Setting up a home office filing system can be challenging and overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be! These tips and ideas will help you organize your business paperwork and improve the organization in your office. You’ll clear the paper clutter from your work space so you can focus, and you’ll quickly and easily locate any paper items you need. Don’t miss these tips for setting up a home office filing system!
Tips for Setting Up a Home Office Filing System
Welcome back to Organize Your Files Week! How are you doing with the challenges? Is your paper clutter shrinking and your home office becoming more organized?
If you’re just joining us, welcome! It’s never too late to jump into Organize Your Files Week! Start here, then follow the series’ links at the bottom of each post. Take the challenges one at a time until you can kiss paper clutter buh-bye!
We’ve finally made it to the fun part of actually setting up our home office filing systems!
Or am I the only one who thinks that’s fun? 😉
So far, we’ve gathered our papers, sorted them into basic categories, and tackled our To Do stack and our To File pile. Today, we’re getting our file drawers ready to go, and to make the process a little easier, I’m sharing my best tips for setting up a home office filing system!
Essential Supplies for Filing
There are a few supplies that are absolutely essential for setting up a home office filing system!
This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy. As always, my favorable opinions of quality filing supplies are 100% my own. I only recommend products that I use and love!
- Hanging Files
- Tabs – if your hanging files didn’t come with them.
- Label Inserts – if your hanging files didn’t come with them.
- A File Drawer or File Bin
- A Hanging File Frame – if your filing unit doesn’t already have one.
That’s it! Just five essential supplies for filing!
If you’re like me, you crave a pop of color and a touch of “pretty” in your filing supplies. Here are a few options for adding aesthetic touches to your filing system:
- A Label Maker – I love how clean a row of hanging files look with printed labels!
- Washi Tape – Add a pop of color and pattern in a dizzying array of choices!
- Printable Decorative File Labels – Another option for adding pops of color and pattern to your filing labels!
Those are the essential (and a few nonessential) supplies you need to set up a basic filing system, so now let’s talk about filing system organization!
Filing System Organization
Yesterday, we sorted our To File stack and created file names that work for us and our businesses (see that post here: How to Construct a Filing System That Works For You).
Now, let’s get those sorted stacks into hanging folders and store those hanging folders in our file drawer or file box!
Grab your label inserts and label maker, then create labels for each of the file names you created during yesterday’s sorting process.
There are several ways to organize your hanging files within your file drawer or file bin:
- Alphabetically: The most common organization system where files are organized alphabetically by file name.
- Categorically: Similar information is grouped together (i.e. Advertising, Forms, Marketing, etc.).
- Numerically: Numbers are assigned to file names and files are labeled with the number instead of the file name; this is ideal for confidential files, invoices, or temporary files.
I use a combination of categorical and alphabetical file organization in my file drawer:
- I have a box bottom hanging folder at the front of my file drawer, and it’s labeled “Client Files” (categorical).
- Within that hanging file, I have a 3-pocket file folder for each client. Each file folder is labeled “Client: [Client’s Name].” The file folders are organized alphabetically by customer name (last name, first name or business name).
My other business files are organized alphabetically. This works for me, because it’s based on the way my brain works (to learn more, check out yesterday’s post: How to Construct a Filing System That Works for You)!
Unless a categorical option jumps out at you (like my Client Files category did), start by organizing your files alphabetically. It’s the easiest and most natural way to organize files. Then, over the coming months, tweak your file organization if you need to.
Label Alignment: To Stagger or Not to Stagger
Among us organizing dorks, to stagger or not to stagger your hanging file labels is quite the hot button topic!
I did mention we are organizing dorks, right?! 😉
Ultimately, how you align your hanging folder labels is a personal choice! But in case you’re undecided, here are the benefits of each:
Staggered Labels allow you to see all of your labels in one glance. And you don’t have to use all of the staggered positions along the top of the hanging file. You can use two (which is easier for your eye to track), three, or more.
Unstaggered Labels look a little less cluttered, and you can easily add, remove, or reorganize your hanging folders without having to move all of your labels to new positions.
Again, this is a matter of personal choice, so experiment, and see which label alignment you prefer!
Adding Your New Files to an Existing File System
Yesterday we created file names that work for us and our business, and today we’re creating labels and hanging files for those file names. But what’s the best way to add our new, unique-to-us files to an existing file drawer?
You have a couple of options:
#1 Add your new files to the front of your file drawer, then start refiling the items from your “old” files a little at a time.
Grab your trusty timer, set it for 15 minutes, then sort and refile the items from your first “old” hanging folder, then sort and refile the items from your second “old” hanging folder, etc., until the timer goes off. Take a break and repeat if you have the time or the energy.
#2 Set aside a half or full day to sort and refile ALL of the items from your “old” hanging folders.
Work in 15 minute blocks, take a break, then come back and repeat the entire cycle. Do this until ALL of the items in your “old” hanging folders are refiled.
Choose the option that will work best with your schedule, available work space, and personality.
Because I simply couldn’t handle knowing that my hanging files weren’t organized into one system, I took a Saturday morning and sorted and refiled ALL of my items at once. My daughter and I watched movies while I worked on my files and she worked on a project. It actually ended up being a fun day!
One important caveat: Beware letting this part of the project linger for too long (more than a week or so). Otherwise all of your files will get jumbled, and you’ll struggle to find items quickly, if at all. You may even feel or be more disorganized than before. Work in blocks and get through this step asap!
You may find it helpful to organize your files into zones.
This can be helpful if:
- You run more than one business: You can use one hanging file color for each business.
- Due to space, budget, or other constraints, you keep personal and family files in the same file drawer as your business files: You can use one color for personal/family and one for business.
- You want to organize some of your files into broader categories: The client files section that I mentioned above is pink. The color jumps out at me and keeps me from missing a client. I also have an aqua colored section for other business files and a purple section for office files.
This is an optional step, so feel free to skip it completely. However, it might be helpful for some of you, depending on your home business situation!
Keep Items in Place
My hanging files run parallel to the direction my file drawer opens and closes. So, after a couple of days, my carefully filed items end up falling out the back of my hanging files. That’s a good way to lose items, and I definitely don’t want to waste precious time re-sorting my items.
File jackets are an excellent option for keeping filed items in place, because they’re closed on two or three sides which prevent items from sliding out of the open sides of hanging files.
There are many different file jacket colors, styles, and materials. Here are a few options to get you started.
Stowing Small Items
To avoid losing small filed items, try self-adhesive pockets like these:
- Smead Top-Load Self-Adhesive Pockets
- Pendaflex Self-Adhesive Vinyl Pockets
- Smead Self-Adhesive CD/DVD Pockets (not just for CDs or DVDs!)
- Smead Clear Poly Self-Adhesive Pockets, Assorted Sizes
I love to add self-adhesive pockets to my hanging files and store sticky notes, business cards, index cards, receipts, envelopes, and more. And I never have to worry about losing them!
Dealing with Overstuffed Files
If you end up with a file that is really full or feels disorganized, you can do one of two things:
You can break that file down into more specific categories and create additional hanging files.
Or you can divide your hanging file!
Again, we’ll use my client files as an example. I have one large client file, but there are smaller sections (created with file folders) for individual clients within it.
There are many ways to divide hanging files. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Pendaflex Divide-It-Up Letter Size File Folders: These are the 3-pocket folders I use for my individual client files. The three pockets help me to keep all of my client information organized by topic, and I always know where everything is (unless I don’t file it…like those conference call notes I found in my To File stack yesterday)! *shaking my head*
- Binder Clips
- Smead Note Jackets
- Divider Sticky Notes
** Box bottom hanging folders are your friend when it comes to storing a large number of papers. They’ll hold your papers neatly and keep them organized!
These tips for setting up a home office filing system will help you to create a functional and easily maintained system for organizing and storing necessary paper items. You’re well on your way to making paper clutter disappear and reclaiming your home office as an organized and productive space!
Although, Organize Your Files Week is almost over, keep working through each step and don’t start the next one until the previous is D-O-N-E!
I’ll be sharing more posts in the Organize Your Files Week series over the coming weeks…one week just isn’t enough time! 🙂
Don’t forget to pin it!
Other Posts in the Organize Your Files Week Series
Today’s post is part of the Organize Your Files Week series!
Check out the other posts in the series:
Tips for Setting Up a Home Office Filing System
Are you finding the Organize Your Files Week challenges helpful? I’d love to hear about your successes and answer any questions in the comments below!
Thanks for being here today!
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