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The Fast & Easy Way to Setup a Home Filing System

1. Set the Stage – Setup an area to sit and sort your papers. You will want a comfy chair to sit in, a “to be shredded” bag or box, a “to be recycled” bag or box, a “to be filed” bag or box, a “to be put in safe deposit box”, some sticky notes, a pen or marker, and a tall refreshing beverage of your choice.

2. Gather all your papers and put them in a pile next to your comfy chair where you will be sorting. Retrieve papers from the office, the car, your purse, the dining room table, kitchen counter tops, and every other place you have stashed your papers. You are creating one large pile of all the papers that need to be sorted and filed. Don't let the size of the pile intimidate you. If you follow this plan, sorting will go faster than you may think.

3. Sit in your comfy chair. Put a stack of papers from your pile into your lap and sort them into “to be shredded”, “to be recycled”, “to be filed”, “to be put in safe deposit box”. Remember, all papers containing personal or banking information should be shredded. When in doubt, shred. If you are unclear on which papers you need to keep, refer to the Resource Box at the end of this article. It contains a link to a free report that you can download, which tells you exactly which papers to keep, how long to keep them for, and which papers to shred. The report also includes a complete list of which papers and items you should keep in your safe deposit box.

4. Shred or burn the “to be shredded” papers. Burning them in a fire pit in your yard or your fireplace can be a fun and easy way to destroy them. Recycle the “to be recycled”. Get a fire and waterproof safe deposit box for your home. It’s best to have one at your home so that you do not have to run to the bank every time you need something from it. Plus, it’s cheaper.

5. Separate your “to be filed” papers into two categories. #1 – Archive Papers. These are papers you want or need to keep, but they do not require any sort of action and you probably do not need to access them more than once a month. Examples of these are: Insurance and investment paperwork, leases, agreements, reference materials. #2 - Active Papers. These are current papers that you need to reference frequently or they require an action. Examples of these are: bills, receipts, forms to be completed, directions and details about an upcoming event, something you are waiting for a response on.

6. Set aside time to file your papers into an efficient category based home filing system. Your home filing system should have two parts -- an “Active Paper System” and an “Archive Paper System”. Keep the “Active Paper System” in a convenient location. Your “Archive Paper System” can be located in a filing cabinet in your basement or closet. Category based home filing systems work best. With an effective category based system you can find any paper within seconds because there is usually only one place that particular paper or file could be. In other systems, like alphabetical home filing systems, there is usually several different places a particular paper or file could be so it requires you to remember what your thought process was when you setup your home filing system. In addition, a category-based system will grow with you so you never have to redo your home filing system. I recommend using the Fast-Filing Method, which is an effective category-based system.

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About the Author

Heidi DeCoux, Clear Simple Living, LLC
Minneapolis, MN 55419

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