Filing and managing paperwork doesn’t have to be horrible! It becomes an issue when it’s neglected over a long period of time and then one’s filing cabinet becomes full of irrelevant information. What exactly does that mean? Well, by now, we’ve all heard the statistic that 80% of what we file we NEVER look at again. So I say, why bother filing it?! Okay, so we do need to hang onto some paperwork, but it doesn’t need to take over our office and our life. Here are three simple steps to accomplishing this task:
1. Create files for “relevant” paperwork. That would include Utilities, Insurance, Mortgage, Taxes, Medical, Frequent Flyer Information, etc. Don’t overload your filing cabinet with out-of-date, “irrelevant” articles and paperwork that you might need. The filing cabinet is NOT a place for paperwork that requires a DECISION. Make a decision before filing it!
2. Consider NOT filing the hard copy if you can duplicate a piece of paperwork easily. For example, a detailed phone bill that’s available to you online or the countless articles you’ve saved but will likely never read before something more current is published online. Make friends with Google and bookmarking pages you intend to read.
3. Of course, you want to keep hard copies of Insurance Policies and Mortgage Papers. Click here for a complete list of Important Papers that should be kept in a fireproof safe, which can be purchased for less than $50 at an Office Supply Store.
Keep it simple: Set up your filing system with hanging files as the main category and third-cut manila folders for the sub-categories. That way, when it comes time to purge the prior year’s paperwork, you simply pull the manila folder, place it in a Bankers Box, label the box, and archive it. There’s no reason to save PAID Utility Bills from 2007 in your existing filing cabinet! In fact, once your taxes are complete and you’ve taken the home office deduction (if it applies to you), unless you want to compare from year-to-year, shred the utility bills to save space.
What you Need to set up a filing system:
3. A very LARGE trash bag (Hefty, Hefty, Hefty)
4. Half a dozen Bankers Boxes
5. Box of colorful hanging folders (you could use the army green, but make it fun–use color!) and a box of third-cut manila insert folders.
6. Vinyl Tabs (3.5 inch) for labeling folders (avoid using the ones that come in the hanging box…they’re too small and tend to fall off the file folders too easily).
You’ll be surprised at how much paperwork you actually no longer need. Follow the tried-and-true method of FILE, ACT, TOSS. Those are the three main categories paperwork fall into. The ACT items go on a To Do List. The “File” items are what you’ll place in the filing cabinet. And the TOSS will lighten your load tremendously! Click here for a complete list of What to Keep & What to Toss.
For more detailed information, get The Organized Mom. There’s an entire chapter on organizing your office that contains step-by-step on setting up a filing system, as well as a simple system for handling paperwork that requires ACTION!