Gaining Order in Your Filing Cabinet

Filed Under: Offices/Paper

Must have products to build a successful filing system

In this digital and electronic era, we are using filing cabinets less and less. Paper that has to be stored long term is not like it used to be when I first started organizing. As times have changed I’ve changed my stance on what paper makes the cut to be kept and filed away. Never the less, some clients still want to understand the basics of what I recommend for creating a good filing system. So here are the basics. Feel free to modify and simplify as you see fit. Not every family or individual does it one specific way.

First, check what type of file drawers you have – do they have the rails or frame on each side to support hanging file folders. If not, you need those rails and can buy freestanding frames at any office supply store. If you don’t have a filing cabinet, it’s time to purchase one. Lots of file boxes stacked in a closet aren’t ideal. In order to find a file you will have to unstack them and take a lid off. A drawer system is much faster and easier to use, which will make it more likely that you will file your paper.

Next, which size does your filing cabinet support-letter or legal size files? If your drawers are interchangeable you get to choose. I typically prefer letter. They are easier to maneuver and cost less.

Next, buy the hanging files- regular or box bottom (if you’re going to need a lot of space per category). Plastic tabs are always included in the boxes. A variety of colors helps to sort files into categories. For example, all financial records could be in green and health records in red. This will make it easier for you to see and recognize different files.

Definitely use a label maker to label your tabs- I like the Brother brand. Yes, you can can write the the labels by hand but it’s quicker for your eyes to read through printed labels then to read hand written tabs.

Finally, you’ll need file folders if you’re going to have sub-categories within your large categories (which is written on your tabs on the hanging folders). For example, Life, Home, Auto, and Medical would be subcategories of the large category entitled Insurance. Some people organize alphabetically but remember -if you have a car insurance statement for a Toyota in your hand you might get confused. Does it get filed under Auto, Toyota, Insurance or Car? I don’t recommend filing alphabetically unless you’re confident you’ll remember exactly what you named it.

The best way to decide the large tab categories is to first create all the sub category folders first. Then on the floor or kitchen table lay out the sub categories into groups and piles that make sense- thus creating the large categories like financial, career, insurance, etc.


If you’d prefer to buy a prepackaged filing system here are two I would recommend.

File Solutions concentrates on organizing files by four main colors. This system is great for those that like an easy visual prompt to put files back after using them. The index booklet you receive also makes is super easy for anyone in your family to be able to find files fast.

FreedomFiler organizes files by time. This system help you file things based on time, when to purge things, and helps show you what papers are permanently kept. If you never purge files and need a reminder, this system does just that.

  • Home Organizing

    We sort, declutter and organize any part of your home by including you in the process to teach organizing skills, create effective systems and provide home organization solutions.

  • Home Office Organizing

    If you work from home or keep track of your family’s paperwork, you will benefit from our home office organization services. We tackle daily paperwork, mail, memorabilia, and filing systems.