How to organize…clearing out files

At the beginning of each new year, I dedicate time to organize my home and office by clearing out the old, wherever I find it.  I usually start with my files. Admittedly, my files are not too cluttered.  But even I find that after a year of going in and out of drawers and searching for papers, the filing drawer needs some attention.

Supplies that may be needed:  hanging files, file folders, labels, an electronic labeler, stapler, storage boxes for archiving files and a shredder.

I start by pulling out one file at a time and going through it. Note that I do not keep both a file folder and a hanging file for each subject.  I just use the hanging file to hold all my papers.  If a file has one or more divisions, I may or may not chose to add file folders.  For example, I have 2 cats, but I don’t need a file for each cat, it’s okay to keep all the papers in just one hanging file.

Sorting through my files.

Then a go about determining which papers within the file I need to keep on hand for the next year and which papers I can shred or archive.

My archive boxes represent things that I must keep by law, for taxes or because they have historical value to me. My archive boxes are kept in my storage area.  Each archive box has a destroy date or SAVE label.   If you have a large amount of files to archive, numbering each box and keeping a record of what is in each archive box is a good idea.  You can use these plastic boxes or just cardboard storage boxes from your local Office Depot or favorite office supply store.

My archived files go into file storage boxes.

As a professional organizer, I get asked all the time how long papers must be kept. First, check with your tax professional.  You can also visit these sites: IRS , Consumer Reports .  Other records, like vital documents (birth certificates, etc.) should be kept forever.  Remember that if you own property, you want to keep improvements records until you sell the property.

The finished file drawer.


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