Organizing a home filing system can be a daunting task even if you are an organized person. It can be exhausting just to think about the piles you have on your desk in your kitchen or any other place your papers seem to accumulate aroung your home. That is why it is so important to get these papers organized because procrastination only makes your piles larger and your headache bigger.
Organizing a home filing system does not have to be complicated. In fact for the average person it really should be quite simple. There is no need for complicated computer systems that can also be quite expensive and quite frankly have a bit of a learning curve to them.
There are 3 thing I recommend when organizing a home filing system. They are a tickler file, a mail center, and a file center. All 3 of these used together can help you when organizing a home filing system.
1. A tickler file - This is an active file. Think of it as your daily reminder file. You may use an accordian or expandable type file with the numbers 1-31 which corresponds to the days of the month. If you would rather keep file folders in a file cabinet that is fine also. Just remember you will be accessing this "file" on a daily basis.
This "file" corresponds with your calender whether you use a written or electronic calender. Start to got through your piles at the pace you can tolerate. For example, it's January and you receive a wedding invitation. The wedding date is March 20th. The RSVP date is February 28th. You are not sure if you are able to go yet. Normally you would have no specific place to put this item. But now you have a system. Simply place the invitation in the slot that you would like to reply by. So, if you felt you would like to reply by the 27th, place the invitation in the slot marked 27 - place the month also at the top of the invitation. Then when the 27th rolls around by checking your daily file you know that you must RSVP. After you reply simply move the invitation to the wedding date of March 20th. That way when the wedding date comes you won't be searching for the invitation with all of the details of the event.
You can use this system for most anything - correspondances, return phone calls, Dr. appointments, school papers. Anything that will need an action and cannot be permanently filed unitl that action is completed. The tickler file is probably has the biggest impact when organizing a home filing system because it keeps all of your daily papers in check.
2. Mail center - Every home needs to have some kind of mail center to manange the large influx of mail. A mail system is the second step in orgainzing a home filing system.
First have a recycling bin somewhere close when you open the mail. Toss anything immediately that you will not be reading or is classified as junk mail and does not need to be shredded.
Next you need at least one in box. If you have a large family depending on th amount of mail you receive you may benefit from having an in box for every family member as they get older.
You also need a To File and To Read bin. Anything that gets correpsondance to can be file immediatlely in your tickler file. The rest is either to file or to read. That takes care of your immediate mail opening.
3. File Center - This is the third and final step in organizing a home filing system. Reference files are the next type of file to keep when organizing a home filing system. This is where most of the space will be taken when you organize your file cabinet. Your reference files encompass all files not included in your action files. Therefore, you get the idea that this can add up to many papers.
Some home filing systems are very complicated but I try to keep mine simple. Remember you want to be able to find that piece of paper again. There are some preprinted folders but I like to go the freeform way. Write on the folder what you think is the best name for that category. Chances are if you named it you will find it again.
Here is a list of some general categories to consider when organiaing a home filing system - each having subcategories:
Some subcategories are as follows:
These are all general guidelines to follow when organizing a home filing system. If you are going to organize your file cabinet these ideas give a good reference point. Since all people have individual needs this list is not meant to be all inclusive and like anything if you have any questions please seek the advice of an accountant or tax advisor.
If you need further help in organizing a home filing system and what papers to keep there is also a web site provided by the federal government which gives additional help on recordkeeping for individuals. The web site is www.irs.gov/publications/p552/ar02.html. Copy and paste it to your browser or click here.
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