Archive for the 'File Management' Category

Register Today – And Turn Your Piles into Files!

Westminster Workshop – Filing Basics for The Home — Monday, April 12th

From Piles..........

Westminster Friends: There is still time to register for my 1 hour workshop, Filing Basics For The Home being held on Monday, April 12th from 7:00-8:00 pm in Westminster. During this quick, one hour workshop, you will take care of a major source of clutter and stress in your home, as you learn the basics of file management. You will learn about the 3 types of files that comprise a complete filing system (quick access files, basic working files, and archive files), how to set them up, and just as importantly, how to maintain them. Finally, you will learn how to adapt these general principals to your specific household.

To Organized Files!

Come learn how to go from Piles to Organized Files in one night! You’ll be glad you did!

Register online with the Carroll County Department of Recreation and Parks or call 410-386-2103 during business hours.

Happy (and Organized!) Days!          Cheryl

Paper Management, Part 5

File Tips, Tricks and Ideas

As I recommended in Part 4, Developing a Simple and Effective Household Filing System:

  • Make your system as simple as possible. You are much more likely to keep up with it.
  • Start from scratch. You will find it is much easier than trying to revamp your previous system. I don’t recommend purchasing a pre-designed filing system. It WON’T be simple. At least not for you. You will have to spend time fitting your categories into their categories. It is much easier to create your own categories, with titles that make sense to you.
  • Opt for a system based on subjects rather than filling alphabetically.  Filing alphabetically is way too much to remember. Is my VW Bug filed under V for Volkswagon, B for Bug, A for Auto or C for Car? It’s way too much for this pee brain to remember! If on the other hand, my filing system is separated into the 3 main subjects of Family, Personal, and Possessions and Finances, my car will be very easy to locate. Within the subject section Possessions, I will have a hanging file titled Automobiles. Within this hanging file I will have a manila folder for each of my Automobiles. Simple and easy to find!
  • Locate your filing system in a place that is both convenient to use and located away from the hub of the home.
  • Color–coding of your broad categories can reduce miss filing and stimulate your thinking. Again choose categories and colors that make sense to you!
  • Straight-line filing, with the tabs one behind the other, is not only easier on the eye, but also simpler to maintain than alternating tab positions.
  • After you complete your new filing system, make an outline or list of your system and use it until you are comfortable with it.

Purchase Basic Supplies

Invest in a sturdy filing cabinet.  Check out any office supply store.  The choices are limitless. Consider where you will be doing your filing.  Will you be in a home office where aesthetics are not an issue, or will your files be located in your family room for all to see? Will you need to roll it into a closet after use, or will it be a permanent fixture in your home?  You can purchase a mobile file unit that can rolled into a closet or a basic 2 drawer metal cabinet for as little as $50. Or, you can purchase a furniture grade cabinet for as much as $500. You can even purchase individual file boxes, which can be stored on open shelving. Ultimately you need to remember that if they are not easy to access, they won’t be, and your filing won’t get done.
Make sure you have plenty of uniform, sturdy hanging files and manila folders.

A Work In Progress.......

As you are developing a new system, use post-it notes as labels until you have your entire system complete. Use 2 different colors; one representing your hanging files and the second representing your manila folders. This enables you to quickly and easily change category titles, and subject titles as your system evolves.

When your filing system is complete, take the time to clearly and neatly label your files.

To label your hanging files, you can use the clear vinyl tabs included with them. I generally use 3 1/2 inch plastic tabs and label them with my brother label machine. This makes for easy to read and uniform labels. Alternatively, you can simply use a thin black marker to label your inserts.

To label manila folders, I generally use inkjet/laser file folder labels, and print them from my computer. Again, this makes for easy to read and uniform labels. Alternatively, you can simply use a thin black marker to write on your file folder labels and then stick them on the manila folder or you can write directly on the folder.

Remember, your filing system is dynamic and ever changing. Your interests, responsibilities and possessions will change, and so should your filing system. Don’t be afraid to drop and add categories as your needs change. Set aside time each week or month to actually do your filing. Then set aside time each year to purge and revamp your system. Don’t forget to use a Document Retention Guide, available online, and check with your attorney and/or accountant while purging.

A Job Well Done

Yes, setting up and maintaining a filing system takes a bit of work on the front end, but you will save yourself many hours of searching and much frustration in the long run. That, my friend, is priceless!

Happy Filing!

Cheryl

Paper Management, Part 4

Developing a Simple and Effective Household Filing System

Managing the piles of paper and multitude of important documents in our “information age”  is a major home organization challenge for most people. It’s time to tackle that challenge and your Basic Household Filing System. It’s time to change your thinking a bit, get organized, and simplify. Does it sound like a daunting task? It doesn’t have to be!

You should be able to retrieve any paper or important document in less than one minute—if that’s not the case, it may be time to revamp that old system and start anew. Unless you already have a system that’s at least 75 percent effective, I recommend starting from scratch. Then incorporate your old files into your new system.

If you can retrieve any paper in less than a minute, you have an organized and effective filing system and you can stop reading. Congratulations!

The first step in developing an effective household filing system is to understand both what it is and what it is not. These files are different than your Quick Access Files, which hold information that you need to access often and quickly. Many times, quick access files are used for a season and then discarded or updated. Occasionally, if they contain documents or information that you will want to keep in your permanent files, they can be transferred to your basic household filing system. Some examples of information found in your Quick Access Files are invitations, schedules, announcements, appointment reminders, and take out menus. You need to access these files daily and quickly, and for that reason, they should be kept in the hub of the home. Check out part 2 of my Paper Management series,  “Quick Access Files: Don’t Live an Organized Life Without Them!”

Your Household Filing System, on the other hand, does not need to be accessed as often. These files are your basic household working files, which hold current, important documents and records used for routine activities like bill paying, tax and financial statement documentation, medical information, and home maintenance. They need to be accessible, but not located in the hub of the home. Generally, when you are writing bills or dealing with your household paperwork, you need a bit of quiet. For this reason, consider finding space in your home office, or even a quiet corner of your bedroom.

The secret to a good filing system is to keep it simple. Whatever system you use should make it easy to find what you need, be easy to maintain, and make sense to everyone who may need to use it. If it isn’t simple and effective, it won’t get used.

Filing is not about storage, but rather it is about finding what you need when you need it. Instead of trying to figure out what you can toss, determine what you need to keep. There is a huge difference! 80% of the papers that we file away will never get looked at again. If you aren’t sure what to save, ask yourself the following questions – if you don’t answer yes, toss it.

  • Are there tax/legal reasons to keep it?
  • Will it help me complete a project I’m working on right now?
  • Do I have time to do anything with this piece of paper in the future?
  • If I ever needed it again, would it be hard to get from someone else?
  • Is the information up-to-date?
  • Would my work/life change if I didn’t have it?
  • Is the same information easily accessible online?

Document Retention guides are available online. Just google household document retention guides, and you will find a number of them to choose from.  Use them as a guideline, and be sure to check with your accountant or lawyer to get advice about a particular situation or document.

“Man’s best friend, aside from the dog, is the wastebasket”.      Business Week

Remember this truth and always have your friend with you when dealing with paperwork!

With these tips in mind, let’s begin!

First, separate your filing system into 3-5 basic subjects: I generally use 3 Main subjects: 1. Family and Personal, 2. Possessions, and 3. Finances. You can separate each category by placing them in separate drawers, by using separate color hanging files for each subject area, or by simply staggering the location of your filing tabs (Family and Personal to the left, Possessions in the center, and Finances to the right).

Your next step is to assign broad categories within each subject, and place each broad category in it’s own hanging file.

Family and Personal – Create Broad Categories for: Each Person in your family, Medical Insurance, Each Pet or Animal in your family, and Each Organization that you are associated with.

For example: Within the subject of “Family and Personal”, I may have hanging folders for the following broad categories:

  • Family Members (1 hanging file for each family member)
  • Pets (1 hanging file for each pet)
  • Relatives and/or Contacts
  • Memberships
  • Insurance
  • Church/Ministry
  • Volunteer Organizations

Possessions– Include anything you OWN – Create Broad Categories for Automobiles, Home Purchases, Home Improvements, Large Appliances, Small Appliances, Large Electronics, Small Electronics, Your Current Home, Home Utilities, Home Services

Finances – Include anything having to do with your finances – Create Broad Categories for Bank Accounts, Credit Accounts, Investments, and College Savings Plan

Finally, assign specific categories within each broad category and place each specific category in it’s own manila folder in the hanging folder. For example: Within the broad category of each family member, I place 3-4 manila folders labeled; Personal, Health, Education, and Employment. The Personal file will hold birth certificate, social security card, passport, and other important certificates. The Health file will hold important health records, dental records and immunization records. The Education file will house permanent test results, transcripts, degrees, letters of recommendations, awards, and any other permanent records. Finally, the Employment file will hold resumes, contracts, benefits, retirement information, and social security records.

Of course your family filing system will change as your life changes. You won’t have an Education or Employment file for your newborn, but can add those as the need arises in the years to come. Likewise, you may have additional files for the family member(s) who are in the workforce for a long period of time. You may have categories of Employment, Past Employment, Future Employment Goals etc. The beauty of creating your own, personalized filing system is the ability to tailor it to your own needs.

For this reason, I do not recommend purchasing a pre-designed filing system. It WON’T be simple. At least not for you. You will have to spend time fitting your categories into their categories. It is much easier to create your own categories, with titles that make sense to you so that you will be able to remember them. I also don’t recommend filing alphabetically. It’s way too much to remember for my pee brain! Is my VW Bug filed under V for VW, B for Bug, A for Auto, or C for Car?

It takes a bit of work on the front end, but your efforts in developing a household filing system will save you countless hours and frustration in the long run.

Happy Filing!

Cheryl

Paper Management, Part 2

Quick Access Files:  Don’t Live an Organized Life Without Them!

Last time in “Help, My Kitchen is My File Cabinet”, I referred to the universal problem of overwhelming amounts of paperwork, and the resulting piles that usually end up in the kitchen. A large part of the solution to this problem is the creation of Quick Access Files. Quick Access Files are just that……….files that you need to access often and quickly. Don’t let the word file in Quick Access Files throw you. These are files containing different information than we generally keep in our regular filing cabinet. Quick Access Files are files that you will need for a season and/or you need to access often. They are filled with the papers that are otherwise taped to our refrigerator, stuck on the bulletin board or, all too often, piled up next to the phone or on the kitchen table.

Not Your Mother's File Box!

To create Quick Access Files, gather up all the bits of information lying around and plastered to the surfaces in your kitchen. Then separate them into logical categories. Because each of our lives and habits are different, each of our Quick Access Files will be different as well. You may end up with:

  • A file for each school, which will hold current phone lists, school calendars, announcements, and newsletters.
  • A file for every sports team or club
  • Or you may choose to create a file for each child in which you could place all their papers for their individual school, sports, and clubs.
  • A file for volunteer organizations, which will hold current phone lists, announcements, schedules, and newsletters
  • A doctor/dentist file with contact information and appointment cards (which you will drop in the file AFTER you write the appointment on your calendar)
  • A file for prescriptions, which will hold patient information for any current prescriptions that your family members are using
  • A file for take out menus
  • A file for parties and invitations (which you drop in AFTER you write the appointment on the calendar)
  • A file for coupons and gift cards

    Basic File Box by See Jane Work

For many of these categories you will also have a file in your regular file cabinet. For instance, each child will have an Education file in your regular files, in which you will place all their permanent records, report cards and testing information. Each person will have a Medical file, which will hold immunization records, surgery, allergy and all permanent medical records.

The papers, invitations, schedules, announcements, appointment reminders, and take out menus in our Quick Access File are generally used for a season and then discarded or updated. At the end of a school year or sports season, for example, most of the contents of the Quick Access File will be discarded. Any important or permanent information or documents, however, will be added to your regular long term filing system, and your Quick Access Files will be ready for the new season.

With the addition of just a few categories, with corresponding files, you will have a complete system to deal with your mail on a daily basis.

  • To Do
  • To Pay
  • To File (anything that simply needs to be transferred to your long term filing system)

Now that you have created your own Quick Access Files, I suggest that you keep them in your main living area, which is usually the kitchen or family room. This is generally the place that you bring in and drop your mail, you walk in with files and papers from meetings and appointments, and your children bring you papers to sign, fill out and file away.

I have heard people say that they don’t want a file box sitting in their living area. May I kindly suggest, that a small, nice looking file box (think attractive and presentable) looks much nicer than a pile of papers in disarray!

Check out some of the links to file boxes and files in this article, or find your own. Be creative. There are 100′s of options available in every style. Find your own style.

A Cool Vintage File Box

If you have ever worked with me, attended one of my workshops,  or followed my blog for any length of time, this concept is not new to you. If you already have Quick Access Files, the New Year is the perfect time to revamp them.  Simply sort through each file and:

  • First of all; decide if you still need each file

    A Beautiful Alternative to Manila!

  • Toss any obsolete information
  • File anything that should be transferred over to your Permanent Filing System
  • Determine if you need to add any new categories – (do you have any new information hanging on the fridge or piled up on the kitchen table?)

It’s the perfect time for a fresh start!
Happy (and Organized!) days!
Cheryl

Paper Management, Part 1

Help, My Kitchen is My File Cabinet!

Take a quick look around your kitchen and dining room: the kitchen table, the counter tops, the buffet, and the surfaces of your refrigerator. Do you notice a re-occurring theme? Do you see the mounds of information needed to run your home and your life, spread hit or miss around your kitchen? Is the pile of junk mail, catalogs, and newspapers on your kitchen table blocking your view of your loved ones at dinner? If so, you’re not alone.

Do you realize how much paperwork enters your home on a daily basis? Most of us probably receive more mail on most days than our parents received in a week. We receive newsletters, magazines, bills, advertisements, million dollar offers, and letters, to mention a few. Along with incoming mail, many of us have school-aged children, who each bring home permission slips, completed work, tests to be signed, the dreaded fund-raising packets and letters from teachers and administrators. We receive the Daily Newspaper, and we carry in papers on a daily basis from work, meetings and appointments.

In my time as a professional organizer, I have come across a universal problem of overwhelming amounts of paperwork, and the resulting piles that usually end up in the kitchen. In our efforts to “Get Organized in 2010″, we will look at this all-too-common issue and outline simple solutions that can solve this problem and simplify your days.

Together we will create a plan of action. A place for everything and everything in it’s place! Clutter happens when we don’t have a place for something, or when it’s more difficult to put something away than it is to deal with it. The result is the inevitable cluttering up of our spaces and our lives.

As we create a plan for all the paper coming into our homes, we will ask ourselves some very basic questions:

  • Who needs this information?

  • Where will I/they need or use this information?

  • How long do I need/want to keep this information?

  • What time of day does most of this information come into the home?

  • Do I have time to put it where it belongs?

The truth is, the majority of the paper coming into your home will NEVER need to be looked at again!
“Man’s best friend, aside from the dog, is the wastebasket”.           Business Week

Remember this truth and always have your friend with you when dealing with paperwork. That’s the first and most essential step! Until next time, I challenge you to quickly recycle or simply throw out that which you don’t need, won’t use, or won’t read (despite your best intentions!). Make it a habit, and your piles may actually start declining!
In the upcoming weeks, I will be posting a 6-part Paper Management Series, which will simply outline what to do with all that paperwork. From developing short term and long term filing systems, to “junking all that junk mail”, to practical filing tips and tricks; all of which will help you to launch into a more organized 2010!

Happy (and Organized) Days!

Cheryl

Blog a Job! 2009 Watch a Professional Organizer in Action! Part 4

Today is paperwork day. Tedious and time consuming. But, it is oh so worth it! Investing the time into creating a simple and effective filing system is one of THE MOST BENEFICIAL organizing jobs you can accomplish. Think about all the paper lying around your house……..the newspapers, magazines, newsletters, school papers, bills, mail, invitations, the stack on your kitchen table (you KNOW you have one!), appointment reminders, and the list goes on! Now imagine your home de-cluttered and organized with no paperwork in sight, yet easily and quickly accessible. It IS possible. And the fist step in achieving this is to create and maintain a simple and effective filing system.

Becky and I spent four full hours setting up a filing system. Our first step was to organize both her and her husband’s past work files and clear them out of their office space. Becky worked in an industry, which requires her to keep business contacts and files for four years. These files will, most likely, never need to be accessed, and therefore, could safely be stored in their attic. Next, we organized her husband’s past files. Much of his paperwork and files have to do with his master’s degree and current teaching position. His files may need to be accessed occasionally, so they were organized and will be stored in the office closet. Out of the families current living space, yet still accessible. By clearing out the past, we created space for the present. Finally, we set up their family’s current filing system.

Check out my previous blogs; “Developing a Simple and Effective Household Filing System” and “Filing Tips, Tricks and Ideas“, for direction and ideas on setting up your own filing system. Or, feel free to shoot me an email at cheryl@inorderforlife.com or give me a call at 410.259.1466 to schedule an appointment.

The secret to any good filing system is to keep it simple. Whatever system you use should make it easy to find what you need, be easy to maintain, and make sense to everyone who may need to use it. You should be able to retrieve any paper in less than one minute—if that’s not the case, it may be time to revamp your system. Then be sure to locate your files in a place that is easy to get to. If they aren’t  you won’t get to them!

The Shred Pile has grown as big as Charlotte!

The Shred Pile has grown as big as Charlotte!

Becky and her husband both had homework this week:  Becky was to bring her books to the library for donation, sort, purge and organize her memory bins and shred all her documents that had identifying information on them. Her husband was to sort, purge and organize both his past files and his memory box.

Check out Blog A Job! Part 1, Blog A Job Part 2Blog a Job! Part 3, and Blog a Job! Part 5, to read the complete article and to see the finished office space.  The fun is just beginning. Now that we have cleared out the clutter, re-organized the past, and decided exactly how the office space will function, we can organize the present!

Happy (and organized!) Days!

Cheryl

inorderforlife small

Quick Access Files…….Don’t Live an Organized Life Without Them!

Last time in “Help, My Kitchen is My File Cabinet”, I referred to the universal problem of overwhelming amounts of paperwork, and the resulting piles that usually end up in the kitchen. Part of the solution to this problem is the creation of Quick Access Files.

Quick Access Files are just that– files that you need to access often and quickly. Don’t let the word “file” in “Quick Access Files” throw you. These are files containing different information than we generally keep in our regular “Filing Cabinet”.

My Personal Quick Access Files

  My Personal Quick Access Files

 

To create “Quick Access Files”, gather up all the bits of information lying around and plastered to your kitchen. Then separate them into logical categories. Because each of our lives and habits are different, so too will be each of our Quick Access Files.

You may end up with:

  • A file for each school, which will hold current phone lists, school calendars, announcements, and newsletters
  • A file for every sports team or club
  • A file for volunteer organizations, which will hold current phone lists, announcements, schedules and newsletters
  • Or, you may choose to create a file for each family member in which you can place all the information from each school, club or organization
  • A “doctor/dentist” file with contact information, directions and appointment cards (which you will drop in the file AFTER you write it on the calendar)
  • A file for prescriptions which can hold patient information for any current prescriptions that your family members are using
  • A file for take out menus
  • A file for parties and invitations (which you drop in AFTER you write on the calendar)
  • A file for coupons and gift cards

For many of these categories you will also have a file in your regular file cabinet. For instance, each child will have an “Education” file in your regular files in which you will put all their permanent records, report cards and testing information. Each family member will have a “Medical” file, which will hold immunization records, surgery, allergy and all permanent medical records.

These papers, invitations, schedules, announcements, appointment reminders and take out menus in your Quick Access File will generally be  used for a season and then discarded or updated. At the end of a school year or sports season, for example, most of the contents of the Quick Access File will be discarded. Any important information or documents, however, will be added to your regular long term filing system, and your Quick Access Files are ready for a new season!

Several of my clients have been hesitant to create a Quick Access File because their spouses didn’t like the idea of a file box setting out in the kitchen or family room. You may kindly suggest, to these well meaning spouses, that a small, nice looking file box (think compact and attractive) looks much nicer than a pile of papers in disarray!

Check out some of these links for ideas.  Be creative!

 

 

www.containerstore.com
www.containerstore.com

Happy and Organized Days!

Cheryl

inorderforlife-small3

 

 

www.containerstore.com


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