Burlington Professional Organizer – Filing Rules

Posted by on Nov 4, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Well folks here is that four letter word that starts with “f” and the thought of this word makes some people cringe!  The “f” word that I’m talking about is called “file” as in file systems, or file this please, or where did I put that file???


As a professional organizer I’m often asked to create a filing system or correct a filing system that is covered in couple of inches of paper because it was just too difficult to maintain.  Here is a document that I share with clients as we guide them through the creation of a customized system.  With the rules listed below you no longer have to fear the four letter word again! 


There was the promise of a “paperless world” that we all envisioned with the computer age however there is still the need for hard copies in our world.

Surprisingly enough, something as simple as filing is either not done properly or not done at all.

The following rules help people administer their files in a timely manner.


Categorizing is the back bone of the entire filing process.  Whether you use an alphabetical, numerical or chronological structure, a filing system is only effective if you can find everything quickly and without a struggle.

– Main categories are crucial.   Take the time and give it some thought.  Start with categories that pop into your head immediately and work with that as a basis.  Keep in mind if it is a shared filing system you must share your ideas for category names.

– SUB categories dissect your main categories into bite size pieces.  Uses as many as you like but keep in mind the KISS process, Keep It Simple Sweetheart!



Banking – Master card, Air Miles, Canada Trust,      BMO statement notices

Important Documents – Marriage cert., health cards, deposit box info, passwords for the electronic world

Income Tax –  Software, T’s, current year return, etc.

Insurance – CAA car, home and life documents

Investments – Stocks, bonds, RESP, RSPs

Medical – prescription receipts, dental, hospital receipts. 

Receipts (Misc.) – any day-to-day receipts, gas, groceries, toiletries, restaurant

RRSP – current statements

Utilities – gas, hydro, telephone, cable etc.,

– Avoid making a miscellaneous sub category.  Miscellaneous is defined as mixed or various.   You need to specify a category.  If it is meant to be filed, it is meant to have a category name.



Labels are meant to be seen.  Make it easy on the eyes to instantly find a file.

– Use a medium black marker, print, and no script, or better still invest in a label machine.

– Use as few words as possible and put further descriptions in the file.

– Line up tabs flush to left or right, avoids zigzagging, which is hard on the eyes, and can lead to misfiling.


Piles create disorganization which leads to non productive action.

– If your filing cabinet is close to your desk you avoid the temptation to pile.  Remember putting something into a filing basket doesn’t constitute filing.   Why touch a file twice?   Put in the cabinet the first time around.

– Always file document most recent at the front of file, previous documents are hardly ever looked at.

– Business cards are an excellent source of information.  Staple them in the front inside flap of the current file.

– If letting go of some documents causes anxiety, designate a temporary holding box.   Record the deposit date for each item.   If you do not touch it for 6 months, IT IS NOT NEEDED.

– Warning: if the file has grown too large, then it is time to divide into subcategories or purge.


The purging process familiarizes you with the files in your cabinet thus giving you knowledge and control over your documents.  With this in mind there are a few questions you can ask yourself when you start the purging process.

Is it worth keeping?  Old auto/life insurance policies.  Old manuals and warranties that are no longer applicable.

 Are copies necessary?   No.  Shred for confidential purposes or use the blue box.  The only time copies are necessary is when you are going to use them right now.


One of the biggest filing deterrents is a “STUFFED” filing cabinet.  This causes misfiling, frustration and not to mention paper cuts.  A crumbled documentation does not present itself well.  Leave at least a quarter of the drawer empty or better still put your filing supplies in there.  With filing supplies on hand it encourages you to quickly create new files as you need them rather than pile papers on top of the cabinet.


In summary, paper documents are slowly diminishing and the electronic format will prevail; however if we do not address filing rules at the paper stage we just defer the problem without resolution.




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