Common Home Filing System Mistakes and Their Solutions
An office or home filing system isn't really about storing your pieces of paper. Getting that paper clutter off of your floor or off of your desktop is just a "neat" bonus. An office or home filing system is about being able to retrieve those pieces of paper at a moments notice. It's easy to move or store items.
The tricky part is moving those items into a storage space using a sensible method. And sensible means avoiding these nine missteps when creating your home filing system:.MISSTEP #1: Not planning your home file system before you start filing.SOLUTION: Sort the papers on your desktop and elsewhere into categories (e.g.
home improvements, rebates, invoices, etc.). You can't decide what filing categories you need, what type of file furniture you need or how much space you need for that file furniture until you know what papers you need to file. And you also may need to sort by active, semi-active and inactive files if you have a lot of paper because the inactive files can be kept separate from the active and semi-active files.MISSTEP #2: Copying someone else's file system exactly.
SOLUTION: Use someone else's file system---but personalize it. Two people won't necessarily have the same type or categories of files, the same amount of space for file storage, etc. Use the general guidelines of a filing system but finetune the elements of it so that it suits your needs.MISSTEP #3: Using labels on your file folders with titles that mean nothing to you.
SOLUTION: Instead of writing "brand x, model y, serial number z appliance manual", just write "appliances-kitchen-dishwasher", "appliances-kitchen-stove", etc. Got several autos in your family? How about writing "auto-insurance-Jane's", "auto-insurance-Bob's" or "auto-insurance-Camry" and "auto-insurance-Explorer". You have to be able to easily retrieve your file folders. So don't label them with official sounding names but rather with titles that mean something to "you".
MISSTEP #4: Filing papers you don't need to file.SOLUTION: Ask "do I need to keep this". For instance, if it's a bank statement, some organizational experts suggest one year as the keep limit and others suggest longer.
Check with your own CPA or advisor about which financial papers you must keep for how long. Also, ask yourself "can I find the same information again elsewhere at anytime". With the onset of the Web the answer to that question is quickly becoming yes time and again. Ask "will it be outdated when I need it".
If it's research on the latest technological gadget, yes, it will be outdated in six months from now. Oh.and the best place to file papers that contain personal information and that you don't need to keep is in your trash by way of your cross-cut shredder.MISSTEP #5: Using file furniture that isn't functional.SOLUTION: Trying to stuff more file folders into an already overstuffed file cabinet doesn't work.
In fact, you'll probably get a paper cut while doing so! And stuffed file drawers certainly don't make for easy file retrieval. Perhaps it's time to buy two four-drawer vertical file cabinets to replace those two two-drawer vertical file cabinets that you currently own. You'll use the same horizontal space.
MISSTEP #6: Putting files in inconvenient places.SOLUTION: Active files needs to be forefront. Semi-active files need to be secondary and nearby. Inactive files need to be archived. File furniture for active files and semi-active files needs to be close and in reach literally.
You're not going to walk into another room every time you need to file a piece of paper. You're going to pile it. But you won't pile it if your file furniture is conveniently accessible.
If you can swerve around in your chair to reach your file cabinet, all the better. But walking a few steps across the same room is okay too.MISSTEP #7: Procrastinating on your filing chores.SOLUTION: Paper piles never get smaller by themselves. They just don't! Piles of files only grow.
You must make time to file or follow a system for when to file. For example, have a shallow file to-do box. When it reaches the top, you file. Or perhaps you want to start making it a habit to file (or discard) paper as soon as you touch it once (or twice even).
Or maybe you want to file for 30 minutes every Saturday morning. Pick a filing routine and stick to it.MISSTEP #8: Not purging files annually.SOLUTION: A file that you need to keep now may grow outdated in a few years for any number of reasons (e.g.
the law no longer requires you to keep it past X years; you're no longer interested in that type of information; you can now find the same information, or better information, elsewhere; or the information itself is out-of-date and therefore useless).MISSTEP #9: Making your file system too complicated.SOLUTION: Convenience is the name of the filing game. Make your home filing system easy to maintain and you will do so. Don't read about some convoluted file system and then try to implement it.
If the directions are too hard to follow for creating your filing system, imagine trying to utilize this home filing system year-round. Keep your home filing system simple to use and simple to remember how to use..
Karen Fritscher-Porter publishes http://www.how-to-file.com, a website with all the informational answers and file products that meet your home filing system needs. Start clearing your paper clutter today!.
By: Karen Fritscher-Porter
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