A Filing System That Works
Wed, 14 Apr 2010 - 4:04 PM CST
BY SHIRLEY J. GOOD
Are you frantic when income tax time rolls around? Do you rummage through various drawers, trying to find a receipt for an item that needs to be returned? Are warranties and important papers scattered throughout your home? You are not alone if lack of organization in your paperwork has plagued you on frequent occasions. But there is hope!
Organization is an attribute that seems to come easy to some but requires great discipline and training for others. Organization is an attribute of God. At the time of creation, He brought order out of chaos (Genesis 1) and said it was good. You’ll say the same when you bring order to unorganized areas of your home.
The following steps move you toward a more peaceful home and office setting.
1. With a pen and paper list the general categories that need organization. Getting organized will come easier if you do it on paper first. Sometimes taking a walk through your house will help you think of items that need organization. The most common are income and expense papers, general house and expense for medical/dental care) family records, recipes, household supplies.
2. For organizing paper items, list them for each main category. The following provides a basic guideline.
- Payroll stubs, property rentals
- Checking accounts (statements and canceled checks)
- Savings accounts or Certificates of Deposit
- IRA accounts
- To be paid: (hold space for bills until payment is made)
- Accounts payable (regular monthly bills and payments after payments are made)
- Alphabetically list creditors, charge card accounts, individual utilities:
- Miscellaneous (for infrequent bills)
- Taxes (property, income, school, local)
- Maintenance and repair bills
- Medical (medicine/periodic expense for medical/dental care)
- (documents and records)
- Birth certificates
- Computer and software (purchase documents)
- Education (school and college
- Auto (policies only–not invoices
- Medical (history/ records, immunizations, tests)
- Subscriptions (magazines, book club information)
- Warranties (kitchen, office, audiovisual equipment)
- Vehicles (titles, repair guarantees, maintenance records)
Many well-organized families function quite easily with only a few basic categories. When selecting titles for categories, use the most identifying word first; for example, "deed" even though the document may say "warranty deed." Avoid using words like "papers," "information," etc. All items are paper and information.
3. After the individual file items have been listed on paper, set up a skeletal system. The best kind is a hanging-file system which contains interior manila folders to subdivide similar items. Some filing cabinets have preinstalled rails on which to place the hanging files. If the filing cabinet does not have file rails, you can purchase the frames, assemble them (4 screws), and install them.
Mail order office supply companies usually offer better prices than local stores. Hanging files come in boxes of 25; interior manila file folders come in boxes of 100. For most families, letter size hanging files with 1/5 cut tabs are the most practical. Tabs go on the front of the file and are spread (5 across) left to right.
The best choice for the interior manila file folders is 11-point reinforced with 1/3 cut tabs. The file folders are placed into the hanging files, and the tabs should be selected to spread across left to right.
4. Hanging files use tabs; interior manila file folders use labels. When preparing both tabs and labels, print the titles with large, bold letters. Computer-printed or typewritten tabs and labels, with titles close to the top, will create a more uniform look for the filing system and be easier to read.
On the manila file folder labels, indicate the hanging file title into which it belongs by listing an abbreviation of the tab on the flush left-hand side of the label.
Tab title: INSURANCE
Tab title: MEDICAL
Med: (husband’s name)
Med: (wife’s name)
Med: (child’s name)
Follow the same principle for education (Ed:), vehicles (Veh:), warranties (Wan), etc. This enables you to know it is a subfile of a hanging file.
List the subfile title either centered or flush right. Typing two spaces between words is more legible.
5. Once you have set up the (empty) skeletal file system, go through your home and collect all paper items and place them in the appropriate files. Keep only those items that you will need in the future–perhaps for tax purposes to help you prove something, to document past actions and decisions, or to help you make wise decisions in the future. Keep only current insurance policies. (An exception is made if an accident or pending claims are involved). In your accounts payable, keep only the current year’s items in the file. Store past-year receipts by individual year and maintain them elsewhere for 7 years.
6. Helpful tips:Set up each category in alphabetical order.
- Do not file envelopes.
- Open folded documents to conserve filing space.
- Highlight identifying words to make filing quicker and easier.
- File each item as soon as you finish processing it. Don’t just stick it somewhere for now; file it in the right place.
- You may also want to establish an A-to-Z reference file for brochures and articles on various subjects.
It will take some time and effort to get your filing system up and running, but the benefit will be worth the investment. An atmosphere of peace and a stress-free life are blessings that cannot be purchased. The Prince of Peace desires to rule and reign in every area of life, and He will help you create order out of chaos.