How to organize…use broader headings when you file

I am currently working with a client to organize their home office files. They have a very busy and active life with several kids, a home business, pets and multiple homes.  Their “paper” life is quite full.

Just to make things interesting, I am actually working with them to re-do a filing system installed a couple of years ago by a different professional organizer.  Yes, this sometimes happens.  The filing system the organizer installed has turned out to be too complicated for the owners to keep up.  Too many files, too many headings, too much color coding – just too much.

So, in order to avoid the 1000 folders syndrome,  I am encouraging everyone to think in broader categories when you file.  Here’s how it works…

First, divide your papers into its broadest categories, i.e., Pets, Banking, Insurance.

Then look at each of these groups of papers and decide how important it is to create a sub-pile, so if your major heading is Pets, do you really need to separate the papers by “Fluffy the cat” and “Rover the dog” ? If you feel you need to, then create ONE folder for just one of the animals – “Fluffy”.  “Rover’s” paper will be in the file folder itself.  File all the papers for each animal in the appropriate section and drop the folder into the PETS hanging file.

It is not necessary to create any other folders for these animals. If you start making folders for “Fluffy – microchip”, “Fluffy – insurance”, “Fluffy – license”, “Fluffy – grooming”, “Fluffy – boarding”, then you’ve just created too much filing detail.  A piece of paper will always show up that doesn’t fall into any category you’ve created and you are forced to add another folder to the file just to cover that one piece of paper – when the broader category of Pets, simply holds everything that pertains to the pets.

The more folders you create, the more sub-categories you make, the more complicated filing becomes and the less likely you are to do it.

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