How to file in 30 minutes

Shop Girl by Kitty Kaufman

old school

Typewriters? Old. Are files old? Are notebooks passé? No, they're not. The best people are using ones you kept in school. And who needs files? You do. "Everything's on my phone; I don't need bills I paid, or bank statements, mortgage, utilities and credit cards." You do, and you need files for what you've paid, and what you haven't and you can start it in 30 minutes.

Here are paper backup and tax return rules from the IRS: "Keep records for three years from the date you filed your original return or two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later, if you file a claim for credit or refund after you file your return. Keep records for seven years if you file a claim for a loss from worthless securities or bad debt deduction." You may not like it but the IRS rules . . . in run-on sentences

It used to be ten years. You once had to save everything for ten years. Three years is nothing. And consider: You want to return those shoes you never wore? You need a receipt.

1. Personal files

By vendor: electric, gas, water, phone, credit cards, banks, medical into file folders. A client once asked, what do we do with the folders now that they're full and labeled? In another office the manager proudly showed off their filing system with folders from 1998-2009, last year. It's true, no one could make it up.

2. Business files

Attorney, landlord, mortgage, CPA, vendors, blueprints, contracts, projects, warranties, receipts, catalogs, reports and brochures.

3. When do I file?

Right after you write the checks. Statements go by month with newest on top. Multiple copies of catalogs, reports and brochures? Keep two of each. Toss or shred? Shred anything with names and numbers. Everything else to recycle. If it's taking more than half an hour and you've had enough, stop. Otherwise, keep going: from the desk, under the desk, the floor, cartons, the radiator, the closet and the conference table.

4. Half an hour?

Yes, when you start the project from ground zero, you will need more than half an hour. Are you going subject, numeric or alpha? Will your archives be separate from current work? Whatever, use new folders, color coding and clear labeling to cut down on misfiles. And no, even when you have no clue where one piece of paper goes, it's not "miscellaneous."

5. What's sidetracking?

Filing creates "sidetracking." Sidetracking is finding a piece of paper you've been chasing for a year. You decide to deal with it now. Every filing meeting goes off the rails when you decide to do it now. After all, it's been 365 days, what's another? Set it aside.

6. Storage

Folders live in cabinets: Ones that lock and are fireproof will save your documents from water, mildew and theft. If it's important enough to save, cardboard is not the answer. Invest in cabinetry for each department. Go vertical, rolling or lateral, which we think works well for central filing that will be used by colleagues. Check filing systems at Staples and Amazon

Use a corporate check-out system for borrowers. Whoever takes a file signs it out and signs it back in.

pause that refreshes

Filing is one of the secrets of life.

© October 5, 2017 - - Kitty Kaufman is a New Yorker who lives in Boston. She carries Post-its and file folders to your office and uses them in her own. See her food adventures here: Let's eat and follow her on Twitter

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