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Finding Space in Your File Drawer

Finding Space in Your File Drawer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the many factors that compromise productivity is an overwhelming pile of papers on one’s desk. Often the cause of this excess, is a lack of space in one’s file drawers. That’s a pretty easy problem to solve. Here are three tips to create file space.

1. Lose the Legals
If you are in a law office, mortgage office, or any other office that actually requires a lot of legal-sized documents, this tip won’t help you much, but in most cases this will open up a significant amount of space. If you don’t absolutely need legal-sized files, don’t use them. In diagram A, notice all the wasted space in the legal-sized files, that are holding letter sized files. By converting your hanging files to letter size, you can open up a lot of space in the middle of your lateral drawer, as seen in diagram B. This space can be used for the occasional legal size files you have, thereby freeing more space for the letter size files.

Print2. Go wide
I always favor filing by category, rather than alphabetical, wherever possible. For these categories, I use 2 inch box bottom hanging files, also known as extra-capacity folders. As you can see in diagram C, with fewer hanging folders, there is less space taken up with the folder hooks, so you can fit more manila folders.

3. Put files to sleep
The most significant thing you can do to create file space and KEEP it open is to recognize the difference between files you need to find reliably and files you are keeping just in case. There is no reason the files you are keeping just in case need to occupy the same space as the files you need to be able to access quickly. It is generally advised to hold on to tax supporting material, for example, for a few years, but if you have an easy system for extracting it annually to archive, you can ensure that there is plenty of space in you file cabinet. I call these archive files sleeping files because they can be woken up if necessary, but meanwhile they are not interfering with the files you need to access regularly.

6 Comments
  1. Great tips for not only organizing the file cabinet, but uncluttering it. Thanks!

  2. Thanks Arline. Unlike outer space, file space is not infinite.

  3. I try to do most of my filing online, but I think it’s time I actually got for a file cabinet for some things. This is definitely advice I can use!

  4. Thanks Brian. It’s a tool and like any tool it works best when you understand it’s purpose. It should really be called a “finding” cabinet. If you’re not clear on it’s purpose, it can very easily become a black hole.

  5. Love it, Matt! I hate legal files… tell everyone to get rid of them:) Great to maximize the space!

  6. Thanks Seana! Yeah, right? Some desk drawers seem to require them unnecessarily, like the notorious Crate and Barrel desks.

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