1. Before you start, I suggest getting all of your supplies ready.If you’re starting from scratch, you’re going to need a box of standard hanging file folders, a box of standard hanging file pockets,a box of third cut manila “interior” files and a box of file labels or a label maker.
2. The next step is to empty the cabinet completely. Yes, completely. Everything out. This is important as this allows you to see everything that was in there and determine what should and should not go back. You can put everything into a bankers box while you’re going through your files.
3. To create more space, look for any items that can be tossed, shredded or archived such as old tax records. Archived files should be placed in a properly labeled Bankers Box and stored somewhere else. If you are storing these boxes in a basement or attic or offsite storage facility, you might consider buying airtight storage bins to protect your archived items from the elements. They cost more but it’s worth it if these documents are important and need the protection.
4. There are many ways to categorize files, but what I think works best is to break things down into five or six major category sections for easy identification.
5. I also recommend using different colors of third cut manila files so that it’s easy to differentiate between the different categories. For example, for Active Files use – Red; Financial Files – Blue; Personal & Family – Green; Home & Personal Property – Orange, and Legal and Taxes – Purple.
6. Each section is then broken down into sub-categories which can be alphabetized. For example, under Active Files (Red files), you might have the following sub-categories: Bills to Pay, To Do List and Upcoming Events To Attend.
7. Name your categories or sub-categories according to how you will look for them and try, whenever possible to use generic folder names. For example, Under Utilities, name the file “Telephone” rather than “Verizon”. This is so that if you ever switch companies, you don’t have to create a whole new file. Simple, right? One more important tip: avoid vague names for your files. For example, don’t name any file “miscellaneous”! Why? Because it will wind up being a catchall for all items.
8. Once you start putting files back into the cabinet, be sure to leave plenty of space so that you can easily find and file documents.
9. Finally, go through the contents of your files approximately 2-3 times a year. This will help you to stay organized especially around tax season.
10. The most important thing is that it should be organized in a way that is easy for you and makes sense to you.
Remember to keep it simple!