Today I’ll share the filing system that has evolved over time. It’s a loose rendition of Julie Morgenstern’s paper filing system from her book, “Organizing From The Inside Out”. I use the following supplies:
- A filing cabinet that holds hanging file folders. You could also use one of many types of plastic filing boxes, or even a simple, inexpensive cardboard filing box.
- Letter size hanging folders with plastic tabs. For files that will have lots of paperwork, get some “pack-bottom” or expanding folders that can hold a stack of 2-3″ of paper.
- Letter size manila folders (I like different colored folders)
- Handheld label maker or file folder labels that can be run through a printer
- Plastic business card binder pages that can be inserted into a 3-ring binder
- A variety of 3-ring binders (optional)
Label Hanging Folders
Create labels for the hanging files with these suggested categories (feel free to adapt to work for you and create more categories):
- Business Documents
- Current Year Taxes
- Checking Account
- Credit Card(s)
- Business Contacts (you could also use a 3-ring binder instead of the hanging folder)
Create Subcategory Folders
Each hanging folder will hold one or more manila folders for subcategories of your hanging files. Create labels for each of the manila folders with these (or other) subcategories:
- Business Documents – DBA or Business License, Sales Taxes, Federal EIN, Liability Insurance
- Current Year Taxes – Receipts, Mileage Records, Financial Statements
- Checking Account – Statements, Canceled Checks, Misc. Paperwork (for initial paperwork when account was opened, letters received from bank, etc.)
- Credit Card – Statements, Misc. Paperwork (for initial paperwork when account was opened, letters received from bank/credit card company, etc.)
- Marketing – Marketing Plan, folder for each marketing service, web service provider, email marketing company, social media outlet you use
- Rent – PO Box, Class Space (contracts and info for meeting space rentals), Office (if you rent an office, keep your contracts/paperwork here)
- Certifications – Folder for each of the organizations you train with for official paperwork, certificates, CEU and recertification documents
- Business Contacts – Colleagues, Referral Network
Place The Hanging Files into Your File Cabinet or Box
File the hanging folders alphabetically or in groups that make sense. One way to organize hanging folders is by color. Buy a few different colors of folders. Use one color for anything having to do with money – checking and credit cards, tax paperwork, etc. Use another color for folders having to do with Advertising and Marketing.
Insert Manila Folders into The Hanging Files
The manila folders are placed into the hanging files. If you can’t think of subcategories for a main category, make a manila folder label that has the same name as the main category. This way, if you need to work with the paperwork in a certain category, you remove the manila folder only. When you’re done working with the manila folder, you can easily file it back into the cabinet or box in its hanging folder.
Create a Master File Folder List
If you end up creating a lot of folders, it might help you to have a master file folder list, where you would list all the categories and subcategories you have in your file cabinet or box. This can be especially helpful for those types of paperwork that you rarely refer to. The next time you have to file something, you can refer to your list and see if there’s already a category for it, so you don’t make multiple files for the same types of paperwork. Tape this list to your box or cabinet.
Other Uses for Folders
I have four file cabinets in my desk, and I use hanging files for most of the paperwork in my office. Two cabinets store my personal, financial, medical, and other household files. The other two cabinets are for my business paperwork and client paperwork. I also store stationery, blank labels, blank 3-ring binder tabs and similar supplies in hanging files.
For business cards I collect, I store them in the plastic card holders and file them in my Business Contacts file. You could opt to place these card holders in a binder, or just add all business cards as you get them into your Contacts on your laptop or phone, and recycle the cards to save space.
What works for you in your home office?