A Checklist for Keeping Neat File Folders

Staples office organization expert Maria Gracia offers tips on maintaining neat, functional file folders.

Setting up new files

Before you set up a new file folder with a new file category, ensure that you can't file the document within a category you've already set up. Be careful not to start too many new filing categories — it will only confuse you.

Crisp and new

Crisp and new Your file folders should be crisp and new. Don't keep ragged, dirty, torn, decrepit file folders. They're messy and unprofessional. Old, ratty ones should go into your recycle bin.

Affixing labels

Use white labels and a medium–point black marker for labeling. Before writing on your white file folder labels, first stick them to the manila file folder. Then write on them. You won't get marker or ink on your fingers when you affix the labels to the folders.

Don't type labels

It wastes time to type labels for your file folders. By the time you walk over to the typewriter, insert a label sheet and find a folder to stick the label on, you could have been done already. Keep a few pre–labeled folders and simply write out your labels. You'll be done in seconds.

Hanging files

Hanging files One color may work, but if you have a number of broad categories (such as financials, employees, clients, and vendors) use separate colored hanging file folders for each category. Make sure the folders come with clear, plastic tabs and inserts for labeling or purchase these separately.

Manila file folders

Hanging file folders are generally used for broad categories and manila file folders are placed into them for sub–categories. A package of one–third–cut manila file folders with alternating left–, middle, and right–hand tabs usually works best for quick viewing and easy retrieval.

Purge files

Clear out your files when they become too thick to handle or every six months. Hang onto active papers. Dump anything outdated.

Staple attachments

Staple attachments Never use paper clips on the papers in your file folders. They catch onto other papers and cause misfiling. They also take up too much room. If you must attach papers together, use a staple instead. 

Author information: Maria Gracia is the author of Finally Organized, Finally Free. For more information about organizing your office, home, or life, go to Gracia's Web site, Get Organized Now.

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