How to set up a home filing system (with benefits and tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 6 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Due to the rise in remote working, having a functional home file system is more essential than ever. Creating a home filing system allows you to personalise your environment to boost productivity and increase your organisation. It also aids in your ability to maintain attention throughout the day. In this article, we look at what a home file system is, review the importance of having one, list the advantages of having a filing system in your home, explain how to set one up and provide some helpful tips.

What is a home filing system?

A home filing system is a storage method for documents and other important records. A filing system ensures you can organise your documents efficiently and quickly find and access information when required. A filing system in your home, such as a filing cabinet, is particularly important if you work remotely or manage a business.

Why is it important to stay organised if you work from home?

Staying organised while working from home remains essential to staying focused and efficient as a remote employee. Working from home, like working in an office, requires you to strike a balance between your personal and professional life. By keeping organised and establishing boundaries, you can focus on your work throughout the day and relax when the working hours end.

Related: A guide to typing at home jobs and salaries

What are the benefits of using a filing system at home?

A filing system at home can help you find critical records when you want them. Passports, work records and financial documents typically make up a filing system in the home. A filing system at home can also help you:

Centralise records

Documents are frequently stored in laptops, mobile phones and email inboxes. File management solutions help centralise your records in one location for simple access. Instead of wasting time looking for that particular document that's in an old email thread, you can quickly discover what you need and get back to work.

Reduce your workload

Although some documents just take a few minutes to locate, others can take longer to find. This time soon adds up and prevents you from spending time focusing on important work. File management solutions aid in the organisation of documents, allowing you to find what you need efficiently.

Minimise delays

When it's challenging to locate important papers, it may delay some time-sensitive projects. For example, if you work in a marketing team that generates ad campaigns for a variety of customers, you might work with a vast amount of physical materials, such as papers, photographs and videos. With a filing system, you can reduce the time you spend looking for files, which may help you and your team meet crucial deadlines.

How to set up a home filing system

Since it's challenging to manage unorganised documents, it's critical to establish an efficient filing system that you can utilise at home. To improve storage, make your filing system account for all the documentation you own. The steps to set up a domestic filing system include:

1. Gather all your documents

The first step to creating a filing system for your home begins with gathering all your material in one location to sift through it. Aside from gathering documents from obvious places like the filing cabinets and shelves, do a scan of the entire house to ensure you've checked for everything. Examine typical areas where papers gather, such as the bottom of a laptop bag or on any worktops. Bring everything to a single location with plenty of space to spread out.

2. Reduce clutter by digitising and uploading documents

It's a good idea to convert as many of your files as possible to a digital format so you can file your documents online and reduce the hassle of dealing with a vast quantity of paper documents. Consider uploading any financial records and invoices to the cloud, while keeping receipts on your hard drives. If you reduce the number of physical copies in your house, you can make it easier to manage the remaining paper documents.

Related: Administrative skills: definition and examples for your career

3. Separate the remaining papers into categories

It's now time to go through your remaining paper documents. Try classifying each item into one of the groups listed below:

  • Action: This group includes the documents you use and then discard. These are files that you typically use only once and include invitations, parking fines and bills.

  • Archive: This category comprises documents that you save but won't refer to often. Examples include tax reports, medical documents, academic records, leases and contracts.

  • Household: This group includes the documents you use to keep your household operating. Examples include coupons, receipts, recipes and documentation for upcoming travel.

  • Recycle: This group includes documents that don't fit into any of the other categories that don't include any personal information. Examples include magazines, outdated schoolwork and used envelopes.

  • Shred: This category comprises materials that don't fit into the other categories but do include personal information. Examples include credit card advertisements, outdated bank statements and invoices.

4. Dispose of some documents

After you've separated your material into the main categories, you can save space by disposing of old files. First, consider recycling documents. Then, shred any materials that include personal information.

5. Organise the archive documents

The next step is to organise the papers in the archive category. This group contains vital documents, such as your identification. To secure these documents, it's best to keep them in a safe. Divide your archive papers into sections, such as academic, vehicle, financial, insurance and property records for more effective organising. For every one of your subcategories, create a designated file folder. Then, place those files in a safe place to preserve them.

6. Organise the household documents

It's now time to organise your household paperwork. Keep these documents in file folders in an easily accessible location. Many people prefer to keep their household paperwork in a binder with several pockets. For example, make a binder containing sections for discounts and gift cards, receipts and user manuals. Sort the documents into categories that correspond to your lifestyle.

7. Organise the action file

Since these documents include issues to address, keep them out as a daily reminder to yourself. Categorise your action documents, such as invoices and letters that require a response. Place all these documents in the same file and establish a practice of filing at least weekly. Then, take the proper action for each item. Discard or shred the official documents you no longer use and store anything important in your household files. The objective is to reduce the size of your action file as much as practicable.

Tips to consider when creating a filing system at home

Some jobs require you to manage a vast number of papers. When dealing with digital or physical documents, arrange your files and workstation in a way that promotes productivity. It may benefit you to consider these tips when creating a filing system at home:

Use alphabetical or chronological order

Try sorting each paper in chronological order. For instance, if you organise your documents by customer, try arranging dated records from the latest to the earliest so the most relevant documents remain at the top. If you want to see the client's whole documentation history, sort the documents by earliest to latest. Categorise undated papers based on their value or frequency of usage. Finally, consider alphabetising the documents before storing them in a file cabinet.

Alternatively, you can sort them by client name or by important categories, such as bills or reports. Whichever approach you use, ensure the approach seems natural and fits into your present workflow.

Related: 6 important job skills you can learn at work (and how to learn them)

Digitise files

In some circumstances, converting physical papers into digital files to keep on your computer works the best. This makes them more accessible and eliminates clutter. Digitising files allows you to search for records on your computer more quickly. It also eliminates the requirement for physical storage space.

Label the filing system

Marking your folders with the document categories helps you to quickly locate your folder. Some folders include paper for you to design your own labels. You also have the option of handwriting the labels or printing a page of labels to use. Improve your labelling system even further by utilising different coloured pens or ink that matches your colour scheme. You could use highlighters to colour code the label on black lettering. Label printers can also print single-label stickers. This tool is useful for labelling a file cabinet or when replacing old labels with new ones.

Separate files by type

Try sorting the physical papers into groups, such as client documents and bills. Then, consider subdividing each category into tiers of subcategories. This tiered sorting method can help you determine which papers to save.

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