Posted by Tim Stobbs on June 15, 2011
Ok, I admit: I hate filing. I mean I will go to great lengths to avoid doing it (like not file a thing for six months) as such I will run into problems once in a while. Like this weekend where I realized I hadn’t archived my files since 2005. Yikes!
That doesn’t mean I haven’t filed anything from 2005 onwards, but rather I hadn’t pulled anything out of my files since 2005 and thus I had very thick files that made filing an even less than enjoyable task than it already was. You can see where this spiral is going right? I don’t file because it is harder to do with thick files which means more mess in the house making me even less happy with myself. So I avoid filing and the piles get bigger and then repeat.
So this weekend in one day I archived every piece of paper from my files from 2005 to 2010. Basically unless it had a 2011 date on it I pull the paper from my files. Achieving is a simple process as I do is pull out all the paper from that year and put it in a huge pile. Then once the huge piles are formed I place the paper into a series of large envelops or files with all the same year label and shove them into a box in the closet. Then after seven years I shred the contents since even the government isn’t going to audit me the income from my first job.
The result is a much thinner and easier to use files. I almost don’t even mind filing my pay stubs now which is obvious since I also filed every bill I’ve got for 2011 in ten minutes or so. So beyond archiving your files, what else have I learned from my battle with the file beast?
- Keep paper out. Avoid the paper in the first place by signing up for electronic statement and bills where possible or go for broke and get a high speed scanner and do it all digitally.
- File it at once. The second you are done with a piece of paper file it. Don’t wait as trying to batch the task will fail if you really hate filing (like me, I have failed to do the weekly filing thing for years).
- Make the system easy. Don’t create more files than you need and feel free to colour code. For example, I keep my utility bills separate (power, water, natural gas, phone) since I need the separate totals for taxes but colour code them all orange so I can see them easily.
- Make it personal. If you never remember something by a company name feel free to use another description. For example, my water and property tax bills both come from the city. So it is fine to label one file ‘water’ and the other ‘property taxes’ or mix in ‘The City of Regina’ for one of the files. Do what works for you.
So now my files are finally under control for the first time in years and I feel a lot better about filing new things…just in time for a postal strike where my bills and other papers will now be delayed in coming to my house. I can really appreciate the irony of now I’m not waiting to file on me, but rather my mail carrier.
So how do you make your file system work? Have you had problems creating a system that actually works?