If you run a business from home, you have orders, invoices, statements and tax papers to juggle, and it's vital that you keep them handy. Even if you don't have a business, your family's financial information shouldn't be scattered around without a permanent home or problems will arise. Stuffing files in a cabinet or desk drawer is not an option; what you need is an organized filing system.
What type of filing cabinet should I use?
The type of filing cabinet you decide on will largely depend on your home's interior. If your home has a rustic feel, a wooden filing cabinet will suit the rest of the decor; however, this option may not be fire resistant. A sleek black, grey or cream metal cabinet are common and inexpensive options that offer you more peace of mind. If you prefer a little pizazz, modern filing cabinets come in a variety of cheerful colors.
Where do I start?
When you've accumulated a lot of paperwork, the task of sorting through the mess might appear daunting. However, it's not going to sort itself. You need to sit down and go through your papers one by one. Make a pile of orders, a pile of invoices and everything else that needs its own space. If you come across something that you don't need anymore that has personal information on it, shred it.
How do I set up a filing system?
To use a filing system effectively, you will need cardboard folders and hanging folders. Color coding is always a good idea. One idea is to use red folders for orders, green for invoices, blue for bills, and so on. Don't forget a folder for tax papers and receipts. When tax season comes around, you need to have everything handy. Create a label and affix it to the file or the file folder stating exactly what the folder contains.
What else do I need?
As your filing system grows or if you simply don't have enough space in one filing cabinet, keep a couple of cardboard boxes handy to store files from previous years. Make a list of every file in the box, give the box a number, and keep a copy of that list in a binder. Should you ever need to retrieve an old document, you'll know exactly where to find it.
What other documents should I keep?
Once you get in the habit of filing and being organized, you may want to create folders for non-business related documents. Documents such as passports, birth certificates and inoculation records should be filed.
How do I make filing more efficient?
Give each folder you create a name and file alphabetically. You can write directly on the folder with a pen or a permanent marker, but typing up a label looks more professional and is easier to read. If you think typing labels is too much trouble, invest in a small label maker. They're inexpensive and easy to operate.
In addition to a filing system, you might consider buying a scanner. Organizing a filling system is a good idea, but scanning your documents before filing them is an insurance policy just in case something gets lost. Once something is scanned and stored in your computer, it's there forever.