How to file in 30 minutes

Shop Girl by Kitty Kaufman

old school

Typewriters? Old. Files? They're not. "Everything's on my phone; I don't need bills I paid, or bank statements, mortgage, utilities and credit cards." You do, and you can start it in 30 minutes.

Here's what the IRS has to say about backup and tax returns(currently on furlough, sadly): "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

Three years is nothing. Not so long ago it was ten years. Want to return those shoes? Receipt.

1. Personal files

By vendor: electric, gas, water, phone, credit cards, banks, medical all go into file folders. A client once asked, "what do I do now with the folders that are full and labeled?" In another office the manager proudly showed off his filing system with folders from 1998-2009, the last year they filed. Filing cabinets. No one could make this up.

2. Business files

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

3. When do I file?

When you write the check. 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. If not, keep going: under the desk, the floor, cartons, the radiator, the closet, the conference table.

4. Half an hour?

Yes, when you are starting from ground zero, you need more time. Are you going subject, numeric or alpha? Will your archives be separate from current work? Use new folders, color coding and clear labeling to cut down on misfiles. Even if you have no clue where it goes, it's not miscellaneous.

5. What's sidetracking?

Filing begets "sidetracking." It happens when you find a piece of paper you've been chasing. You decide to deal with it now. Every filing meeting goes off the rails when you decide to do it now. Set it aside.

6. Storage

Folders live in cabinets: Ones that lock and that 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 shared filing. Check filing systems at Staples and Amazon

Don't forget a check-out system. Whoever takes a file signs it out and later signs it in.

pause that refreshes

© January 6, 2019 - - Kitty Kaufman is a New Yorker who lives in Boston. She brings 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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