Organizing Tip: Labeling Files

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How to Label FilesDo you find it difficult to label your paper files?

Are you frustrated when you can’t seem to find a file when you need it?

Just like the fairytale of Goldilocks and The Three Bears, your mission or goal, is to find the happy middle or “just right” sweet spot of label filing.

In this post, I offer a few key tips when it comes to labeling your files.

What can happen when you label files incorrectly?

Here’s a few classic scenarios for illustration:

Labeling too big

You take a random stack of papers, place them into a manila folder and write “Papers” at the top of the tab.

Effective, but not very helpful.

Labeling too small

You take one piece of paper from a stack of many, say car insurance papers and label a file “Copy of Car Loan” then proceed to label a file, “Original Car Loan” then proceed to label another file “January 2016 Car Loan Payment.”

Detailed, but not very practical or efficient.

Labeling just right

You’ve sorted out a bunch of household bills into appropriate piles or categories such as cellphone, water, gas, electricity and labeled four separate files accordingly “Cellphone,” “Water,” “Gas,” “Electricity.”

All bills, payment stubs and any other related correspondence will go into the appropriate file.

Here’s some tips on labeling files “just right”:

Filing is based on retrieval.

When in doubt in labeling a folder, think of your future self in a few months’ time trying to find that item; would you be able to find it with your current label? If not, you might need to go back to the drawing board and rethink your label.

Keep like with like.

If there is a chance that you’ll want to compare multiple items quickly, this is a sign that you might want to keep items together. For example, a credit card with a recurring monthly bill should have its own folder for easy reference.

Make it personal.

Above all, filing systems have to work for you first and foremost. If you are the one to be using it, you really need to understand why you labelled something and so that you can actually find it again. If you need more/less detail in your filing system and can find items based on your methods, by all means do so.

How about you? What is your “sweet spot” when it comes to preparing files? Join the conversation and leave a comment below! 

Follow Rashelle:
Rashelle Isip is a New York City-based professional organizer and productivity consultant who helps people get organized so they can stress less, have more fun, and be happier at home. Her work has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, Business Insider, and The Atlantic. Get access to her free guide, 3 Smart Steps to Organizing Your Home, by clicking here.
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2 Responses

  1. Jen Bresnick

    There’s nothing better than a really well-organized filing system.

    • theorderexpert

      My sentiments exactly. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by the blog and for the comment!