For some, a home filing system might be entirely electronic. For others, the very idea of letting go of paper is unthinkable. Either way, there are simple things you can do to contain your documents.

Listed below are 10 basic tips that should help you get your filing in order:

  1. Knowing What You Have: First, sit down and make a list of the types of correspondence you regularly deal with in your home. Start with yourself and then include family members or relatives.
  2. Breaking It Down: Picture a wooden mail divider on a wall with little cubbies for sorting purposes. Think about how you would title each of the sorting spaces for your stuff, such as bills, magazines, catalogs, invitations, bank statements, investments, coupons, etc. Starting with this step will help you break down the type of correspondence you handle by “zone” or category. Once you have identified the various groups, write them on a list.
  3. Paper Filing System: Let’s begin with the paper filing system as your computer can precisely reflect what you do with paper. You will want to get some hanging files and manila folders. A label maker is a great tool, but a sharpie can work also. You will want to label your hanging folders with the zones you identified in the above tip. You will need to designate a space for your system. I have found with my clients that it helps to have a zone for specific filing needs. For instance, one of my clients uses a milk crate to keep all of her mother’s documents contained, while her personal and family files are stored in a desk drawer.
  4. Color Coding: One option is to color code your files if that helps you have a more efficient system. Color coding is not necessary; it is a matter of preference. You might find this tip useful if you are distracted easily. Additionally, those with ADHD can certainly benefit from color coded files.
  5. Action List: You can use your filing system as a prompter for your actionable items. As you label your files, keep a to-do list nearby, so you know when you need to take action on the papers in that particular file.
  6. Keep it General: Try not to have too many categories as this is why many systems fail. Life should not be that complicated! Consolidate your zones where it makes sense.
  7. Daily Homework: The best way to deal with your documents is to handle them daily, weekly if you must. Always try to touch papers only one time when deciding how to file them. Either act on it, file it for future reference or let it go.
  8. Monitoring Whether It Works: Once you set up your system, recognize that you might not have it quite right if there are breakdowns. Be prepared, like a good scout, to tweak the system when necessary.
  9. Keep A Shredder and Trash Can Onsite: The trash can and shredding machine are two of your best friends for keeping files nice and trim. Of course, if you are on the computer, learn to filter first and delete ASAP.
  10. Mags on the Go: Keep a tote bag for the catalogs and magazines so you can grab them to take to carpool lines, doctor appointments, or boring telephone conversations.

The above tips should help set a course for an efficient filing system. The key is to keep it simple and not over complicate the way you manage your papers.

Happy filing!