Monday, August 27, 2007

A Professional Organizer Reduces Her Paper Files

tower of file cabinets against a blue sky

Swimming in paper? You're not alone! Yesterday I took a major step toward reducing my own paper - and now I'm hooked.

I'd already reviewed my paper files and eliminated the stuff that's totally unnecessary - out of date information, information readily found on-line, etc. But I still had lots of paper! Nicely organized - but close to overflowing the space I had for it.

So I started with the receipts from home improvements - necessary tax records - and gave three pieces of office equipment a good work-out.

1. My Scanner

My Fujitsu ScanSnap did a fine job of quickly creating good-quality PDFs. And I found I really liked having the information on the computer, at my fingertips. Within my Home Improvements folder I created sub-folders for each major project (1992 New Front Fence, 1994 Bathroom, etc.) so I can see at a glance when I did each project. I scanned contracts, invoices, receipts, material lists, drawings, etc.

2. My Shredder

Some of the records (such as old checks) definitely needed to be shredded. My old cross-cut shredder got yet another workout.

NOTE: Please check with your own tax accountant or attorney before deciding to shred or otherwise dispose of tax-related records.

3. My External Hard Drive

I've always tried to be good about doing frequent back-ups - I wouldn't want to lose my calendar, my contacts, my bookmarks, my e-mail, etc. But now the back-ups are more important than ever. I bought an external hard drive for back-ups some time ago, and it works well for me. I'll be ordering a second one within the next few days, so I can keep one in my safe deposit box.

Speaking of back-ups, the San Francisco Chronicle had a good story today that explained how critical they are and provided a summary of the various back-up options. You want a back-up in case of fire, theft, etc. - and also in case your computer's hard drive dies.

[photo by redjar / Jared and Corin]


Cynthia Friedlob said...

Another inspiring post! I still haven't popped for the Fujitsu ScanSnap, but I will. As for backing up our computer files, well, we all know we should do it, but it's easy to procrastinate. I'm only partially backed-up, so this was just the little nudge I needed to get me to finish the job. Thanks!

Jeri Dansky said...

Cynthia, I'm glad I provided the nudge to get your backups done. I got more diligent about this when a computer tech guy told me that hard drives tend to fail at 3-5 years - and my current computer is 5 years old. (But my new MacBook should arrive very soon now!)

NOTE: I haven't verified his information. But it's certainly true that hard disks do fail - and I've seen too many people lose important data when that happens.

And I really am inspired to scan a LOT more stuff and rid myself of the paper. Next up are the receipts for major purchases that I keep for insurance purposes (along with my home inventory and photos).

David Douthitt said...

David Allen (from "Getting Things Done") has suggested weeding out files a little at a time - he does it while on hold, placing a sticky note at his stopping place.

Somewhere I also saw a recommendation of dating each file as you bring it out or use something in it - which tells you how long it has been since you looked at it.

What I like to do is to have a separate location for often-used files. Each time I use a file, I put it in front of this special file drawer - no matter where I get it from. This means that the most often-used files will be in the front of this file drawer, and less often used ones will remain in the file cabinet in alpha order.