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Can someone please recommend me a good system which I can use to organise paperwork at home.

I need to organise paperwork for all family members and the paperwork involves.

Car insurance
Home insurance
Wage slips
Bank slips
Doctor appointments
Water bills
Gas bills
Electrity bills
Internet bills
TV bills
and many many more.
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3 Answers 3

up vote 12 down vote accepted

I use a trivially simple system suggested by David Allen's Getting Thing Done:

  • things go into manila folders labeled with a cheap printed label maker (easier to read than hand-written) (the one I use).
  • name folders the first thing that comes to mind when you go to file the item; that's how I decide between things like car insurance vs. auto insurance or sprinklers vs. irrigation
  • store folders alphabetically in a flat hierarchy; don't bother trying to group all your medical stuff, or insurance, or credit card statement; whatever your name on the label, file by that
  • restrict folders to a single topic; if you try to get cute you've started down the taxonomy road; if you make them too big (e.g. insurance) there's too much to dig through when looking for something specific

This seems so simple, but I had this crazy system before, and GTD is all about "advanced common sense" anyway.


In your case, I imagine your gut naming convention will end up being something like:

  • health insurance - your name
  • health insurance - spouse's name
  • etc.

Now this will de facto group you folders into a health insurance set; the important distinction is that this is an emergent phenomenon, not a planned one, and your organization is organic and not forced. As Julie Morgenstern said in the title of one of her books, Organize from the Inside Out.

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1  
Exactly what I was going to say. Another way to think about folder names is "what will I look for this under when I want it?" If two things come to mind, just pick one. It doesn't really matter much, as you'll have a very limited number of places to look when you need it. –  Dennis S. Jan 2 '12 at 2:49
    
+1 for flat hierarchy (not to be oxymoronic or anything), and a single topic per folder. Keep it simple, and it works so well! –  Sam Jan 4 '12 at 2:27

I recommend first placing all of the papers into specific piles. Then you should go buy file folders, put each "pile" into a folder and write exactly what they are at the top. Then keep them all in the same place. That way all you have to do is look at the top of the folder to get exactly what youre looking for. I hope this helps, good luck!

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I'm in my late 40's and fought the filing monster all of my adult life. But a few years ago I bought the $30 kit from FreedomFiler, and it has made a world of difference.

Over the years I would make up a filing system, and diligently start using it. But somehow, self-invented filing systems seemed (for me) to have an interesting flaw: I didn't always file things consistently the same way. Because I had not written down the "rules", there were no hard-set ways of doing things, and I'd forget my old rules or make up new ones as I went along. This made it difficult to find things!

Freedom Filer has completely fixed that problem for me. The system is simple yet flexible. It encourages you to throw away the things you don't need anymore, and keep the things you do need. The pre-printed labels make your filing system neat, tidy, and easy to navigate.

FF even send a monthly reminder to tidy things up. No extra charge.

I made one addition to the FF system - I created a set of folders on my computer which exactly mirror the physical labels FF provides. That way I can use my optical scanner and digitize my stuff at need. And it comes in handy for filing the stuff that was "born digital" ... no more wasted paper! In fact, as time has gone by, I have scanned all but the most important papers I normally file (and shredded the originals). This makes things even easier to find, because they're all indexed in my computer. And yes, I keep good backups!

Maybe this can work for you. Good luck!

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