6 TIPS FOR EASY PAPER ORGANIZATION MAINTENANCE
Weeks ago, we began tackling paper clutter by sorting piles of paper with the R.A.F.T. system. We then created the right filing categories and sub-categories for you based on how you intuitively look for information. And last week we discovered how to use paper zones to create a lasting paper management system. Today, we end our journey to conquer paper clutter with 6 final tips that will make your paper organization system easy-to-use and maintain, now and in the future, so the paper clutter never returns.
6 Tips To Make Paper Organization Easy To Maintain
1) Don’t cram files too full.
Overstuffed files make it difficult and frustrating to retrieve and file information. And if it’s difficult and frustrating, the system will break down. Additionally, filing needs change over time, so you want to make sure the system has room to grow. Extra-capacity file folders such as these these are great for long-term filing to address these concerns.
2) Create neat, consistent labels.
As with all things organizing, labelling is key. We already covered how to name files, so here I’m referring to the physical labels themselves. Perhaps it’s because my printing is not very neat, but the crisp look of a printed label actually motivates me to keep the filing neat to match it! Whether you print labels or hand write them, make sure the labels are neat and uniform.
3) Straight-line tabbing VS alternating tabbing.
This will come down to personal preference, but I recommend straight-line tabbing because it creates less visual clutter and is more adaptable. If you no longer need a particular filing category, the straight-tab system still works perfectly after it’s removed. But if you remove a file from the alternating tab method, you are left with a hole in your system. Further, a new file can easily be placed anywhere with straight-line tabbing and mesh seamlessly into the existing system. Whereas you can only easily add a new file category at the end of the alternating-tab system.
4) Colour coding files.
Colour coding helps some people, myself included. However, rather than different coloured folders for each category, I prefer to use white folders with colour dots. It’s easier and less expensive to only buy and have on hand plain white folders and stickers such as this pack that comes with 2,400 stickers, so you won’t run out anytime soon! With multiple boxes of different coloured files, you have to stay on top of what colours are running low and need to be replaced. If you don’t, the system breaks down.
For example, if I need to file something with a purple file, but am out, the filing either sits as paper clutter until I get more purple files, or gets put into a different coloured file and the system is broken. It may seem like a small thing, but the goal is to make filing as easy as possible, which includes keeping up with needed supplies.
5) File organization.
A common, easy to use system is alphabetical placement. If you use this method, be consistent on how you refer to categories and make sure everyone using the system is on the same page. For example, are cars “cars”, “automotive” or “motor vehicles”? .
Because I only use 8 broad categories, I put them in the order of frequency of reference. Our home file is first, followed by finances and health. Our property file is last because we rarely need to pull out anything having to do with the sale of our previous home 5 years ago. What’s most important is you use a system that makes sense to you.
6) Regular maintenance is key.
I saved the most important tip for last: schedule regular maintenance. I cannot overstate the fact regular maintenance is the key to ensuring paperwork doesn’t build up again. While you may have all your papers organized now, new paper is going to keep coming. The paper organization zones are equipped to handle it, but they are only as good as the people using it!
Make maintenance a part of your regular routine. How often depends on your specific needs, but it’s generally a good idea to review your inbox and short-term filing weekly. It stops the areas from piling up and becoming overwhelming, and ensures you don’t miss anything important because you put the paper in short-term filing and didn’t return to it in a timely manner. I review our inbox and short-term filing on Sunday mornings. Because I do it every week, it only takes 5-10 minutes, including transferring items to our long-term filing zone.
Maintenance of the regularly accessed papers and information zone is largely done on the go. For example, as soccer season ends, gymnastics sessions begin and I remove the soccer information and replace it with the gymnastics information. However, it’s a good idea to do quarterly maintenance of this area to make sure all information is current and accurate.
Maintenance of long-term filing is less frequent, perhaps semi-annually or annually. But in between maintenance sessions, a good practice to follow is “one in, one out”. For example, when you file the most recent month’s credit card statement (not used for business purposes), take out the monthly statement from 1 year ago. The idea is every time you file a document, you also take one out. This stops files from becoming too full (and difficult to use) and it will make your actual maintenance sessions quicker and easier.
I know dealing with paper clutter is not a quick or easy task. But I guarantee putting in the time and effort to create a convenient, easy-to-use system, catered to your family’s needs, will save you time and frustration daily. Once the system is set up, all it needs is a few minutes of maintenance every week or so; a small price to pay to say good-bye to paper clutter forever!
Thank you for coming on this journey to tackle paper clutter with me. I’d love to hear how your newly organized paper system is working for you. Let me know in the comments below.