I’m not a big believer in organizing products you have to have. Often, you can use things you find around the house for just about any organizing need you have. But home offices are different because of the sheer number of papers laying around and the fact that these papers must be separated and categorized. It can be a big headache without these four items:
1. A good filing cabinet. I say “good” because if you have a crummy one (the door sticks, it does not open all the way) you will not use it, and your paper problem will get worse. Get a good quality one or two, as the need may be. You know you need to either toss a bunch of files or get another filing cabinet when you cannot slide your hand all the way down to the bottom of the file because it is too tight of a fit.
2. A vertical, preferably inclined file holder. Get one with at least five slots and sit it on your desk to eliminate the piles that inevitably arise when you cannot file your papers right away. You can either label the files with the most common categories that appear in your piles (e.g. bills, statements, paycheck stubs, correspondence) or with actions needed (e.g. To be entered, Needs a response, To be filed).
3. File folders. I prefer colored ones so I can put all my finance-related papers in a green one, all my health-related papers in a red one, etc. When I open my filing cabinet, I can instantly find what I’m looking for, even before I read all the file labels. You might feel more inspired to use your filing cabinet if you had cute file folders with hip designs printed on them. The important thing is to have a lot of them so you instantly make a file whenever you need to.
4. Discard bins. This can mean a shredder or a recycling bin. The essential thing is that you have just as effective and easy a way to discard paper as you do to save it.
Effective paper management relies on a few good products and the use of easy, convenient systems. A system simply translates into knowing exactly where each piece of paper goes that comes into your home office. Keep it simple, and you will have mastered your paper mountain.