Organizing Paperwork in Your Home Office

A stack of paperwork that needs to be filed.
What You'll Need
file cabinet (with or without a lock)
hanging file folders with tabs
trash can
paper shredder
3-ring binders
3-hole punch
clear sheet protectors

Organizing typically isn't anyone's favorite thing to do, especially if you have things piling up on your desk from last year. Getting organized doesn't have to be painful, but it may take some time. Getting started is the hard part, but once you do before you know it you will be done.

What do I need?

You can start with a filing cabinet, some file folders with tabs, a few three-ring binders, a trash can and a paper shredder. If you are concerned with keeping some of your paperwork private, you may want to get a safe to keep those papers in or a filing cabinet with a lock on it. If you decide to go with a locking filing cabinet, make sure it is a sturdy cabinet with a sturdy lock. Some filing cabinets are easily broken into. What's the point of a lock if the cabinet is so weak that it can be easily pried open? Or for that matter, if the lock is so weak that it can be easily broken?

File folders are ideal because they stay where they belong instead of getting crushed under the other folders in the cabinet. Folders with tabs on them are especially helpful because you can easily see what is in each folder. Some hanging folders have tabs that can be positioned anywhere along the top of the folder. These are helpful so that you can stagger the tabs and see any one of them at a glance. They also come with small labels that you can write on and slide inside the tabs.

Where do I start?

Start by separating your paperwork into categories and throwing away any papers that you no longer need. Be sure to shred papers that have personal or confidential information on them.

Next, using the categories that you used to separate them, decide how many folders you will need and how you should label each one. Do you need one for bills, one for invoices, and one for work orders? How about receipts, paychecks, and tax records? Make a label for each of your categories and slide them into the tabs. Then place the paperwork into the corresponding folder and place it in the file cabinet.

If you're not one to file your paperwork as you go, place a bin on your desk for paperwork that needs to be filed. That way you won't miss anything when it's time to file it. To keep the clutter down, you should file your papers at least once a week. Maintain a regular schedule with this so nothing piles up too much. Remember, the point is to stay organized with reduced clutter!

Why binders?

Three-ring binders are helpful in organizing any paperwork that you don't necessarily need filed. Binders contain papers in one place, keeping them clean, organized, and out of the way. Get yourself a three-hole punch to put holes in the papers, or get some clear sheet protectors to put them in. Paperwork that might be organized this way may include any work your child brings home from school, magazine articles you tear out and recipes, but the possibilities are endless! Cater the binder system to your household's needs.

These binders can house such paperwork temporarily and be filtered through on a regular schedule so that nothing accumulates too much. For instance, you can go through your child's school work at the end of the school year or semester before another term begins. You can go through you recipes and magazine articles seasonally and throw out what doesn't inspire you anymore. Maintaining such paperwork this way will cut down on clutter that may otherwise accumulate on the fridge, in drawers and on kitchen counters.

Now that your office is organized, all you have to do is keep it that way. Keeping it organized is a lot easier than getting it that way in the first place. It takes a lot less time, too. Look around at what you did and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.