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Home Rule

Filing Tips, or How to Divide and Conquer

August 28, 1986|BONNIE McCULLOUGH

After my installation as PTA president, I was handed a big box of paper that came with the job. Before doing anything else, I grabbed a dozen folders and began sorting the pile. Much of it was outdated and could be tossed. I wrote simple subject headings on my folders for each area of responsibility, each activity and various fund-raisers. It took about an hour to clean out the box. When I was finished, I could lay my hands on anything I needed within seconds.

Every organization, club, job and hobby involves paper. Let file folders help divide paper and keep it at your fingertips. For example, suppose you have designated a drawer in the kitchen for recipes and whenever you get one, you toss it in there. That's great; you have met the first rule, which is to group similar papers together. At least you don't have the bills, coupons and recipes mixed together. But, if you want to make it easier to find specific recipes faster, refine the system by dividing those recipes by subject.

Using folders, an expandable folder or a three-ring notebook with dividers, set up major food categories such as salads, drinks, vegetable dishes, main dishes, cakes, etc. Then sort that drawer full of recipes and slip each one behind the appropriate titles.

Simple Subject System

I use this simple subject system at my house for recipes, but have taken it even one step further by first dividing them into two different subgroups: Tried-and-Liked and Someday-I'll-Try recipes.

The above example shows two major principles for controlling paper: grouping similar papers together and subdividing.

Your hobby, business, volunteer and church responsibilities all affect what type of paper you keep. Filing is more than standing paper on end; you want to be able to find it again.

If you are ready to refine the paper systems, I recommend a book written by Pat Dorff, "File . . . Don't Pile"--newly released from St. Martin's Press. It is available from local bookstores or from St. Martin's Press Inc., 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010, $8.45 postpaid.

Ask yourself, If I get rid of this and should need it again, what would happen? Could I get it? Do I already have similar information? Will it pay for the space it takes? Give careful thought to what you are saving. Some organizers suggest putting an "x" at the top of a paper each time it is used. When it's time to clean out the files you can tell what materials have been used and which have not. Do most eliminating before you put it into storage.

Subscribing to 21 Magazines

Eliminate as much paper as possible before you bring new paper into your life. One of my students was lamenting about the mountain of paper she had to manage and we discovered that she was subscribing to 21 magazines. She was swamped. She wanted to save it all, because someday it would come in handy. Obviously, if she doesn't have time to read and/or process that much material, she should cut back.

When you are ready for the next step, subdivide materials into subjects and put them into file folders. Write the title at the top of the folder and alphabetize. As you pick up one paper to be filed, determine the subject title and write it at the top of the paper for easy refiling. To save rereading articles, write the subject on the page the first time you read it. Some material, such as arts and crafts, is easy to categorize because it deals with concrete objects.

You run into problems when you try to separate abstract concepts like goals or happiness. If you file an article under one you may forget where you put it a few months later. Cross-referencing will help.

File it so you can find it. Create a specific place for each different kind of paper. Put it where it belongs as soon as possible. Invest in some good, sturdy office supplies. And start a simple subject file for paper you want to keep for future reference.

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