Filing cabinets 101

Hooray for a fully organized music collection and a synchronized portable music box!

Now to refresh the music on my mini player for exercising and I’m SET!  🙂

This morning I went to help the children’s pastor at my church organize her office some more.  We did the main part of her office the first time I went.  We did her file cabinet this time.  And next time we’ll hit the storage room.  She had a four-drawer file cabinet and was only effectively using one drawer.  All the other drawers were filled with information from the woman who held the office before she did–four years ago.

So we took it all out and sorted out what was actually usable and useful.  Information available on the internet?  Don’t need a paper copy.  Notes from 2004?  Not necessary.  Forms for the people working in the children’s section?  Put into a folder and easily accessible.

All in all, we recycled three trash-cans full of paper.  And then we got her curriculum folders set up, got the volunteer information sorted, got her conference information sorted and accessible.  She had one drawer in her desk filled with folders, too.  So of the 5 drawers available, she was using 2.  She’s now able to use all 5 of those, one of which is just for personal storage (purse, umbrella) and the others are all separated into folders so she can get into things and keep things easily filed and findable.

It was great!  I think it’s going to work out really well for her.

For anyone looking at trying to organize your folders, here’s a few tips for you:

  • LABEL ALL YOUR FOLDERS.  If you’re not doing this, you’re never going to be able to find anything and then what’s the point of filing it?
  • If you’re using hanging folders, put the tab on the front of the folder.  That way, when you go to find the folder, you can just pull the tab toward you and open the folder.  This is really effective for things that you do monthly, like bills.  Just slide the folder open, drop in the latest bill, and you’re done!  If you need to go back and find information, it’s all already in chronological order, with the most recent information at the front of the folder.
  • If you keep information that you only want to have on hand for a set length of time, separate it in sections that fit that period.  For example, if you want to keep 3 years of your bills (and, by the way, you don’t need to do this–I’ll come back some time and write a post about what is and isn’t important to save and for how long), separate each  year.  Put them in their own folders, put them in manila envelopes, put them in separate sections of a 3-ring binder, whatever works for you, just make it obvious when one year ends and the other begins.  This way, when you start a new year, you can pull out the papers from the dates furthest back without having to sort through.  Just pull and toss (shred, recycle, etc.).
  • Go through your folders every year.  Just skim through and check that the information is being put into the right folders, that the information isn’t obsolete, that things are looking like they should.  It’ll also refresh your memory about what you’re keeping and why.  None of this, “Oh!  I forgot I had that!  That’s important!”
  • If you keep important papers in your home–marriage license, death certificate, birth certificate, social security card, passport, any of those papers that are vital and would be difficult to replace in the case of fire or flooding, put them into a place where they are easy to grab in case of sudden evacuation.  Make sure that everyone in the house knows where to find them.

I was tempted to write that you try not to keep papers that aren’t really necessary, but that’s really up to you.  Mostly, it’s up to whether you can keep everything organized with everything you’re keeping.  If you can maintain several drawers filled with paper, finding what you need, not creating chaos with the amount you’re holding onto, then that’s great!  Knock yourself out!

But if you’re drowning and not able to find anything and not able to maintain any sort of system, then I would recommend trying to sort out what you don’t need to keep.  This article is a great place to start if you’re wondering what you should keep and what you can get rid of.  I highly recommend it.

Do you have anything that’s worked really well for you in your filing system?  Do you have any questions about how you could approach your filing differently?  Please leave a comment!

Happy filing!

One thought on “Filing cabinets 101”

  1. Oh, you are motivating me to get started on the file cabinet where we file our bills. I don’t think Dad has cleaned out the folders in years and years, and things are so tight that I can hardly get the new bills in the folders. He also has folders for things we don’t need mixed in with ones we do (a common habit of his..), which makes it even harder. Maybe I’ll get started now…

    Mom

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