Welcome to Mission #9 of our 52 Get Organized Missions.
If home office organization is the bane of your life, you’re going to love this mission! One of the main causes of a disorganized workspace is paper accumulation – which usually happens because the filing system is over-complicated or non-existent.
If you’ve completed our previous mission Get Organized Mission #8: Declutter 50 Items you must be pretty pleased with yourself! Let’s now tackle your home office.
So in this Get Organized Mission we’re going to create a super-simple filing system – one that makes it easy to put papers away, and also gives you confidence that you’ll find things when you need them.
Remember – you only need 30 minutes for the basic mission. Extended Options are below. If you’re new, check out 52 Organizing Missions.
Get Organized Mission #9: Filing System Nirvana
Our filing system is going to have 5 macro-categories – overarching, top-level categories – as well as a number of sub-categories under each macro-category. The macro-categories are little team captains, each with their team of sub-category members.
Step 1: Create Visual Filing Cues
Your fist step is to decide how you want to separate your 5 macro-categories. This is an important step, because having easy visual cues will make filing and retrieval quick and easy.
I use hanging suspension files for macro-categories and file folders for sub categories. I also color-code my folders – so each folder in a particular macro-category has the same color – that way each ‘team’ stays together in their suspension file and with a team color to unite them.
Other ways to easily distinguish macro-categories and clearly identify your filing teams include:
- Inserting a colored divider between macro-categories
- Using larger labels or stronger lettering for macro-categories headings
- Using colored markers to create color-coded labels
The enemy of action is perfection, so I suggest you keep it simple for now and upgrade your system later if you want.
Step 2: Label
Your next step is to grab a pile of folders and start labeling.
Turn folders over or inside out if you don’t have fresh ones at hand. Use post-its if you don’t have labels. If you want to make a trip to OfficeMax later that’s fine, but right now we’ve got 30 minutes and we’re going to need them to set up the baseline version of your filing system up – so no distractions!
Here are the labels and hierarchy (macro- and sub-categories) I suggest for general home organization:
- Home & Car
- Property Documents
- Bank Accounts
- Credit Cards
- Personal Loans
- [Spouse: __________]
- [Child 1: __________]
- [Child 2: __________]
- [Child 3: __________], etc
Here are the labels and hierarchy I suggest for a home-based business:
- Current Projects
- Project A: ____________
- Project B: ____________
- Project C: ____________, etc
- Pending (Waiting on someone else)
- Personal (Business-related personal items)
- Archive (Keeping for reference)
And there you have your simple, easy-to-file, easy-to-find filing system!
Initially, it might take a little while to get your papers into their new homes. But from then, you’ll find it a breeze to keep your filing up-to-date.
Dos & Don’ts
- Don’t add a ‘miscellaneous’ category. This isn’t (only) because the word is hard to spell. It’s also because it’s too easy to throw things into a general category – and that makes retrieval difficult. It becomes a default lack-of filing system.
- Do stick to as few categories as possible – it keeps filing and retrieving simple.
- Do customize the hierarchy – add, subtract or change the macro- and sub-categories to make them work for you. But keep the descriptions short and clear.
Extended Organizing Mission Options
Want to go beyond this 30-minute organizing mission?
- Make your system pretty – with color-coded folders, attractive labels, the works!
- Ask your kids what they’d like to keep in their file, and start them on the habit of filing important papers they want to keep.
- Take the opportunity to detox your filing cabinet – shred or recycle any paperwork you no longer need.
Ready, Set, Go!
Remember – move quickly, act fast, don’t overthink.
Before You Go – Please Check In
You’re now accountable to your organizing mission-mates! Once you’ve completed this week’s Get Organized Mission please add a comment to let us know you’ve done your assignment and you’re keeping your commitment.
And see you back here next week!
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Click here to sign up for 52 Organizing Missions.
Image by Kasaa