Taking the time to put papers away can be a hassle—but there’s no denying, it’s time well spent. Have you ever put off filing only to have piles start stacking up around you? Here are some tips to keep your files what they should be—an ongoing flexible resource for papers you will need future access to.
- Keep it simple. A basic filing system of manilla files and hanging folders work for great for most file drawers. It’s always easy to find replacement parts and as your files grow and change, the system remains flexible.
- Label to locate. Having your files labeled properly is the key to being able to retrieve documents quickly. Keep a labeler handy at your desk. It’s great for making quick file labels, not to mention many other types of labels at your fingertips. They’re inexpensive and worth the investment if you want to be organized.
- File according to use. If a frequently used file name starts with a Z, don’t alphabetize and put it at the back of the drawer. Place files used often in the most accessible place.
- Know what you have. It’s best to give your files a good once over one to two times per year. Pull out each file, look through the contents, toss what you can and move on. When your files are current, the drawer isn’t over stuffed and filing is easier.
- Keep files current. The file drawer at your desk should be for current file use only. Any long term files such as tax documents should be boxed, labeled and stored elsewhere. Check out our Records Retention Document for guidelines on how long to keep specific documents.
Remember, the reason it’s important to file is because it’s easier to find papers in a file than in a pile. Sifting through piles is time consuming and inefficient. Although it initially seems like more work, it actually takes more time to find something that hasn’t been filed.
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.
It’s the time of year to gather all of your 2012 data and get it ready for tax time. Rather than waiting until April 13th, start now by using a good plastic file crate to store all of your 2012 papers. Remove last year’s files and place them into the crate along with any tax documents or tax forms. When it’s time to process your taxes, you’ll feel so organized having everything contained in one place. I like to keep a plastic file box for each year. I keep seven years of file boxes in storage and rotate the oldest box. There is also an additional box for long term records like tax documents, mortgage documents and financial statements. If your wondering what papers you should keep in permanent storage, check out our Records Retention Document. If you want to get papers organized quickly into the container, try FasTab Hanging Folders from Smead. They have the label tab built right into the strong durable folder. If your still planning to make good on your New year’s resolution to get organized, start gathering those tax related papers and get them organized now!
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!
The month of December feels like it’s two months rolled into one. If you think about it, the amount of “extra” things we do in December is overwhelming. We do everything from holiday decorating to baking and parties to year end finances and needing to squeeze in those special holiday visits with friends and family. Work still has to get done, and sometimes at the end of the year there’s even a big push to also get extra work done–go figure! Here’s a little product that can help to keep your projects organized . The Project Organizer from Smead is a great place to keep papers from several different projects relating to one category. I particularly like the labels because you can create 10 different categories with labels all in one Project Organizer. There’s also plenty of space inside for notes and lists. It’s made with a durable cover and 2-ply tabs. If you’re on the go, it’s good to bring along. Check out the Smead Project Organizer and get your papers in their place!
If you’re in chaos and need to start a filing system from scratch, here’s a great option. The Stadium File Organizer from Smead is a nice, compact system that you can sit right out on your desk, dining room table or kitchen counter if you must :-/ and the stadium seating allows you to view files easily. There’s also a sheet of pre-made labels that come with it including: A-Z, Jan-Dec, 1-31 and various household subjects like “banking” and “receipts”.
We often work with clients who are overwhelmed by their stuff and don’t know where to begin, this handy organizer will allow you to get your files into categories and still keep them handy at your fingertips–for all you visual, must-have-it-reach filers. You can fit more than 900 sheets in the file, so if your a paper hoarder, you can have a little fun here. If you’ve moved beyond the basics with filing, this organizer is also great to use if you need to file something monthly or numerically. You can keep track of expenses by keeping all receipts in monthly files, or use it as a tickler file with the 1-31 pockets. There’s many ways to use this clever organizer, just make sure—as with any filing system—that you give it a regular once-over to keep it useful and current.
The end of summer is a great time to think about having your office organized and ready for the fall. For all you folks who can’t fit ALL you want to say on a file folder label, there is a new file folder by Smead called the SuperTab and it’s super cool. There is up to 90% more label space on the SuperTab file! You can see by the photo where they’ve added the space—why didn’t somebody think of this sooner! The tab sticks up a little higher, but you can still fit regular size paper and it will still fit in all standard file drawers. Now if you’re file drawers are stuffed full and files are already sticking up, you are going to need to clear out some space. You may want to consider adding box-bottom hanging files to fit more papers with less files. The space on the SuperTab file is so big, I use my Dymo LabelWriter to create address labels and crank out files with all kinds of headings. Given that my eyesight has gotten bad lately, I also love that I can use my Dymo file folder labels and just make the font extra large so I can see the labels without my glasses! If you have a terrific tip for organizing your office, Dymo is running a contest and you could win a free labeler! Here are the details: To enter: email your tip to: email@example.com Subject line: Dymo OR Go to their Facebook page and post a tip on the wall www.facebook.com/getbuttonedup. Happy filing!
Disclosure: This post was sponsored and Chaos To Order was compensated accordingly.
One of the most important parts of having organized paperwork is the willingness to file. Most people have an aversion to filing because they fear they will never see their papers again. At Chaos To Order we have had great success teaching our clients to at least get the ball rolling by creating temporary files. With these temporary files, no decisions are permanent and you can change labels and categories easily. We recommend 1/3 cut reinforced manilla file folders. Take a 3×3 sticky note and stick it to the label of the file folder. Using temporary files takes away that feeling of “I’m not sure if this is what I should call this” or “I will only need these papers until my meeting next week”. If you create a temporary file, it will at least get the file made. Often we get so caught up in how we are going to label or color code files that we never get to the papers and they stay in the pile! Start today, create some temporary files and you will reap the time-saving and organizational rewards of having your papers filed rather than piled!
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.
This week I am at the annual conference for the National Association of Professional Organizers in San Diego. It’s the place where everything organized happens. Professional organizers from all over the world meet up and the many products that help us organize are exhibited. There are many new and exciting products and ideas that I am learning about. The tote in the photo here is called LifeSTYLE File Tote. You can find it at www.jamieraquel.com. It holds standard letter-size hanging files in a very sturdy box form. It comes in seven colors and is very attractive looking, you don’t feel like your carrying around a file box (even though you are). Check them out, and stay tuned for more posts on organizing products I’m finding at the NAPO Conference.
These are a Chaos To Order staple that we have always used with our clients when helping them create new filing systems. Many people have hanging files in their file drawers, however, few know about the benefits of box bottom files. They come in 1/2″, 1″, 2″ and even 3″ sizes. You can get them in either letter or legal size, and they are perfect for files that need to house many papers. You can even put catalogs and booklets into them without the “pop up” you get from regular hanging folders. Another benefit is that if your file drawer is stuffed full, using box bottom hanging folders will actually help to save space because you need fewer folders. Be careful that you use the right size box bottom file, if it’s too large, you can loose space in the file drawer and the papers can also slump down. We prefer to only use what we have large categories for with the box bottoms and use regular hanging files for the rest. When creating your file system, we suggest you use the hanging file folders as the category and put manilla file folders inside of the hanging files for the sub-categories. This way your files are easy to update and rearrange. Happy filing!
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!
Of course there are many different ways to deal with the deluge of receipts that continually fill up your wallet and pockets, what’s the best way to organize them? That answer really is individual. When we work with a client who has “receipt clutter” we offer several suggestions, here’s a few:
File them. The good old fashioned way of storing receipts-file them away. However, it’s not necessary to save all receipts. Keep what you think you may need for returns, personal records or tax purposes – the rest can go. I use one main credit card and keep all the receipts in a convenient file. When the statement comes, I attach the receipts, pay the bill and file the statement with my monthly paid bills. I keep a file for each month, at year-end, they go into a bankers box and into long-term storage.
Stash them. You can also keep a convenient space inside a drawer to keep all of your current receipts. This way, when you empty your pockets/purse, there’s a place to put them. Be careful to make sure you clean out this spot frequently or it will be another source of chaos.
Scan them. Here is a terrific system that allows you to easily scan any receipt and organize it into a file system with the software that’s included. Check it out: http://bit.ly/4A1rhc
Toss them. When in doubt, throw it out. We don’t need every receipt for every purchase. Depending on how well you itemize and budget your spending, you can keep either very detailed records, or none at all!
This week is National Organize Your Files Week. So how do your files stack up? Are they getting crushed in the file drawer when you try to close it? Are they so stuffed that you can’t add another piece of paper? If so, this is the week to carve out some time to look through your file drawers to make sure there is enough space to continue adding papers. If you don’t weed-out your files from time to time, they will continue to get fat and clog up the drawers. All you need to do is grab a handful, and go through each piece of paper one by one. You will be amazed at how much is outdated and no longer needed. Don’t get overwhelmed by this process, grab only one section at a time. It’s good to have some empty file folders and sticky notes on hand to make any new temporary files that might be needed. If your files are thick and popping up, you may want to consider getting box bottom hanging file folders. They are great for categories that need to hold lots of papers. if you’re not sure of how long to keep something, check out our Records Retention Document. Of course, if you need an extra nudge in getting through the chaos, call the office and our organizers will certainly whip things into shape.
Today is April 15th, hopefully by now your taxes are filed and finished. Use today as an opportunity to weed out the old and make room for new files and papers. Get everything related to your 2008 taxes together and place them in a bankers box labeled 2008. Hopefully by now you have created 2009 folders and papers are accumulating in them. As you use the files and they grow through the year, you are going to need to make room for incoming papers. Getting 2008 out will open up some needed space. I suggest archiving the past 7 years paperwork in bankers boxes. After 7 years, throw away all of the documentation and keep only the tax return. For specifics on what to keep and what to toss check out our Records Retention Schedule. Spending time on having a good system to keep the paper flowing is a worthwhile investment. When papers have a lifespan and you know how the system flows, it’s so much easier to find what you need when you need it.