Get Rid of That Pile! It's Time to File...
Six Questions to Ask When
True or False? Paper multiplies while you sleep.
Believe it or not, the answer is False. It doesn’t
reproduce in the middle of the night. It only seems like that’s the case...
If you’re looking to create order out of your piles, here are a few
ideas to help you get your papers organized:
Start out by taking ‘baby steps’—don’t try to tackle
an entire room, file cabinet or dining room table of papers in one day. Take fifteen minutes a day to start facing your abundance
of paper. Once you’re more comfortable with the process, increase the time to a half hour or more to put a dent in your
When tackling this project, have the following supplies on hand:
Banker’s Box or a Large Rubbermaid Container
Pick up one piece of paper at a time, skim it’s contents, and ask yourself the following questions:
1. What is this piece of paper?
Is it a bill? Your kid’s spelling test? The instruction booklet for the stereo?
2. Do I need this piece of paper?
If the answer is no, immediately throw it into your garbage bag. If it has your
name address or any financial information on it, rip it up or shred it before placing it in the bag. If the answer is yes,
continue to question #3.
3. If I needed this piece of paper, how would I find it again?
where your pencils, folders, and brain come into play. Let’s say you’ve just identified and decided to keep your
monthly bank statement. Take the statement and place it in a manila folder. Now, think for a moment...How should you label
the folder so you can find this paper again? If you only have statements from one bank, then take your pencil and write ‘Bank
Monthly Statement’ on the folder’s tab. If you have multiple bank accounts, you may want to separate the accounts
and label the folders ‘XYZ Bank-Monthly Statement’ and ‘ABC BankMonthly Statement.’ Label your
folders for retrieval, not storage purposes.
Now that you’ve started creating folders for all of your papers, you
might be wondering...
4. How do I organize all of these folders?
Repeat questions 1,2, and 3 until all papers have
a manila folder home. This may take you a weekend, a month, or the better part of a year depending upon how much paper you
have and how much time you devote to the project.
As you do this, you will see that your folders are falling into broad categories.
Examples of such categories are: Insurance, Warranties, Paid Bills, Investments, Home Improvements, Credit Cards, etc. Group
all ‘like folders’ together under a category that you create. For instance all 401K, mutual fund, stock folders
can be categorized under ‘Investments’ while Visa, Macy’s, and other credit card folders can be categorized
under ‘Credit Cards.’ Physically group the ‘like’ folders into their categories using a large surface
such as a dining room table, bed or floor.
Once you have discovered how many categories you have, select a color to
represent each category. Color coding is one of the most helpful ways to organize your papers. Some examples are:
Bills/Finances = Green
Medical = Red
Home = Blue
Personal = Yellow
Depending upon your budget, purchase colored hanging folders, colored folders and/or colored tabs for hanging folders.
If you already own standard green hanging folders, then just purchase colored folders and/or colored tabs to save some money.
Or, if you are on a very tight budget, a colored sticker (made by Avery) in the corner of the manila folder will suffice as
long as it is in full view.
Place labeled manila or colored folders in hanging folders and label the
plastic indexing tabs (that come with hanging folders) using a black marker or labelmaker. Place the folders in that category
in the hanging folder. If your folders are bulging with paper or you have many folders within a category, consider using a
box-bottom hanging folder. They have flat bottoms and come in 1", 2" and larger widths. Using these prevents folders and papers
from spilling out of the top of the hanging folder. Hanging folders with accordian pleated sides are another option for holding
multiple files .
5. Where should I keep these hanging files and folders?
As you fill and
label the colored folders and hanging files, place them by category/color in as many banker’s boxes or large Rubbermaid
containers as you find necessary.
The best place to eventually house your papers/folders is a file cabinet.
File cabinets come in many different sizes. The size of the one you purchase depends upon where in your home it will go and
how many folders you have.
6. What can I do to maintain my files?
• Create a temporary home
for new papers that need to be filed. This can be a basket or in-box placed on top of or next to your filing area.
• Devote time for filing. Spending a few minutes filing your papers
at the end of the day or week will prevent you from having to file for hours at the end of the month.
• Every six months take time to go through your files and throw out
papers you no longer need. If your filing needs have changed, create new categories (i.e. new baby, divorce, small business,
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