not about putting things away!
I know, through asking my workshop participants, that paperwork is the one biggest clutter issue for people.
So let’s get it done, it’s actually easier – but very time consuming- than you think.
Filing is about retrieving. If you just want to put something away, consider the bin.
Just reflect on this: how many pieces of printed paper do you have that you never ever looked at again – after filing or after piling it?
All the cover letters, instruction manuals, paid bills, shopping dockets and junk mail flyers… The list is endless; whole categories that just don’t need filing – never!
If you know you will never read the school newsletter again, just don’t keep it. If you know you will never read the small print of the perks of your credit card, but ring the company directly to ask questions – don’t keep it.
If you know you will never find the instruction manual to the dishwasher and never need to read the one for the toaster – chuck it.
So when filing is about retrieving, organising your paperwork is about…
…where would I look for things and what name would that file/folder/box have?
Try this next time you look for something. Once you found the item/piece of paper, put it in the place you looked for first. This applies even more for electronic files. Highlight the file, cut it and paste it in the folder you looked in ½ an hour ago.
When naming files and categories, try to apply the same principal: If I need to find this, what name file would I look for!
It also sometimes helps to name files positive (health versus medical) and active (going away versus vacation).
Categories and sub categories and sub categories of sub categories:
Most people I know have far too many files and file to detailed. As a rule of thumb, the more you access a file – like information you need to find or file on a weekly basis, the more detailed the filing structure has to be.
The less likely you are to ever need the information – like the dockets in your yearly tax file – the less detailed you need to file.
There is nothing wrong in piling all your manuals in two boxes, labelled ‘manuals before kids’ and ‘manuals since kids’. If you really need one it will take a little while to find something, but you didn’t have to put much time into filing it away – and chances are high you will never look for it!
THINK about your filing infrastructure
Filing infrastructure are the containers and gadgets that keep together the pieces of paper we call files. See below for a couple of ideas (and I am sure you’ll find more at Officeworks)
Most of my customers inherit a filing cabinet from somewhere and start using it, never asking themselves whether it’s the right system for their personality and their type of files.
Glenda, an Organising colleague of mine aptly asks whether you are a “chucker” or a “tucker”
Chuckers love suspension filing, just open a drawer and fling it in. Or even better, pigeon holes!
Tuckers love lever arch files, punching holes and tucking everything nicely away.
Be very aware about the difference between what you want to be and what you really are!
Some files are better contained in binders; some are easier accessible in manila folders. Ask yourself and make a conscious decision.
And don’t put the benchmark too high. Just because you like the look of lever arch folders on a shelf, all nicely labelled and colour coded doesn’t mean you can maintain them. Did you know its 12 separate steps to file something in a lever arch folder compared to 4 for suspension filing? Choose a system that you can keep up with. There is no point in rows of beautiful folders from Kiki-K that sit empty on a shelf whilst piles of paper the size of our oldest son (1.89) are ‘stored’ on your desk.
Keep categories broad
It’s much quicker and easier to file something away in a car folder, than in a car folder with a mechanic receipts sub category.
It’s much easier to have a health folder per person where everything gets filed chronological (just the newest on top) than one for the whole family with tabs for all the illnesses and alignments! Here again, be aware of the rule that the more you access something the more detailed the filing structure and sub structure should be.
(Some) Office Infrastructure
Lever arch files are for often accessed and very detailed filing. Sub categories get created by inserting dividers . They are most people’s idea of filing heaven, but be very aware how much work it is to file one piece of paper away!
pigeon holes might not be as pretty, but it’s quick and easy to file something away.
suspension filing offers lots of possibilities – for the slimmer files. Once you get over one inch, they loose their shape. The hanging thingies on the left are meant to stay in the cabinet – you just take the manila folder in and out. They provide the possibility for sub categories . Label these with pencil for re use.
Clear tabs are your chance to label suspension files – or you create categories by placing the clear tab on the left for your files and on the right for your partners – for example!