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Organizing Office Files

How to Set up Your Filing System

When organizing office files, not only are the right tools essential, but having a successful filing system is critcal. You keep papers for reference whether it is needed "now" or "just in case" you want it later. However, no one can live with papers scattered everywhere.

Since 80% of material filed away is never looked at again, be discriminating about what you file. Ask yourself:

  • Can I get this information somewhere else if I need it?
  • Will I have any future need for this information?
  • Can I live without it?
  • Do I already have this filed somewhere else?

Invest in a Good Filing Cabinet

organizing office files is easy with a step-by-step system from Ann NagelYou’ll use it for the rest of your life. Make sure it’s sturdy and that the drawers open all the way and close smoothly. Keep in mind that when the drawers are full, they’ll be much harder to open than when they’re empty.

Supplies Needed

Make sure you have plenty of the following:

  • file folders (I like the “3 tab position” variety)
  • hanging folders
  • labels (or label maker)
  • plastic tabs
  • large black trash bags
  • paper clips
  • highlighters
  • post-it notes
  • stapler
  • red ink pen (for any notes you need to make on your papers)

Sort – The Foundation of a Good Filing System

Sorting is always the first step. Just start with the first piece of paper on top of the pile and keep digging your way down.

learn how to organize office filesGroup similar or like tasks and papers together and separate them into categories that will be easy for you to remember. Use post-it notes to label the piles.

Be sure to keep business files and personal files in separate drawers or cabinets. And in business, group your files by type. For example, keep your customer files separate from your product files.

To keep from feeling overwhelmed, set a timer for 30 minutes to work on your filing. You may have categories and subcategories such as:

  • Car (Repairs, DMV, Titles)
  • Credit Cards (Chase, Capital One, Airlines)
  • Insurance (Life, Health, Car, Home)
  • Medical (Doctor, Dentist, Chiropractor)
  • Owner's Manuals (Appliances, Computer, Electronics, Outdoor Equipment)
  • Pay Stubs (Husband’s Name, Wife’s Name)
  • Telephone (Land-Line, Cell)
  • Utilities (Electric, Gas, Refuse, Sewer, Water)


Be sure to alphabetize the MAIN categories first. That way all of your hanging file folders will be in alphabetical order. Then alphabetize the sub-categories within the appropriate main category, so all the interior folders are in order as well.

Receipts and Coupons

filing office papersPeople tend to keep way too many receipts! Save them in an envelope and go through them monthly and toss them after you’ve balanced your checkbook and made sure that everything is recorded.

For coupons, buy a small box with dividers labeled January through December. Keep all coupons in the appropriate month that they’ll expire so you’ll never again miss out on using them.

8 Basic Filing System Tips

  1. Having a file folder labeled “Miscellaneous” is the kiss of death. Every piece of paper that you really need to file can be categorized under a specific, descriptive, easy-to-locate file name.

  2. Don’t overstuff your file drawers – you’ll get frustrated AND it causes hangnails! And don’t overstuff file folders. If necessary, start subcategories.

  3. Be careful of starting too many new file categories that are going to do nothing more than confuse you.

  4. File new papers in your folders towards the front so your oldest material is always in the back.

  5. Leave a “To Be Filed” holder on top of your filing cabinet to temporarily store papers. File at least weekly!

  6. Never use paper clips on the papers in your file folders. They catch onto other papers and cause misfiling and they also take up too much room. Use a staple instead.

  7. Don’t stuff large store or mail order catalogs into your filing cabinet. They take up too much space. Keep them stored in a magazine box or on a bookshelf.

  8. Store extra folders in the back of one of the drawers. You’ll be more likely to file than pile.

Finding the Right Solution

effective filing systemsIt’s easy to maintain paper flow, once you find a system that works best for you. Keep it simple! Being more organized can save you up to one hour a day to do those things in life which are more fun.

And don’t be afraid to ask for help. We hire plumbers, electricians, CPA's and lawyers to do those things we’re not expert at. I’ve set up many a filing system. With my expertise, I can help you whittle down your paper piles so you can find any piece of paper in a matter of seconds.

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