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File Tips, Tricks and Ideas

As I recommended in Part 4, Developing a Simple and Effective Household Filing System:

  1. Make your system as simple as possible. You are much more likely to keep up with it.
  2. Start from scratch. You will find it is much easier than trying to revamp your previous system. I don’t recommend purchasing a pre-designed filing system. It WON’T be simple. At least not for you. You will have to spend time fitting your categories into their categories. It is much easier to create your own categories, with titles that make sense to you.
  3. Opt for a system based on subjects rather than filling alphabetically.  Filing alphabetically is way too much to remember. Is my VW Bug filed under V for Volkswagon, B for Bug, A for Auto or C for Car? It’s way too much for this pee brain to remember! If on the other hand, my filing system is separated into the 3 main subjects of Family, Personal, and Possessions and Finances, my car will be very easy to locate. Within the subject section Possessions, I will have a hanging file titled Automobiles. Within this hanging file I will have a manila folder for each of my Automobiles. Simple and easy to find!
  4. Locate your filing system in a place that is both convenient to use and located away from the hub of the home.
  5. Color–coding of your broad categories can reduce miss filing and stimulate your thinking. Again choose categories and colors that make sense to you!
  6. Straight-line filing, with the tabs one behind the other, is not only easier on the eye, but also simpler to maintain than alternating tab positions.
  7. After you complete your new filing system, make an outline or list of your system and use it until you are comfortable with it.

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Developing a Simple and Effective Household Filing System

Managing the piles of paper and multitude of important documents in our “information age”  is a major home organization challenge for most people. It’s time to tackle that challenge and your Basic Household Filing System. It’s time to change your thinking a bit, get organized, and simplify. Does it sound like a daunting task? It doesn’t have to be!

You should be able to retrieve any paper or important document in less than one minute—if that’s not the case, it may be time to revamp that old system and start anew. Unless you already have a system that’s at least 75 percent effective, I recommend starting from scratch. Then incorporate your old files into your new system.

If you can retrieve any paper in less than a minute, you have an organized and effective filing system and you can stop reading. Congratulations!

The first step in developing an effective household filing system is to understand both what it is and what it is not. These files are different than your Quick Access Files, which hold information that you need to access often and quickly. Many times, quick access files are used for a season and then discarded or updated. Occasionally, if they contain documents or information that you will want to keep in your permanent files, they can be transferred to your basic household filing system. Some examples of information found in your Quick Access Files are invitations, schedules, announcements, appointment reminders, and take out menus. You need to access these files daily and quickly, and for that reason, they should be kept in the hub of the home. Check out part 2 of my Paper Management series,  “Quick Access Files: Don’t Live an Organized Life Without Them!”

Your Household Filing System, on the other hand, does not need to be accessed as often. These files are your basic household working files, which hold current, important documents and records used for routine activities like bill paying, tax and financial statement documentation, medical information, and home maintenance. They need to be accessible, but not located in the hub of the home. Generally, when you are writing bills or dealing with your household paperwork, you need a bit of quiet. For this reason, consider finding space in your home office, or even a quiet corner of your bedroom.

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Last time in “Help, My Kitchen is My File Cabinet”, I referred to the universal problem of overwhelming amounts of paperwork, and the resulting piles that usually end up in the kitchen. Part of the solution to this problem is the creation of Quick Access Files.

Quick Access Files are just that– files that you need to access often and quickly. Don’t let the word “file” in “Quick Access Files” throw you. These are files containing different information than we generally keep in our regular “Filing Cabinet”.

My Personal Quick Access Files

  My Personal Quick Access Files


To create “Quick Access Files”, gather up all the bits of information lying around and plastered to your kitchen. Then separate them into logical categories. Because each of our lives and habits are different, so too will be each of our Quick Access Files.

You may end up with:

  • A file for each school, which will hold current phone lists, school calendars, announcements, and newsletters
  • A file for every sports team or club
  • A file for volunteer organizations, which will hold current phone lists, announcements, schedules and newsletters
  • Or, you may choose to create a file for each family member in which you can place all the information from each school, club or organization
  • A “doctor/dentist” file with contact information, directions and appointment cards (which you will drop in the file AFTER you write it on the calendar)
  • A file for prescriptions which can hold patient information for any current prescriptions that your family members are using
  • A file for take out menus
  • A file for parties and invitations (which you drop in AFTER you write on the calendar)
  • A file for coupons and gift cards

For many of these categories you will also have a file in your regular file cabinet. For instance, each child will have an “Education” file in your regular files in which you will put all their permanent records, report cards and testing information. Each family member will have a “Medical” file, which will hold immunization records, surgery, allergy and all permanent medical records.

These papers, invitations, schedules, announcements, appointment reminders and take out menus in your Quick Access File will generally be  used for a season and then discarded or updated. At the end of a school year or sports season, for example, most of the contents of the Quick Access File will be discarded. Any important information or documents, however, will be added to your regular long term filing system, and your Quick Access Files are ready for a new season!

Several of my clients have been hesitant to create a Quick Access File because their spouses didn’t like the idea of a file box setting out in the kitchen or family room. You may kindly suggest, to these well meaning spouses, that a small, nice looking file box (think compact and attractive) looks much nicer than a pile of papers in disarray!

Check out some of these links for ideas.  Be creative!

Happy and Organized Days!



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