Yet more general filing questions



The hardest thing for me right now (and traditionally) is the filing system. I used to have hanging folders bulging full of stuff. Very hard to access. I like David's idea of individual files for each item but i am still confused. I don't think my filing cabinet works without hanging folders. So if I understand correctly, I would insert one file folder into each hanging folder and label the hanging folder tab or the file folder tab. Labelling the hanging folder tab seems to make more sense (easier to read, can rearrange position, etc.) where if the file folder is labeled, inside the hanging folder it is somewhat obscured.

Also, I have lots of connected information such as receipts for purchases (warranty, etc.). Should each receipt (some of them are small) go in a separate file folder within a hanging folder labelled something like "Receipt - Printer". The Next one "Receipt- Scanner".

Also I have keep copies of all paid bills. Once again should I place each bill in a separate folder labelled "Paid Bills - Electric", "Paid Bills- Phone", "Paid Bills-Visa".

Btw, I am setting up my home not office.




I will share what I have learned and you can see what applies to you. Start with the end in mind and aim to overcome the worst problem that you have actually had, be it the getting the stuff put away or retrieving it when needed, Use your files as a method for storing reference material, not a memory jogger. If you need memory joggers, and I do, create lists for that and file them under LISTS or MEMORY JOGGERS or whatever works for you. LISTS works great for me. So for me, I have separate files for different credit cards (labelled Visa, MasterCharge, etc.) because I need to get those in a file to get them off my desks and I have a file labelled credit matters that has a list of account numbers and related information and in LISTS I have a list of acct numbers. As to the hanging type. I find they fall off their little tracks and get over stuffed so they need a lot of TLC but they are great as place holders for a file that often gets taken out and must go back in its assigned slot , especially if in use by different people. You might look at the GTD book for issues about the types of folders. Just keep asking yourself what is the easiest way for me to retrieve, replace, update and file--people's minds work different ways. Different usages require different methods, too. For example at my foot doctor patients with different ages, diagnoses and insurance plans file out different forms and take home different information (patient hand outs)--no two patients are alike . The front desk lady has a file drawer of hanging folders for these forms and they are alphabetized A to Z, e.g. Alpha Omega Insurance Report, Bone Spur Pain Rating Scale, Callus Removal Home Care, Decadent Medical Ins. Group Report, etc. These hanging folders only hold the blank forms from which she selects specific ones to give to different patients. The only thing that ever goes in these hanging folders are the blanks themselves so this is really used as a "retrieve mainly" system. If they add a new form she just adds a hanging folder with a label and puts it where it goes in the alphabet. Systems works great. But if you are doing a lot of in and out with a regular file inside of a hanging folder you might get frustrated. Another use I like for the hanger ones is when ones needs a "catch mainly" system". I have a cooking file drawer and in that only I use hanging type files. I based the file heads on the table of contents of a major reference cookbook so that when I get recipe clippings I can easily put them in the categories that follow that outline. I rarely take anything out of this file but when I do, I want only a certain topic and then I want it completely. There are no folders in the hanging folders--I just take the whole hanging thing out that I want to pursue (e.g. BREAD). You see as an every day matter I do not cook from recipes but I collect recipes and then every so often (like 1 ro 2x a year) I boil them down to a master recipe or set of master recipes for a given item. So ask yourself: what do I need to make easiest--collecting, retrieving, both and fhow can I do so in this case? What are my choices and whart am I maximizing? Again, I urge you to read in detail the GTD book sections on filing and it has helped me foresee pitfalls to write a description of what I am doing and "instructions" for myself. Good luck! Let us know how you make out--you might disciver something useful for others.


I know that in the book David pushes a preference for NOT using the hanging files but using the plain vanilla manilla folders standing upright in the drawer with a label. I have been testing that system out and have found that unfortunately for me while the folders do fit in my drawers that way and I can actually store more folders than if I use the hanging files... what happens for me is that as soon as I have more than about 10 pieces of paper they start to literally collapse and fall down, and become hidden... not good!! I"m getting close to going back to the hanging files which is unfortunate as I gave all mine away (thankfully to my husband so I've got at least a minimal chance of retrieving them).
I've been keeping an excel spreadsheet on my archive list on the pc which is a list of all the files and i put keywords that I associate next to the file 'name' then if I get stuck I do a ctrl plus f and I usually find the thing I"m looking for that way.
Works for more than just files eg if I can't remember where I put the hot water bottles and suddenly there's a cold snap - ctrl f brings up 'large plastic container no 2 downstairs' .... what a system!!
I've got all kinds of things stacked away in archive boxes that I will probably never have to access but at least I can sleep easy at night knowing where they are (this spreadsheet is on my palm pda by the way as backup and also gives me portability).
Good luck and keep us up to date with your progress. Looking forward to hearing other ideas.


Frank Buck

If I understand David correctly, the downsides of hanging file folders are that the folders themselves take up a lot of room and the labeling is more cumbersome.

If space is not a problem and you like hanging files, I would say go with them. Keep a supply of empty folders on hand and keep an old coffee mug full of those plastic tabs handy. I suggest using the brother labeler and sticking the label on the plastic tab. (This is as opposed to using the cardboard tabs that you get with the folders, tearing them apart, putting them in a typewriter, and then sliding them in the tabs.)

As for having a manilla folder inside the hanging file folder, I have never seen the point in doing that. Just go with the hanging files.

If the problem with using just manilla folders is that they don't stand up, adjust the "sliding thingy" (for lack of the real name for the thing) in the back of the drawer. If you don't have any, there was some discussion on this board at one time about where to get them, what they are called, substitutes you can use, etc.

Hope this helps.


Folders etc

Just thought I'd put my 2 cents worth in. I have had difficulty in setting up the files as well.
But first the hanging files: I bought a wire frame that slots into the filing drawer and holds around 20 manila folders between each upright. They don't fall or collapse when full because they are held upright by the other folders. I couldn't find a filing cabinet with the sliders, though I have seen them in some far distant past.
Labelling: I have the labeller and the power pack and I love it. But, when I am busy, I just write on the folder (slowly, clearly). It doesn't ruin the system. In terms of what do I file where, I keep all my "like" items together (personal cheque acct; business cheque; power bills etc) all in a folder each. In terms of purchases, I labelled one "Assets 2003". Every purchase receipt and warranty slip goes in there.
I guess when I find that too many files are being produced I'll go through them and see if I have doubled up (happens occasionally) or maybe I can reasonably merge two files. I can always write or label over a used folder.
Hope that helps in some way!



p.s. I'm an Aussie. Cheque account = check account :wink:


I wouldn't sweat the "right" folders for stuff too much--they key is how you're likely to remember it first. In my files, "house insurance" is under H, while "car insurance" is under C (even though I drive a pickup truck). It's just how I think of stuff.

As for paid bills, I toss them. I used to save them by month, but I haven't had a need to refer to them. Between Quicken and my checking statements, I can probably research any questions that might come up.

Of course, your needs and thoughts might be different.