When working with clients on getting their papers and documents organized, we like to get down to the root of the problem and understand why the paper is in such disarray. We usually notice right away that there isn’t a system put in place for keeping paperwork organized and secure. From health insurance papers to tax documents, making sure the important stuff is handy in a pinch saves so much time and stress. There are may different ways to organize paper, and figuring out what works for you and your space is going to pay off immensely in the end.
The fact is, for the things that really count, nothing beats keeping a hard copy on file. However, making sure you have these proper systems in place for your paperwork is what’s going to make it manageable. We highly suggest for everyone that they have some sort of filing system. This might be a file drawer(s), a portable file box, or something as simple as an accordion folder.
I feel like when we say “file cabinet” our minds go instantly to the classic (not pretty) file cabinet. Do you know what I’m talking about? Perhaps you have 1 or 2 in your home or office. We are here to tell you that file cabinets don’t have to be ugly and boring! One of our favorite file cabinet line is Poppin. They offer a sleek, stylish, modern design of file cabinets that we are drawn to. We usually use their White Rolling Stow 3-Drawer File Cabinet. This one features 2 small drawers and 1 large filing drawer. We love to keep files limited to 1 file drawer if possible and use the small drawers for tech and/or office supplies.
If there’s no need for an entire file cabinet, a portable file box might suffice. Our go-to file box is the Paper Bigso White Stockholm Desktop File Boxes. (@husbandofhorderly and I use these in our office and we have 1 for “work” and 1 for “personal”). We also love the Bigso Black Woodgrain Letter/Legal File Storage if you’re in need of something a little larger.
Now, it’s not only about the actual file cabinet but what’s INSIDE of the file cabinet. This is an important part of the system that you will be putting in place. What you will need are manilla folders and hanging file folders. (Tip: single positioned tabs are easier on the eye when organizing your files!).
How do I organize my paperwork?
Start by sorting and categorizing your paperwork. It doesn’t matter where you start – just start! Grab a handful of paper and first decide if it’s “keep or toss”. If you “keep” it, decide what category it should go under that makes sense to you (and where you would know where to go to find it later). A few examples: “Auto”, “Medical”, “Financial”, etc. (Tip: start with big categories and then get more detailed later on). Be sure to keep your categories clear by using Post-It’s to label your sorted piles. Every manilla folder should live in a hanging file. Use the hanging files to label large categories and use the manilla folders to create sub categories within the large category. For example: “Auto” (hanging file) “Chevy” and “Audi” (each in their own manilla folder within that hanging file).
Try to keep it limited to 3 or less categories at your desk. Some example categories to live on your desk are: “To-Do”, “Active”, “Incoming Mail”, “To-File”, etc. If you find that you aren’t filing your archive paper regularly, schedule a time in your calendar to do this once a week. Once you have your filing system in place, it’s important to go through this regularly (est. once or twice a year) to make sure old papers are always being filtered out.