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Setting up your filing cabinet?

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  • Setting up your filing cabinet?

    I got myself a nice 4 drawer filing cabinet to get a trusted storage for physical things. I plan to move everything (reference) from stacks of paper, punch-hole files, drawers etc. into that cabinet. Now I'm wondering how to best structure that. At the end I know "what works for me" will be the solution. However at the beginning using "what worked for others" can shorten the path. Here are my thoughts:
    • The general order will be A-Z
    • Would I use Car Insurance, Life Insurance or rather Insurance - Life, Insurance - Car, effectively using groups/categories?
    • Would I take paper out of my existing ring binders and redeploy them into the hanging folders or just put a reference card there (like: Bank statements are ther and there)?
    • What are the best files for the cabinet. Should they be fully open or half closed, so small paper wouldn't fall out.
    • What do do with bulky item (like a big fat manual)? Put it into the cabinet or reference it?
    • What are the best labels? The files/labels that came with the cabinet are just a few mm in size and sit on top of the file (not sticking out)?
    • What else makes the use of the filing cabinet easier?
    Feedback is very much appreciated
    stw

  • #2
    First, I would strongly suggest returning the file cabinet and buying a ScanSnap S510 (PC) or S510M (Mac). It fully scans every receipt and manual you have and makes it full-text-searchable. This protects you in case of fire or theft, makes finding things 100x easier, and means you can file one paper in multiple folders (i.e. health insurance AND taxes). It also frees up physical space. All-around, paperless is the way to go.

    If you still want to use a filing cabinet:

    - I use "Medical - Insurance" "Auto - Insurance" and "Life Insurance"

    - If you have a good reason to keep the ringed binders, then yes, use a reference card. For simplicity's sake, ditch the ringed binders and just use the hangers -- the fewer places you have the better.

    - Use normal file folders - the contents won't really be moving sideways and have the chance to fall out. I've found that the half-closed ones rip easily.

    - In order of preference: Look for an electronic version of a bulky manual. If it accompanies extra cords or small pieces, store the manual + pieces together in a clear plastic bag, and designate one banker's box to hold those bags. Store all manuals together on your bookshelf. Get a few thicker folders (the kids that make a square on the bottom) and put the thick manuals in those.

    Reference cards are really clutter - they are useful on occasion, but it's better to have one designated area for everything in that category (i.e. a section on a shelf for all reference manuals, regardless of thickness).

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by notessensei View Post
      [*]Would I use Car Insurance, Life Insurance or rather Insurance - Life, Insurance - Car, effectively using groups/categories?
      [*]What do do with bulky item (like a big fat manual)? Put it into the cabinet or reference it?
      I'd pick the first name that comes to you... don't overthink. If it's not in the first place you look, there are only so many places it can be.

      DA's advice is that stuff that can stand up on it's own, goes on the shelf, stuff that can't goes in the cabinet.

      - Don

      Comment


      • #4
        I agree with paperless

        @Marina: Thx for the ScanSnap tip. I'll have a look at it. I'm working on Linux so that might be a challenge. There's still a lot of paper I need to keep as an original (insurance policies, legal letters, contracts etc.) So I'm going with the file cabinet for the time being.
        I guess ring binders vs. hangers is a cultural thing. "proper filing" for Germans requires punching a hole and putting it in a ring folder. Loose paper (like in a hanger) isn't considered "orderly". Seems I need to overcome that one.
        stw

        Comment


        • #5
          I'm also a big fan of scanning as much as possible.
          Life is just much easier when you have a lot less paper around.

          I also like the idea of referencing things like manuals that are too big to file (and are not available in electronic form) in the A-Z system. That way all available manuals are at least listed in one place. I'm going to do that.

          As for how to name things. I find that the best question to ask yourself is
          "What name/term will I look for when I'm trying to find this in 3 months?"

          If you need to get to you life insurance policy, where is the first place you would look? Life or Insurance?

          Getting good at asking and answering that question will speed the process of filing up tremendously and will greatly improve your ability to find stuff later.

          Comment


          • #6
            I love my ScanSnap, so I second that suggestion.

            I'm in a law office, so we can only go so far with the paperless thing.

            There are some previous threads on labeling folders, so you might want to go back and look at those. I label file folders, not hanging files. Hanging files are just to keep the file folders from falling down in the cabinets. In drawers where I have case files, I use bookends with rubber bottoms to keep everything standing up. There are metal dividers that either come with or are available for cabinets, but I have found they are too hard to move around.

            And since I move things around as cases close, I have a 3 by 5 card clipped on a magnet on the front of the cabinet that shows what's in each drawer. That way I don't have to relabel the drawers all the time. I draw a basic outline of the cabinets and write either a case name or a "A-C" in the box for that drawer. It's easy to change as things move around.

            Comment


            • #7
              Do not forgo the filing cabinet. You need it if you are going to implement GTD. Have you read the book?

              While I understand the urge to scan and digitize, you can't throw away every document after scanning so what to do with the originals that you need to preserve? Birth certificates, wills, mortgage documents....

              Don't kill yourself off trying to scan everything. A trusted reference filing cabinet is a key to implementing GTD.

              Comment


              • #8
                I live largely digital, but i still need some filing space, mostly for bill and bureaucracy. My files would probably only fill one drawer of an ordinary cabinet. They currently live in some nice plastic boxes on my desk.
                I have loosely categorized them(finance, health, education, etc) and within those they are in reverse alphabetical order. Sounds mad at first. I use tabbed labels. In reverse order, the first letters don't get hidden. I found it makes things easier to find.
                I use open folders, never had any issues with things falling out.
                Big things like catalogs, big manuals etc go on the bookshelf. I don't reference them. I generally know where things are and what i have. Everything gets looked over for currency now and again, usually as a kind of spring purge.
                I would probably label the insurances as Car insurance etc giving me the option to open an Insurance category if they outgrow the Finance category.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Labeling versus scanning

                  I had to cope with the same issues. As I have a lot of unstructured stuff I prefer the physical way. Scanning is cool for contracts and other important documents you need an emergency backup.
                  I do the whole filing a little bit differently. With Indexing I make usage of handwritten Indices. I also work with prefixes. The stuff I need most I can get hold in a few seconds. It's a huge time saver.
                  If you need further filing tips - just check out the construction manual for your own filing cabinet - I hate compromises:

                  http://www.gginfo.com/Resources/GTDR...ingCabinet.htm

                  Have fun!

                  Best regards
                  Last edited by sufifus; 08-10-2009, 04:30 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I agree with the comment that the paper filing system is critical for GTD.

                    I'm up to 7 drawers at work, and 2 at home. A-Z, all labelled etc.

                    Couldn't live without it now.

                    There is just too much paper otherwise.

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