Make sure you check out my blog from April 1st (I’m not fooling) for more tips on purging and clearing clutter in your files.

 Decluttering Files: Organizing After You’ve Cleared Clutter

Once you have purged, it is time to organize your files. You have created your broad categories and then your separate files. Here are some tips:

  • Make it make sense to you. One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is adopting the habits of others without thinking it through. I organize my phone contacts by first name. Not many people do that, but it works for me.
  • Title your file based on retrieval. If you were to go looking for the file, what would you call it? Is there an easy “reminder” name that you can give it that can help you know what’s in your folder?
  • Continue the theme of simple and broad names. I have three filing cabinets. The most categories I have in one is eight.
  • Group similar files i.e. Podcasting—Coaching; Podcasting – Production or Business: Legal; Business: Writing.
  • Come up with names that demand action and get you going: Create Clutter-Free Living Episodes
  • Label clearly! Trust me, this might seem like a “duh!” but I’ve helped people with files and it’s been a hot mess. I sometimes can’t read my own writing. Consider investing in a label maker.
  • Don’t zig-zag; use the middle tabs as it is easier on the eye and helps you find things more easily. This is what I’ve been told; this was different when I was in high school!
  • Less really is more. Try having 20 files with 10 pieces rather than 50 files with two pieces of paper: less likely to remember if you have a ton of categories.
  • Have a folder about ready to burst? You may need to go through it again and see if things can be filed under different categories or you may need to separate out another category or two.

Decluttering Files: More Tips

Once you have completed your files, create a file index to remind what goes where and why. I suggest keeping a copy on your desk/computer. The older you get, the tougher it is to remember all of this.


Two easy methods for organizing your files are to alphabetize or color code. My personal files have purple hanging folders with manila folders. You could do the standard green hanging and have colored folders if you prefer. I really like color and it’s a visual due to me. Again, most people have the green and the manila, but I like color and my method works for me.


Don’t stuff your file drawers. Leave room to grow and so that you can file and retrieve papers easily. If you’re doing an annual purge you should be in good shape.


Spend 5 minutes daily or 30 minutes week culling and organizing your files. Or consider doing it once a month. If you keep on top of this, it will be a breeze.


Yearly tune-up! If you don’t it will go back to the way it was. I go through every piece of paper I own annually.


TIP: Moving forward stop your clutter before it starts. Don’t save a file because you “might need it someday”. Trust you will find what you need when you need it. Let me repeat that. Trust that you will get what you need when you need it. When I follow this pearl of wisdom, my life is infinitely easier.

Takeaways from the two blogs on Decluttering Files:

  • You most likely don’t refer to 80% of the files you have; Make a real effort to purge
  • Talk with an attorney and accountant on retaining certain files and see what their recommendations and guidelines are.
  • Alphabetizing and color-coding are two of the easiest filing systems to set up and maintain.


How will you organize your files? What’s most important to you? What are your biggest challenges when organizing your files?


Go out clear the clutter to create the life you choose, deserve and desire!

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