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"If there be any truer measure of a man than by what he does, it must be by what he gives."

-Robert South 

            Our quotation collection

Weíre supposed to be in paperless society, right? Thereís a


proliferation of cyber-information on the Internet, scanners on every desk, e-mail, e-books, virtual catalogs, webinars, virtual property tours, and so much more available via computer, so why should we even have any paper floating around at all? If youíre like me, you are overwhelmed with the amount of paper thatís generated from the computer. Paperless? I donít think so!

Weíre going to address two ways to set up a new filing system, whether youíre starting a new filing system from scratch or youíve already done a sort and purge and have gone through, removed, shredded, recycled or archived old files from an existing file drawer. (Note: if you need help on how to get started with a sort and purge, weíll address that in another article, or you can contact me for additional information).

Traditional Filing Cabinet

Before you begin, youíll need to have on hand a supply of hanging file folders and manila folders. Use what you already have on hand before going out to buy more supplies. You might be surprised at what you have tucked away in storage that you didnít remember buying!

Begin by labeling each hanging file folder with a main topic name on the tab; the manila folders will be labeled with the sub-topics headings. The manila folders will go inside the hanging folders (you may want to look for folders which are shorter than regular height manila folders; these are designed so that the folder tab doesn't stick up above the hanging folder and cover up the hanging folder tag.

I use a hand-written index "map", which is just a list that reminds me of the names of the files that I have. I keep this sheet inside a plastic sleeve, in the very front folder of the filing cabinet drawer. I have the list separated into several columns, with the main topic (your hanging folder tab label name) listed in the far left column, then I write in the name of the new sub-topic folders (the manila folder headings) in the next columns to the right of the main topic, along that same row. I do this in pencil, so that I can easily erase and add new sub-topics, to keep it maintained.

For me, it's too hard to try to keep up a full computerized listing of my files, or to try to bounce back and forth from file cabinet to computer to input the titles or makes any changes, especially since my "hot" files (the files that I need immediate access to) change so frequently, so the hard-copy index listing seems to work better for me.

Sometimes, the index listing gets pretty beat up from being handled so often, so I may have to re-copy it or I can decide to create a computer template of it and input the topic names and folders that I know won't change. I can then print a fresh list and handwrite in the folder names that may be temporary.

Binder Filing System

An alternate method that I use a lot too, is a binder system, rather than a file cabinet. The supplies that youíll need to start out with are three ring binders, sheet protectors, and wide-width tab dividers, available at any local or on-line office supply store.

Letís take the example of creating a binder for a scrapbooking hobbyist. I would start with a new 3 ring binder and label it "Scrapbook Layouts", then use page protectors and slip in any new class pages that I receive (and take out any pages that I think I'll never use). The pages could also be divided into sub-categories, using wide-width tab dividers. In many cases, the binder system seems to works better than a traditional filing cabinet system, especially if you add pages frequently or would like to have an easy way to refer to the pages when you do your scrapbooking (just pull the binder off the shelf and glance through the pages for ideas). The binder could also be stored on a bookcase with your other books on scrapbooking or related hobbies, or with your albums or scrapbooking supplies. This way, you can keep the binder in close proximity to where it will be used, and save extra time and effort, rather than have to search through your file cabinet folders for the ideas. Files stored in filing cabinets tend to have the disadvantage of being out of sight, out of mind.

Weíll discuss more tips and ideas in future articles. If you have any questions or need extra help in getting started on your organizing project, feel free to contact me and Iíll be glad to help you to Sort Things Out, one step at a time!

Eva Abreu is a Professional Organizer and owner of Sort Things Out in Piscataway, NJ. A member of the National Association of Professional Organizers, she works one-on-one with individuals as an organizing partner and coach, helping clients to become more organized. Ms. Abreu also hosts "Sort Things Out Talk Radio", conducts corporate Lunch and Learn programs, teaches community education courses and workshops, and facilitates support groups to help clients get organized. She can be reached toll-free 1-877-708-0884 or visit for more information