A Step-by-Step Guide to Organizing Your Files in Seven Days

how to organize your files

Once you’ve lived somewhere a while, paperwork just starts to pile up. You throw mail in an old junk drawer, you toss those health insurance EOBs into a random folder, and you stuff papers away for later — vowing to take care of them the next rainy day.

You’ll forget, of course, and years later, you’ll find yourself struggling to find an important document or statement (maybe even one you need to buy a home!)

The same happens with our digital devices. Our computers, tablets, and smartphones get filled up with photos and documents, and before too long, we’re short on storage and struggling to pull up what we need.

Fortunately, there’s still time to course-correct. Want to get your filing system (paper or otherwise) back on track? We’ve got a seven-day plan to help.

Organizing your paper files

Day 1: Fish out all your documents.

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably stowed paperwork in all sorts of places — drawers, desks, folders, and even tubs under the bed or in the garage. Use Day 1 to gather these all up in one central place. Just make sure they’re away from pets or the kids. You don’t want to lose anything important.

Day 2: Sort your documents.

Next, it’s time to sort your paperwork. Put the healthcare documents in one pile, bank statements in another, and home-related stuff in a third. Make as many piles as you need to organize things logically and in a way you’ll remember. You should also make a pile for items you no longer need (you’ll shred these papers later on).

Day 3: Prep your system.

Will you use a filing cabinet with tabbed folders? An expandable file folder? An old-school Trapper Keeper? Figure out what system you want to use, and get it all configured and set up. You might also need to do some shopping.

Day 4: Label, label, label.

Label all your folders or file boxes to match the document piles you’ve organized. You can use sticky labels, tabs, flags, or whatever works best for you and is most visible.

Day 5: Dole out your documents.

Put your document piles in the appropriate folders and boxes, and make sure the most important ones (and the ones you’ll need most often) are up front and easy to access. 

Day 6: Shred the documents you’re no longer saving.

Use a personal shredder to destroy any documents you don’t plan to keep. Once you’re done, bag up the paper and take it to your local recycling center for processing. If you have a lot of documents to shred, you may want to look for a local public shredding event so you don’t burn out the motor on your personal-size shredder. You can bring boxes of documents and a shredding company will take care of everything for you (securely). 

Day 7: Walk your partner through your system.

Finally, if you share the house with a spouse or partner, walk them through your new filing system. You should also discuss how to handle any new documents that come in and put a process in place for how you’ll organize and store those safely.

Organizing your computer files

Day 1: Take out the trash.

Go through your downloads folder, documents folder, and desktop, and move anything to the trash that you no longer use or need. Don’t forget to empty the trash can when you’re done to save on storage space.

Day 2: Create a subfolder system

Go into your documents folder and create a series of subfolders that make sense for you. Ones for work, personal items, and photos are common. You can then create additional subfolders under these as needed.

If you plan to keep a lot of historical items on your computer, you might also consider subfolders for each year. This can help you pull up important documents quickly and more efficiently.

Day 3: Organize your desktop.

Look through the items on your desktop and start moving them into those subfolders you created. Feel free to create new folders as needed (just be specific in your naming conventions so you can easily find things).

Day 4: Organize your documents.

Next, go through your documents folder and do the same, putting them one by one into the appropriate subfolders that you created on Day 2. 

Day 5: Organize your downloads.

Finally, go through your downloads folder and divide those up amongst your subfolders as well.

Day 6: Outline a new process.

Create a step-by-step process for how you’ll handle new documents as you get them. You might even consider changing your download settings so items go directly to the specific folders you’ve set up.

Day 7: Schedule your next check-up.

Get out your calendar and schedule another file check-up for a few months from now. Make sure to enable reminders, too. Organizing your files will be a lot more efficient if you do it on a regular, consistent basis.

Spring clean those files

Organizing your files is just one small step in the spring cleaning process. Need help with the others? A cash-out refinance may be able to cover the costs. Get in touch with an Embrace Home Loans expert today to discuss your financing options.

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By Aly Yale / April 16th, 2020 / Categories: / Tags: ,

Aly Yale

Aly J. Yale is a freelance writer focusing on real estate, mortgage, and the housing market. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Bankrate, The Motley Fool, Business Insider, The Balance, and more. Prior to freelancing, she served as an editor and reporter for The Dallas Morning News. She graduated from Texas Christian University's Bob Schieffer College of Communication with a major in radio-TV-film and news-editorial journalism. Connect with her at AlyJYale.com or on Twitter at @AlyJwriter.