One of the biggest clutter issues we all face is that pile of papers, invoices, bills, bank statements and receipts that are waiting to be filed. Dare I admit that even with a large desk and the best of intentions, the pile still threatens to take over and swallow the desk at times? Here are some tips to setup the filing system of your dreams and keep your desktop clear:
Before you begin filing, purge everything that’s too old or not worth saving, including warranties for items you no longer own, expired coupons, unopened junk mail.
Go digital! Receipt scanners are an amazing tool to help you keep all your necessary receipts stored digitally and reduce your filing time and storage needs. Scanners come with software to format and organize your digital documents.
Another way to cut down on the filing and save the forests is by going paperless - ask your financial institutions, utilities and recurring billers to send you invoices and statements by email. Pay bills online and save a stamp!
Provision for extra space. There are all sorts of papers that need to be saved inthe future.
So it is time to assess your filing cabinet. Do you even have one? If not, this might be the time to buy one. I’m talking a real, letter-size filing cabinet. It can be metal or wooden, rolling or stationary, tall or lateral…but try to avoid the plastic ones that provide only a tiny storage area and lose their shape over time.
Estimate the amount of paperwork to be filed and buy a file cabinet that will accommodate double the number of papers that you currently need to file. Keep in mind that more bank statements are coming your way during the year and will need a place to live.
How do I organize the hanging and manila folders? Great question!
One method to keep everything easily accessible is to allocate one manila folder per hanging folder. In the case of monthly bills and statements, get expandable hanging folders that allow the statements to stay in order by date.
As far as organizing your folders, try filing everything in alphabetical order and use colorful or decorative file folders; something that makes you happy when you open the drawer.
Another way that works well is to organize by categories and then by alphabetical order within a category. For example: Insurance: Car, Health, Homeowner’s, Life, Pet
Identify categories by using different color folders: Green for financial files, Red for insurance, Yellow for kids, Blue for legal, etc.
Do a little research about different systems: talk to other people, read organizing articles and then personalize it and make it your own.
Don’t mold yourself to a system you don’t like and won’t use as a result. Choose a system that you enjoy using and looking at and it will help you get in the habit of filing things where they belong.
Identify your files quickly: use a label maker and save yourself hours of frustration finding a file with a handwritten label. I like to use a large sans-serif font (such as Arial), all caps and bold. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like to squint and struggle to read the labels!
I’ve organized everything, now what?
Pick a date and set a recurring task on your calendar to file all the accumulated papers you have in your “To File” pile. Before you start filing, weed out anything unnecessary or out-of-date from the folders that are getting too big. This process can be once or twice a month, depending on the volume of paper that comes your way.
Congratulations are in order. Everything is nicely organized and put away in your filing cabinet. Sit back and marvel at the new, attractive system and enjoy some extra free time from now on!