File in 30

Shop Girl by Kitty Kaufman

old school

Typewriters? Old. Files? 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 in 30.

Here's what the IRS has to say about backup and tax returns: "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. It used to be ten.

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. Newest on top. Multiple copies of catalogs, reports and brochures? Keep two. Toss or shred? Shred anything with names and numbers. Everything else to recycle. If it's more than half an hour and you've had enough, stop. If not, keep going: under the desk, the floor, cartons, radiators, closets.

4. Half an hour?

Yes, when you start from ground zero, you need 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 when you have no clue, it's never miscellaneous.

5. What's sidetracking?

Filing begets "sidetracking." It's when you find a piece of paper you've been chasing. You decide to do it now. Every file meeting goes off the rails when you decide to do it now.

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 signs it in.

pause that refreshes

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

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