Get Organized Mission #9: Filing System Nirvana

Get Organized Mission #9: Filing System Nirvana

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!

Home Organization

Here are the labels and hierarchy (macro- and sub-categories) I suggest for general home organization:

  1. Home & Car
    • Property Documents
    • Insurance
    • Warranties
    • Car
  2. Medical
    • Health
    • Insurance
    • Medical
  3. Financial
    • Bank Accounts
    • Mortgage
    • Credit Cards
    • Investments
    • 401K/Superannuation
    • Personal Loans
  4. Utilities
    • Electricity
    • Water
    • Gas
    • Internet
    • Phone
    • Cable
  5. Family
    • Self
    • [Spouse:
      ]
    • [Child 1:
      ]
    • [Child 2:
      ]
    • [Child 3:
      ], etc

Home-Based Business

Here are the labels and hierarchy I suggest for a home-based business:

  1. Admin
    • Marketing
    • Accounting
    • Legal
  2. Current Projects
    • Project A:
      __
    • Project B:
      __
    • Project C:
      __, etc
  3. Pending (Waiting on someone else)
  4. Personal (Business-related personal items)
  5. 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 cabinetshred 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!

UPDATE:

You can now get your weekly organizing mission delivered to your inbox.
Click here to sign up for 52 Organizing Missions.

Image by Kasaa

Michele | Get Organized Gal

Michele is into writing, books, simplicity, love, TV, productivity, and staying thin in a world of chocolate.

40 thoughts on “Get Organized Mission #9: Filing System Nirvana

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  3. Sylvia says:

    This was great! I love the idea of the teams, now that they are my “friends”, I’m more interested in taking care of them and giving them what they need. I haven’t had time to start the home office side; just the home took over an hour but so well worth it! Thank You!

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  6. Jenny says:

    I have a lovely little miniature filing cabinet from the 1960s and I haven’t used it since I moved into my new flat. Now in use! Got things a bit more organised. More to do on this one – always – I am a terrible paper hoarder. Might try and have a once a month gather up of all loose papers around the house and sit on the floor by the filing cabinet filing – or preferably CHUCKING!

  7. Connie says:

    Whew! Was that ever overdue!! But it’s done now, thank goodness. Would you believe I found items from 2002 in there??? It feels so good to have the hub of our existence in order – even if the rest of our house needs serious help!! But I know every inch of my home will have it’s moment in the sun, eventually. Thank you for your specificity, Michele. It is a blessing to this procrastinating perfectionist!

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