Ode to the Folder: Why This Simple Tool is Your Key to the Organized Life

Published Sunday, February 02, 2014 11:07 PM

Getting organized requires endless trips to the Container Store or investing in expensive organizing gadgets, right? Wrong. Sometimes simple works best. Take the file folder. Straightforward and easy to use: The folder is a thing of organizing beauty.

Behold, The Folder

Look at your folder as a building block of organization. Simple to set up and easy to maintain, files corral paperwork and make life and work manageable. Plus, files are streamlined enough to slide into a bag or briefcase, and when used in multiples, can easily organize the paperwork of a busy family or office.

While the world is getting increasingly digital, paper still has its place. Bills, tax paperwork, school work: papers can multiply as quickly as bunnies. Increase your productivity and decrease stress by setting up an effective filing system that lets you easily retrieve what you need, when you need it.

Filing, Made Simple

Now for the nitty-gritty. Create two filing systems, one for "working" or temporary files that help make your day-to-day life hum smoothly, and a second, for permanent or archival systems, that manage must-have documents needed throughout your adult life.

Invest in a desktop file holder for your temporary files and a high-quality filing cabinet for your permanent documents. By separating the two types of files; you better the odds of maintaining your systems neatly and efficiently. Keep in mind:

Temporary folders include documents frequently in use such as:

  • Action items requiring immediate or regular decisions
  • Project items related to current tasks
  • Reading items intended for immediate consumption


Permanent files are kept separate from working files, either in a separate filing cabinet or in archival cardboard boxes in storage. When a project is finished, or a document is complete and no longer needed (i.e. old taxes), it's time for permanent storage.

Love Your Labels

Good filing systems make effective use of labels. Be sure to use broad, generic headings that are meaningful to you and comprehensible to others if the filing system is shared. Think thick, not thin: files shouldn't be subdivided to the point where it's difficult to keep track of categories, (i.e. design your files to capture about two-inches of material, rather than say, two sheets of paper). Consider color-coding your files if doing so makes sense to you.

Maintenance is a Must

Prune your files periodically. Not all completed projects or documents need to be saved indefinitely, so assess what you have, purge what's not needed and set up a retention schedule for documents you do keep, specifying how long each file should be stored.

Maintain the retention schedule separately from the archived files and synch it to your computer or paper calendar for a year-to-year review. Purging and shredding files keeps your paperwork from growing into a mountain.

Simple, easy to use, and downright inexpensive; the folder is truly an object of organizing beauty. All hail the mighty folder!



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About Beyond Folders™

Beyond FoldersTM is written by a team of Pendaflex associates passionate about time management, communications, productivity and workplace organization.  Believing in  "continuous improvement" on both a personal and professional level, they share their unique perspectives on subjects of common interest to our readers.

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