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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Quick Tip...think broader

I am currently working with a client to reorganize their home office files.  They have a very busy and active life with several kids, a home business, pets and multiple homes.  Their "paper" life is quite full.

Just to make things interesting, I am actually working with them to re-do a filing system installed a couple of years ago by a different professional organizer.  Yes, this sometimes happens.  The filing system the organizer installed has turned out to be too complicated for the owners to keep up.  Too many files, too many headings, too much color coding - just too much.

So, in order to avoid the 1000 folders syndrome,  I am encouraging everyone to think in broader categories when filing.  Here's how it works...

First, divide your papers into its broadest categories, i.e., Pets, Banking, Insurance.

Then look at each of these groups of papers and decide how important it is to create a sub-pile, so if your major heading is Pets, do you really need to separate the papers by "Fluffy the cat" and "Rover the dog" - if you feel you need to, then create ONE folder for each animal - "Fluffy" and "Rover".  File all the papers for each animal in the appropriate folder and drop the folder into the PETS hanging file.

It is not necessary to create any other folders for these animals.  If you start making folders for "Fluffy - microchip", "Fluffy - insurance", "Fluffy - license", "Fluffy - grooming", "Fluffy - boarding", then you've just created too much filing detail.  A piece of paper will always show up that doesn't fall into any category you've created and you are forced to add another folder to the file just to cover that one piece of paper - when the broader category of Pets, simply holds everything that pertains to the pets.

The more folders you create, the more sub-categories you make, the more complicated filing becomes and the less likely you are to do it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Quick Tip... keep it close

Okay, so you cleaned out and organized your files.  You put the archived files in storage boxes and popped them into your neat and organized storage area.  Now what do you do with the files that are current/active?

Remember that your most valuable real estate is that which is at your eye level.  What you don't have to get a ladder to reach and what you don't have to bend over to get to.  It's everything in the middle.

So, keep those files that you access the most in the drawer of the file cabinet that is most easy for you to get to.  Keep files that pending on your desk in a vertical file sorter.  How easy is that!

This vertical holder is from See Jane Work.

This acrylic holder is from The Container Store

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Quick Tip... filing

Paper filing can be very confusing. Often we just don't know if we have to save something or not, so we end up putting it into a file and then, more often than not, we never look at it again.

As a professional organizer,I recommend keeping filing as simple as possible.  Files have only 2 categories for me, they are either Current/Active or Historical/Archived.

Current/Active files are those kept closest to you, on hand and available for your quick retrieval.  Historical/Archived are files in storage or furthest away from you.  You are keeping this material because you are required to by law or because it is of value to your family.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Do one out files

At the beginning of each new year, I dedicate time to organize my home and office by clearing out the old, wherever I find it.  I am going to invite you along on this journey and encourage you to join me by working on the the same areas in your house.

The first post of each month this year will be called Do One Thing and I'll choose a different area to concentrate on.  We'll have one full month to work on that area.  Please keep me posted on your progress...

This month, we'll clear out and organize our files.  If this sounds like a big job, then just choose specific files or one drawer of file. Just do one thing for this month.

Admittedly, my files are not too cluttered.  But even I find that after a year of going in and out of drawers and searching for papers, the filing drawer needs some attention.

Supplies that may be needed:  hanging files, file folders, labels, an electronic labeler, stapler, storage boxes for archiving files and a shredder.

I start by pulling out one file at a time and going through it.  Note that I do not keep both a file folder and a hanging file for each subject.  I just use the hanging file to hold all my papers.  If a file has one or more division, I add file folders.  For example, I have 2 cats, so in my Cats hanging file, I have a dedicated folder for each of them.

Then a go about determining which papers within the file I need to keep on hand for the next year and which papers I can shred or archive.

My archive boxes represent things that I must keep by law, for taxes or because they have historical value to me.  My archive boxes are kept in my storage area.  Each archive box has a destroy date or SAVE label.   If you have a large amount of files to archive, numbering each box and keeping a record of what is in each archive box is a good idea.

As a professional organizer, I get asked all the time how long papers must be kept.  First, check with your tax professional.  You can also visit these sites: IRS , Consumer Reports .  Other records, like vital documents (birth certificates, etc.) should be kept forever.  Remember that if you own property, you want to keep improvements records until you sell the property.

You've a whole month, do as much as you can and try and have fun with it!
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