One of the questions most frequently asked of a professional organizer is “How do I deal with the papers that need to be filed in my home?” An example is an email I received today from a lady asking for me for help with her filing. She stated that she had taken the day off to catch up on her filing at home, which was sitting in piles on her floor. When she emailed me, it was 6:00pm and she still hadn’t touched the filing. She told me she didn’t know where to start.
I suggested that she break the task into manageable bits and use a simple system. The easier the filing system, the less you will resist using it.
1. Buy a file cabinet. Having a filing cabinet that uses hanging folders is the first step toward managing your home files. Most families can file all their necessary papers in a two drawer file cabinet.
2. Choosing filing supplies. Buy a box of hanging file folders and a box of single file folders in your choice of colors. Choosing a color you like will make filing a bit easier.
3. Simple filing system.
* Sort papers in piles according to categories – for example, all health/medical related papers together, all insurance papers together, all warranties and manuals together, etc.
* Determine how many main categories you have and label a hanging folder tab for each.
* Hang your hanging folders in alphabetical order.
* Your sub-categories should be manila file folders inside the appropriate hanging folder. For example, a main category would be Insurance. Subcategories might be labeled Automobile insurance, Homeowners insurance, and Life Insurance.
* File the papers in the new folders and place in the appropriate categories.
4. Use the 15 minute method for filing maintenance. Once you have your filing system in place, maintaining your filing system will only take about 15 minutes once a week.
Beryl Westby is an organizing consultant.