How to Organize Your Files

Follow these 9 tips for bringing order to your paper clutter.

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Everyone needs to have some sort of designated place for file storage. If you don't, here's how to whip your paper clutter into shape:

  1. Buy a filing cabinet.

  2. Avoid using manila envelopes for storing items in the cabinet except in the case of maintaining past tax records. Items in envelopes tend to be out of sight and out of mind.

  3. For articles and travel information, separate clippings into clearly labeled files based on subject matter. Copying several related clippings on one page cuts down on the number of loose clippings.

  4. When labeling tabs, be specific and avoid using the term miscellaneous. If something's worth filing, it's worth naming.

  5. Place all tabs for hanging file folders on the front of the file. If the tab is on the back of the folder, the contents being filed have a greater tendency to slip between two file folders and be forever lost in space.

  6. Never use paper clips when filing. They have a tendency to clip to other, unrelated papers. Use staples instead when necessary.

  7. As a general rule, if a file grows thicker than an inch, it needs to be further divided or some items need to be thrown away.

  8. Whenever adding a new clipping to a file, go through the file to see if an older item can be thrown away. This helps curb the growth of files. Things that have been in the file for quite some time often can be thrown away.

  9. Designate expiration dates for as much of the filed material as possible. Code the material with the dates, and don't reconsider keeping something when it's time is up.

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