How to Organize Your Files When You Don’t Work in an Office

As a professional organizer I work mostly in my clients’ homes and offices, but there is a lot of other work behind the scenes that has to happen to run a business.

It is a great idea to rent a workspace (especially a co-working space, with other like-minded people), but when your work is done outside of an office it can be hard to justify the cost.  It would also be great if you can dedicate a room in your home to an office, but if you’re like me and live in a place where space is hard to come by, that can also be difficult. You may want to consider getting a self storage unit for the stuff you won’t be needing regularly. As I always say with organizing, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, you have to figure out what works for you and stick with that, so this is just what works for me.

My mobile office:

IMG_3513 (1)

Paper, especially for business owners, is a huge headache.  People always think that as an organizer I would have gone completely, 100% paperless and not have a single sheet to show for myself.  The truth is, I have gone mostly paperless.  I get all of my statements and receipts online, pay most bills online, etc., but even I still have some paper.  I also need to have it easily mobile and compact because I like to work in different places (although most of the time I just travel with my computer or iPad).

Here’s how I do it: 

Biz vs Personal- I color code to keep these two separate and keep biz in the front since I deal with that a lot more than the personal files.

Have a “to file” folder- most organizers don’t allow this, but I’m not most organizers, so I’ll let you slide and here’s why: you need a place to put things while they are in transition before they get filed, it’s waaaay too unrealistic to think that you will file or deal with that stuff everyday or even on a really regular basis.  I actually keep my “to file” folder in a basket in my living room where I keep my laptop and current magazines I’m reading.  Whenever I have  something I need to save, such a receipt from that day, I just toss it into the folder.  Every few weeks, or sometimes not until it starts overflowing, I sort and file it.  (I know what you may be thinking . . .an organizer lets her paper file overflow?  WTF?  Relax people, I’m an organizer, I LOVE sorting paper.   So for me it’s not a chore as much as something fun to do when I have time on my hands).

Clean outs- do these every quarter, or maybe you can get away with twice a year if you are like me and don’t have a ton of paper.  The most important thing is to get tough with yourself about what you purge.  Ask yourself these three questions: is it vital to have a record of this or is it available somewhere else?  Is it outdated?  Can I get this info online?  If you answered yes to any of those, it needs to come out of your files (the first one should be stored someplace safe like your fireproof box).

Make 3 piles and get purging!  (See my recent clean out pic below)

  • Recycle
  • Shred
  • Go elsewhere (you can also have a second pile in this category for things that need to be acted on or delt with in the immediate future)

IMG_3514 (1)Then just make sure everything that is left has a file with a name you will be able to remember easily if you need to retrieve it in the future.

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