I don’t know many people who like to file, especially when there’s a load to do, and how to file quickly is something I get asked often – so I thought I’d write a post about it to give you a guide as to the way that I find takes the least amount of time and stress.
This came at a good time actually, as I have been letting our filing pile build for a few months. This is due to other projects taking up my time, and I was safe in the knowledge that I have a TO FILE basket in my paperwork area so I could find anything not filed quite easily anyway.
So – it was about time I did some filing and get things back on an even course (my plan going forward is to add this chore as a household task to do monthly so it doesn’t build up again). I shall use my filing to show you the steps to make to get your filing done as quickly as possible:-
Step 1 – Gather your paperwork
As I have just said, my filing was already in a basket and so all I had to do was grab that (it slides out easily so I can carry it to the filing cabinet). Here’s the pile as it stood (note the cup of coffee, I’d always recommend a cuppa when doing organising projects!)
It’s not horrendous by any means, but still I was aware that it would take a bit of time to get through, and that’s usually what makes most people procrastinate and do something else instead.
If you have a TO FILE pile already, then great, if not, use this step to walk around your home and gather together any paperwork you find.
Step 2 – Simply sort into LIKE piles
You could spend a long time going through each and every piece of paper you have to file, reading it all and trying to decide whether it’s important enough to file or not.
This takes too long and doesn’t work well as you haven’t got all the information you need at this stage to make that decision easily.
Instead, simply look at the heading of each piece of paper and start to make piles of similar things.
For example – put everything related to your car in one pile, all your gas bills in another, bank statements in another etc….
Here is my filing all sorted – this only took about 5-10 minutes in total so should be a quick thing to do as you are NOT sorting it in detail at this stage at all (its slightly blurred as I didn’t want to post pictures of all my personal info online!):-
There are 3 main tips to think about when doing this step:-
- Label each pile so that it’s easy to see what’s what.
- Don’t think too much!
- Have a pile for shredding and put in it any obvious rubbish you find
Step 3 – Sanity check each pile
When you have sorted your filing into piles, you can deal with each smaller pile much more effectively.
Go through each pile and quickly work out if there’s anything that you don’t need to keep i.e if you have 2 insurance certificates for home insurance, then you only need to keep the most recent, or maybe you have bank statements but the last page of each one is blank – this is a waste of time keeping as it will add bulk to your filing.
This will cut the piles down a little further.
Step 4 – File a Pile!
Now you are ready to file things away, quickly and easily.
You will probably have already set up some sort of filing system (I plan to do a post on setting one up in the near future so watch this space!), so I won’t tackle that area of filing today – instead we will just talk about getting things filed.
Here’s my filing cabinet as it stands today. It works OK for us but I want to give it a revamp at some point to make it even easier to use (I feel another post coming on…!):-
A few things I like about this setup is as follows:-
- Consistent colour and look for all files
- Labels are in separate columns for different people so they are grouped (i.e. all of mine are one column, my hubbys are another, the home is another etc…)
- Everything is clearly labelled
- It’s in a place where I keep all my paperwork and is therefore convenient to use
If you are wondering what you shouldn’t do when filing – why not take a look at this post I wrote recently which gives you some great ideas of what NOT to do!
So, you have some sort of filing area set up – now all you need to do is choose a pile that you have made, grab the corresponding file in your filing cabinet (or ring binder, whatever you file in), and put everything away.
There are some things to check when you do this though, and this is the crucial bit!
- Place most recent items at the front of each file to keep consistency, make it easy to find what you need in a file, and so you can easily purge when you need to.
- Take away anything that is now out of date (i.e. if you are putting away your latest car insurance, then you can remove last years)
- Sanity check that everything in the file is still needed (have you changed service provider etc…)
If you go through each pile this way, then you can easily and quickly file things away – and it’s a lot less hassle than trying to file each individual piece of paper as you find it (you will have to get files out many times, and you may be filing things unnecessarily etc…)
Step 5 – Shred!
When you have finished with all the piles, you should just be left with rubbish. This needs shredding to ensure data protection – so having a shredder somewhere in your home is a fantastic purchase.
They don’t cost a lot, but I advise having one near where you open your post, as then you can shred things as you find you don’t need them, and even can shred all addresses from envelopes etc… while you’re at it.
If there’s a lot of shredding you may want to create a pile by the shredder and do 10 minutes a day until it’s all done (your shredder can only take so much without overheating as well!)
This is the best method I have found for how to file quickly and easily – especially if you have larger volumes of paperwork. If you can, try and schedule filing into your weekly or monthly schedule, just like you would the hoovering etc…. and you will be able to keep on top of it easily from now on.