Paper filing woes:-(

vegangirlDecember 4, 2007

Help! I need some advice.

Last winter, I read the book "File...Don't Pile" by Pat Dorff. I thought that sounded like a good method to take care of all the papers I want to keep and actually find again when I need them. So I typed up a list of Broad Categories for my reference files such as Homemaking, Food, Gardening, Wildlife, Health, Geneaology and other pertinent categories (17 in all). Then I sorted a bunch of papers into boxes labeled with my categories. The plan, according to the book, is to then break down the broad categories into smaller categories, i.e. Gardening into Vegetables, Fruits, Woodland, etc. There are still more to sort, but I would like to get started actually filing them.

Can anyone offer some motivational and/or efficiency tips and ideas? I'm just stuck and can't seem to get myself started on this. Seems like every paper I pick up, I can't decide what to do with it. On the surface, it seems like it would be so easy to just put them in the proper folders. What is wrong with me??? I think I need some 'baby steps" but can't come up with any :-(



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what is wrong with you? maybe you're trying to tell yourself you don't want to keep those papers after all.

Speaking for myself, I can't imagine that I'd need to keep papers about vegetable gardening. I'd make sure I had a really good reference book about gardening in general, or about whatever category I was interested in, and I'd throw all the papers away.

No, wait, not really--the *reality* is that I'd carefully FILE all those papers, and NEVER look at them again

    Bookmark   December 4, 2007 at 3:23PM
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Personally, I'd file them in the broad catagories. I'm sure it would be very neat and lovely to have everything all separated down, but honestly, I'd be much more willing to spend time digging through the larger catagory for what I need than taking the initial time to separate them into the more specific ones.

Maybe some rainy day you'll feel like playing in the filing cabinet, and *then* you can break down the catagories if you want...but for now, I'd just pat yourself on the back that you got *this* far with it, and file them away in thier large catagories, then celebrate that your papers are finally filed.

That's what I would do.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2007 at 4:01PM
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I recently filed all my papers into broad categories. When I finished, I realized that for some of them, I could/should have purchased a book and not bothered with the whole process of cutting out of magazines and filing. I might still end up doing that and throw away those folders.

If you find yourself going into a certain file(s) to look for something, then I would sort those into sub categories. No need to do this yet unless you know you'll be searching for information from it on a regular basis.

I did end up organizing the clipped recipes into categories but haven't gone into the other folders enough to do this extra step.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2007 at 4:20PM
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I agree w/ Jamie & Marie, actually--that's what I did w/ my categories.

I have a category called "home"; if it pertains to the apartment we own, I stick it in there. I discovered that I was always going back to find the "how to get to our house" directions/map I'd created, so I put them in a subfolder. I left all the other stuff floating in a big mass. Then I realized, as I was flipping through the folder once after that, that I had a lot of stuff that was receipts or research for home repairs, so I made a subfolder for those. And left the other papers just floating loose in the main folder. Not everything has to fit in a subfolder.

So, just shove it in folders according to how you've sorted it now (be a little conservative--some of it can go out, probably), and do subfolders only if you decide you need them.

(But I still would get a couple of really good reference books on gardening, and throw all the other general-ish paper away. If I had paperwork specific to MY garden--my landscape plan; results of a perk test or soil pH test; info on the varietal of rose I planted; notes about fertilizing; stuff specific to ME--I'd put those in a general "Gardening" folder. But I wouldn't keep any papers or articles about how to fertilize in general, etc.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2007 at 5:08PM
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I've filed away some of my folders, like insurance, house and mortgage, medical. I figure I have the necessary receipts in a drawer. The only two I kept out are taxes and recipes. Shows you where I'm at, cooking and money. Maybe you can file some of those folders, if they're "dormant". I used to collect recipe books and cut recipes from magazines. No more. If I want a recipe now, I google it. The internet holds my entire recipe collection.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2007 at 5:33PM
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I keep nothing like this at all. As long as you have the internet you can go look up what you need. OR you can save things to an external drive so when you change computers you will still have your information handy.

Funny this just came up because yesterday morning I went through bank statements yesterday and tossed up to 2006. I have a big bag to burn.I was ill last year and did not get to it.

I saved myself enough time NOT keeping sorting arranging filing worrying about things like this to be able to go look up the one or two things I might have saved for future refrence.

Just a note. I have not kept a paid utility bill in over 10 years and have NEVER had the need to get a copy of one I did not save. I now have empty drawers in my secretary because I am not storing all of this stuff.

The biggest bonus is the important things like life insurance and social security birth certificate kind of things I can find in an instant and if having to flee this house taken with me and I would know I was grabbing the one small box file that has it all.


    Bookmark   December 4, 2007 at 7:43PM
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I use to file that kind of stuff. That was pre-Internet and a pretty garden idea wasn't always quick to find. For reference, I still enjoy looking at my gardening books, but I don't really use them much, I just enjoy looking.

Paper seems to be a problem for all of us and I really feel like the less you can get by with saving, the better. We do have to save lots of bills for business reasons, but we scan them into the computer now. Idea stuff is allowed one three ring binder on my shelf. It's kind of my dream book for someday I'll.... The other areas are specific. Medical, a file for each child, etc. I couldn't deal with even 17 areas.

I don't think there's anything wrong with you, but I vote on talley's side. I think somethings we think we need to keep stuff and we really don't. These papers are just "potential." I would look at what you really need to keep and what are just ideas which are readily available in a book or on the Internet.


    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 2:33AM
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Hi everyone,
Thanks for all the replies.

Talley Sue, I have dozens of good references books:-) Books and plants are the things I collect! But most of these papers I've sorted out to relate specifically to us. We grow about 11,000 sq ft of vegetables and I don't know how many sq ft of fruits. We keep garden plans from year to year because we rotate the crops,etc. but I have considered what you said and have decided to think carefully about some other categories and be sure I really do need the papers.

Jamie and Marie, I think that's what I'll do for now, just get them out of the boxes and into the filing cabinet. Yesterday after I posted this, I pulled out the boxes and found that I had already started the subfolders for the Religion category so I finished that in about 30 minutes and actually put the hanging folder in the file cabinet. I was very pleased with myself:-)

Jannie, the insurance,m medical, etc are a whole 'nother story! I've been quite ruthless with the recipe category. Some, I wonder why I even saved it in the first place:-)

Chris, I'm one of those people who like to hold the thing I'm reading in my hand:-) I want the option of taking it with me and having it whenever I want it. I'm on dial-up and my computer is incredibly slow. It's still Windows 95. The only problem is that, right now, I have a hard time finding what I want, when I want it in my boxes:-)

Gloria, Evidently I can't deal with 17 areas!

    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 8:39AM
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I'm actually a little bit skeptical about relying too heavily on the Internet as a resource. I know of publications that pared WAY down on their past issues that were online.

And I think that an edited collection is a much better source and can be much more direct.

I'm like Vegangirl, I like to hold things in my hand, and I do alot of my reading on my morning commute (on the subway--no driving!)

(I hope you didn't think I really meant anything was wrong w/ you; I was just using your terminology)

    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 9:36AM
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Talley Sue, No problem! I understood perfectly:-)

I just got home from the dentist. I'm hoping that after lunch is over I can work some more on my boxes. It's snowing outside. I appreciate the thoughts and advice. I'll report back later today and let you all know what (if anything!) I accomplish.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2007 at 11:58AM
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I went through the gardening box again and tossed about 1/4 of the contents. Same with the health box. I looked at every paper or article critically and saw that some of it was outdated or really didn't contain that much useful information, or that I had a book with that info in it.

I read an online article today about putting gardening articles in sheet protectors, in 1 inch 3-ring binders, one for each topic. I'm thinking of doing that with gardening at least, instead of file folders.


    Bookmark   December 6, 2007 at 6:05PM
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One caution on sheet protectors--it's a certain amount of work, and expenditure, that sometimes isn't warranted based on the number of times you will refer to the info.

If you'll flip through it often, it make sense. But if you'll look through those papers three times in a year, it probably isn't sensible.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 12:21PM
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We started a filing system in our message center (has a file size drawer). I included hanging folders for my DH to place things "to be filed" and another "to be shredded". Things still accumulated on the countertop. So, he and I just went through the pile and 95% got thrown or shredded. We kept tax necessary and insurance statements (to track deductibles, etc.) and shredded any other statements that aren't needed for tax purposes. I got my DH to help because we were having the kitchen painted! THAT was motivation! :-)

We're trying to convert to paperless statements on as much as possible. This is an option with most credit card companies, energy companies and banks. If you download to your computer, create folders with labels, then copy those off to a CD or some other medium (we do it once a year) and put that in a real file drawer. That way, if your computer crashes, you'll have an extra copy.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2007 at 1:44PM
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Hey, let me help! I'm a secretary by profession (well, actually, my title is Executive Staff Assistant, but everybody knows I'm really a secretary) so I know all about filing.

I see one of your problems right away -- you should only handle a paper ONCE. ONCE! If you pick it up, put it away right then. Create a place for it and put it there. Don't keep going back through the whole pile and sorting and subsorting. You're wasting a lot of your well-intentioned labor.

In my opinion, you should create broad categories under each broader category. For example, you grow FRUITS? OK, make a FRUIT file drawer. In the FRUIT file drawer, make a folder for, say, apples. Put all the apple stuff in that one folder. Make another folder for strawberries. Put everything about strawberries in that folder. And so on. Don't sub-sort all the information in the apple folder or the strawberry folder. Too much trouble, and makes it that much harder when you have a new piece of paper to file on apples or strawberries.

Years ago, when I set up a brand-new office, I made all the labels on all similiar-subject files the same color. In other words, I bought folder labels in red, green, blue, yellow, etc., etc. and all the folders that were -- to use your situation -- FRUITS, I put a red label on each folder. All the folders that were VEGETABLES, I put a blue label on each folder. And so on.

Here's another one of my opinions (it's free!): the sheet protectors are a waste of time and energy.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2007 at 6:07PM
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Littlebug...where do you live? Come help me!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2007 at 8:36PM
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Hi folks,
I'm away from home on a relative's computer but didn't want to wait a week to respond.

wonbyherwits, thanks for the tip!

Littlebug, thank you too! You make it sound so simple that I wonder why I didn't think of that!

Some of the categories aren't quite so straightforward though. For instance the Health category. I give short (2-3 minutes) health talks at church each week and also conduct occasional health seminars. I collect all sorts of health articles and bits of information as "fodder" for my talks. It's all on different topics and I'm at a loss as to how to file it in a way that I can retrieve any given topic. Any ideas on that?


    Bookmark   December 13, 2007 at 5:25PM
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VG - How about a large 3-ring binder with subject tabs according to organ/body part/or specific diseases? Or, if you have that much, smaller binders labeled by same subjects?

I finally put my "someday" pics into 2 one inch binders; one "inside" and one "outside". Some of those inside pics are from the 70s BHG but I love them and can't bear to throw them out. I've culled the "outside" book because I've had to rethink my yard as I'm the only one doing the work and I had to simplify. All the pics/articles are in sheet protectors because I had them already.

Recipes are in a 3-ring binder picture album with the sticky clear plastic peel off protectors. They get culled too and I rely on the internet for recipes more and more, but I do print them and put them in one of those pages so I can take it out of the book while cooking.

As to a pile to be shredded, I used to do that, until I saw someone in a medical office who had the shredder right under his desk and as needed, paper was shredded RIGHT THEN. A lightbulb went on and I've done that ever since. I shred junk mail immediately. Take personal info off of magazines and catalogues (and from the order blank inside) and shred them before tossing - you get the picture. The shredder is on all the time, under my desk. So handy.....

    Bookmark   December 14, 2007 at 5:59AM
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VG - I file pretty much like litterbug5 says - complete with different colored tabs. We have a number of businesses here (including my DH's law office), so we have a lot of paper we have to keep. A few years ago I finally went through a lot of the old stuff and decided to reorganize. I got some of those box bottom hanging folders (wider to hold more) and colored tabs. Then I have broad categories (banking, medical, forms, advertising, etc.) and manilla folders in subcategories inside the box folders. If you have a broad category for Health, and have some overlapping info. in different subcategories, it might make some sense to 1)photocopy some of the pages and put one page in each folder or 2)make a note in the one subcategory to see a specific article in another subcategory. That is probably how I would do it, anyway. The main thing is to have it easy to know where to put it so that you can find it again (ask yourself where would I look for this?) or it won't be worth saving at all.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2007 at 9:50AM
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wanttoretire and rjvt,

Thanks for the good ideas! My thoughts are beginning to gel on this, thanks to all the good ideas here. I'm still not home so can't get right to work on it.

I do have overlapping information so the photocopying ideas is a good one.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2007 at 2:41PM
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re: your health info, etc.:

Remember the advice about a "FRUITS" big folder, w/ some subfolder? I do that. Not w/ gardening, but w/ other stuff.

(forgive me if I've mentioned this to you before; I didn't see it on this thread, but I know I've mentioned it other places)

Let's say I have a hanging folder for "heath talks." Inside, I have a manila folder for each of the subjects I often cover--let's say "the effects of overweight," and "why sleep is important." I find an article about skin, and I stick it in the main folder. As I do, I notice that there's a reference to sleep affecting skin's appearance. So I either move it to sleep, or I highlight the word "sleep" and stick the article in the main folder.

Then, when I'm going to give a talk, I pull out the subfolder. I *also* flip pretty quickly through the other article sin the main folder to see if there's anything in there I want to incorporate.

This adheres to an organizing principle that says: "when you want something to use it, you will do a little more work to get it out, than you are willing to do to put it away."

And so organizing experts suggest you make the storing of stuff easy--open the drawer and stick the stuff in the folder--even if it means you have to do a little more work to get out the things you need. "make it easy to put it away."

I think this applies to filing.

There's a point at which this starts to backfire, of course--making it TOO hard to get it out at all may mean you don't bother.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2007 at 4:36PM
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Talley sue, thanks for the suggestion. I've made a bit of progress but not nearly as much as I need to make:) But ...slow and steady wins the race...right?

    Bookmark   May 19, 2008 at 5:50AM
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I'm so impressed with all of you...
Here's a tip that has worked very well for me in the financial category. Instead of keeping folders for all the categories of things I pay for, I bought a plastic accordion folder with twelve sections and labeled them by month. Everything gets filed behind the month in which I paid it. I print the receipts for my online transactions - including the list of bills I authorize my bank to pay on line, to which I attach the receipt section of those bills - and include them. Any bill I pay conventionally is marked with the date and check number. Then at the end of the year, I pitch all the ones that don't have "legs," file the rest in their broad categories (house, insurance, medical, etc.) and start again. If I need to check a payment, I can find it really fast, and I don't keep things I don't need.

And, as an aside... there is no such thing as "just a secretary." My mother, who is now 89, was one of those old-fashioned career executive secretaries...her rank was second only to the Governor's secretary, and she was paid a relative pittance to be, in essence, her boss's brain, voice, gatekeeper, protocol officer, and, because she is charming, outspoken, and socially connected, occasionally his wardrobe critic! She was secretary to six consecutive heads and the boards of the government council that oversees our state universities and colleges, and wrapped up her career as secretary to a university president. Her continuing filing advice is this: KISS (keep it simple, sister!) She advocates purely alphabetical systems, filing back to front in the folders (newest in front), and always has one file called "Hoorah's Nest" in which she keeps pure silliness.

We lost a vast well of productivity and civility when we decided that computers made these (usually) women who ran the world obsolete. And I think they are coming back as we finally learn the honor in this work, and become willing to pay for it at a decent rate.

Off the soapbox now...!

    Bookmark   May 21, 2008 at 9:05AM
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