I've never met anyone who jumped out of bed in the morning excited about the thought of doing some filing. More often, developing a home filing system is a last-ditch attempt to eliminate piles of papers or a place to safeguard those papers after one has been lost.
Every home needs a filing system in an easily accessible location. Only a filing martyr will trek to the furnace room to file.For most, a two-drawer filing cabinet is sufficient. But if home administration is complex, a four-drawer cabinet may be a necessity. More than one four-drawer cabinet usually means that the owner is a filing "pack rat."
When buying a cabinet, test it. Make sure drawers are easy to open and that the cabinet is sturdy. If money is an issue, buy a used one and paint it. Avoid the flimsy $39 special popular at some discount stores.
Hanging folders make it easy to retrieve information but they are expensive and not really necessary. Manila folders cut costs. Select a place near the cabinet to store extra folders and labels as well as papers to be filed.
Rather than deciding on headings for your files, let the papers you have to file dictate the headings. A common filing error is too narrow categories. Rather than a file for "Refrigerator" try "Appliances." Another filing faux pas is using a method other than alphabetical order. "A" to "Z" works best. It shouldn't take a rocket scientist to understand your system.
Novices often file action- or date-related information. It doesn't work. Odds are that you will forget about an airline discount coupon that expires in September once it is buried in the files. Keep pending actions separate.
A filing cabinet is not a substitute for a safety deposit box. If you have something of value, such as a car title or stock certificate, the papers belong in the bank or in a safe.
Purge outdated information yearly. It's easy to update your files by using a cardboard box. Transfer the files from the cabinet to the box. Open each file, and touch each piece of paper. Throw away what you will not use and, if necessary, relabel the folder.
File on a regular basis. Teach the habit to your children. Each child should have a place to store school papers and memorabilia.