I am definitely an organized person. I come by it naturally, and
have always seen the value in lists, schedules and everything having its place.
When discussing “The Happiness Project” at book club, one of the
members commented “I just don’t get how having a clean closet is going to make
you happy!”  and I was stunned. Doesn’t
everyone get a high from organizing, sorting and purging?
A reader and friend recently suggested that I parlay this area of obsession
expertise into more blog posts, and while I’m all for it, I need to explain
I would call myself “efficiently organized” – which is not always
what organizational-blog readers are interested in. Here’s a perfect example to
illustrate what I mean: my filing cabinet.
At home and at school, I have well-groomed filing cabinets, with file
folders neatly hand-labeled and arranged in alphabetical order. I’ve used this
system forever, adding or deleting files as needed. For this reason, the
hand-written labels work well for me.
Most organizational bloggers, though, go for the beautiful photo
op. Readers like to see carefully typed labels in fancy fonts, done in a
computer program, printed out on special stickers and carefully applied to the
But here’s the thing: I already have a perfectly functional system – taking a couple
of hours just to change the look of the labels would not at all be efficient.
It would be a waste of two hours of my time. Plus, what happens whenever I need
a new label? My printing is neat and I never have trouble locating what I need
in the cabinet, so it certainly serves its organizational purposes. And while
I’m all for things being attractively presented in many areas of
life/organization, literally NO ONE else sees my files but me. I’m pretty sure
not another soul has ever opened by classroom filing cabinets, and on the very
rare occasions my husband goes rooting around for a document himself at home,
he’s certainly not complaining. Though I must admit that I did submit to Pinterest-pressure a couple of
years ago and replace the folders that weren’t the same colour, which was
refreshing. (Yes, I am being serious.)
Without further ado, here’s my very organized, but admittedly not
really swoon-worthy photo:
On Pinterest, you can find tons of examples of filing cabinets
that are beautifully refinished on the outside, but my cabinet at home (standard
black, but in great condition) is kept in a closet, and I really don’t think
there would be enough of a return on my investment to spend time beautifying
the school cabinets which aren’t even my property.
My tips for filing success:
1. File immediately. People in the staff room the other day were
talking about having a “To-File” pile. I never do. If something really needs to
be kept (see next point) it goes from my hand directly into the filing cabinet.
I open the mail as soon as I get in the door, and I truly do walk right
downstairs, items in hand, and file any important pieces right where they go.
2. Only file what you absolutely must. So many things are
available on the internet now, and filing within document folders on your
computer is a much better idea than adding to paper folders. Getting e-mail
notifications of bills and paying online helps with that, as well as removing
your name from unnecessary mailing lists. Most of what I get in my mailbox at
work, and a lot of what arrives at home, gets recycled. Even if it is something
important, like a party invitation, I write the details down in my planner
(RSVPing immediately if it’s required) and recycle the hard copy. For holiday
cards, I keep a designated spot in the home for them to be collected/displayed.
Most other correspondence (e.g. thank you cards) gets read, appreciated, showed
to my husband or daughters if appropriate, and recycled. (Sorry if it sounds
cold, but if you’re still reading, I assume you want me to be honest about my
3. Whittle down your files on a regular basis. At school, I
usually do this in June; pulling out a few folders at a time and whipping through them
while the kids snack or work on art, or sometimes in the staff room while
enjoying recess conversation. At home, it’s on the summer holidays, sitting in
front of the TV. If I haven’t used it in a couple of years, I have multiple
copies of it, or I know I can find it on the computer quickly if I need it
again, it’s gone. I once read that tax stuff needs to be kept for seven years,
so by year eight, it goes in the shredder or the fire pit. (To be clear, I mean
the one in our backyard. I don’t camp.) I know I’m weird, but it gives me joy
to pare down what’s in my filing cabinet (or pretty much any closet, cupboard
or drawer).
So…are you inspired to get your filing cabinets into shape?
I already have a few more questions from a reader to get me
rolling with this organizational series, but if you want to get a peek into an
area of my home/work/life organization (besides, of course, my oh-so-gorgeous
filing cabinets!), please comment, e-mail me, tweet me, etc. and I’d be happy to
add your idea to the list.
I will never say that my way is the right way, but I certainly
know what works for me, saving me time and making my days (from the crazy
mornings to the exhausted evenings and everything in between) less stressful.
If you’re still with me, you may be interested in my previous
clutter-control series:
# 2 – Beauty Products (no more contact lens products for me now!)
# 4 – Clutter Flashbacks (including hair accessories and coat closet)

2 comments on “Efficient Organization: The Filing Cabinet”

  1. Hey Kate,
    I understand the "high" from having an organized closet – mine is colour coded! My problem is I get it organized but it never stays that way for long.
    I like your suggestion for filing right away. My filing cabinet at work is very clearly labeled and I can easily access anything I need – home is ok but there is always room for improvement.
    Once again, thanks for your great organization suggestions – really you could start your own organization consultation business.

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