Home Office Storage: Easy File Solutions

how to store files home office

There are many ways to store files in your home office. You can use a filing cabinet, a plastic bin, a cardboard box, or even a fireproof safe. The key is to develop a system that works for you and to regularly declutter and shred any unnecessary documents.

1. Choose a place and storage solution: Decide on a dedicated space for your files, such as a filing cabinet, drawer, or basket.

2. Get rid of paper clutter: Go through your current files and get rid of any documents that are no longer needed.

3. Set up a filing system: Use a combination of hanging files and folders, and create main categories with clear labels. You may also want to colour-code each category.

4. Label your files: Clearly label the tabs on your hanging files and create subcategories if needed. The more specific you are, the easier it will be to find what you need.

5. Use a filing cabinet for large amounts of paperwork: If you have a lot of files, invest in a filing cabinet. Use both hanging files and internal folders to easily find and replace documents.

6. Store permanent files securely: Keep important files in a safety deposit box or a fireproof and flood-resistant safe.

7. Protect your identity: Regularly shred documents with personal information, such as your address, birthday, or social security number.

Characteristics Values
Location Home office, storage closet, under the bed, safety deposit box, attic, garage, basement
Containers Banker's box, plastic bin, filing cabinet, home safe, lock box, cardboard box, fireproof safe, rolling filing basket, file drawer, cardboard bankers box, fire-resistant filing box
Organisation Divide documents into stacks based on importance, shred and toss unneeded documents, use alphabetical, chronological or colour-coded systems, create a file index
Filing Use hanging files and internal file folders, label files, use subcategories, create main categories


Choose a storage solution

The storage solution you choose will depend on the amount of paperwork you have, the space you have available, and your budget. Here are some options:

  • Banker's box: The simplest and cheapest option, but offers the least security. A banker's box is a cardboard box designed to hold file folders and includes a lid and handle holes for easy access and shelving. However, it won't protect your documents from fire, water, or rodents, and it can't be locked.
  • Plastic bin: Similar to a banker's box, a plastic bin is a cost-effective and stackable option for storing low-priority documents. While it offers limited protection from flooding and rodents, it is not fireproof and can't be locked.
  • Filing cabinet: Filing cabinets come in various styles and sizes and can fit a large number of files. You can choose a model with a lock and/or one that is heat resistant in case of a fire. However, in the event of flooding, documents in the lowest drawer may get damaged.
  • Home safe or lock box: The most secure method for storing important documents that are hard to replace. Look for a safe or lockbox that is fireproof and flood-resistant.
  • Digital storage: While you will still need to keep original copies of most documents, scanning them and storing them digitally (in the cloud, on an external hard drive, or a DMS) can be a good backup solution.

You can purchase storage solutions from a variety of retailers, including Amazon, Walmart, and Target.

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Declutter your current system

Before you start, take some time to think about how you want your office to look and function. Do you like all the furniture? Are the cabinets and chairs just clutter-collectors? Is this your preferred desk arrangement? Do you want to be able to look out the window or face the door? Do you have a professional Zoom background?

With this new vision in mind, remove everything that does not serve your ideal space. Consider every piece of furniture, no matter how big or small. By creating a functional and visually appealing space, extra stuff will be relocated, donated, or thrown away.

Now, clear off your desk. Sweep everything into a box or laundry basket, and only keep the computer, printer, and modem. You’re creating an inviting and productive workspace to work from home, even while you’re decluttering and organising your office.

Next, pick up all the items off the floor. Keep only furniture on the floor and nothing else. Gather piles of paper into boxes temporarily.

Now it's time to sort everything into categories. You can use the following categories to help you get started:

  • Relocate – Stuff that does not belong in your office
  • Donations – Items that do not improve your workspace
  • Electronics Recycling – Toner, old cell phones, unidentified cords
  • Trash – Items that cannot be donated
  • Sentimental – Items you’re keeping for sentimental reasons
  • Actions – Bills to pay, forms to complete, etc.
  • File/Scan – Papers to retain for future reference
  • Shred – Anything with personal information
  • Recycle – Papers without personal information

Once you've sorted through all the items on your desk and in your office, it's time to focus on the paper clutter. Set up a work table and designate a workspace for the next week or two. Use a large, flat surface for piles of papers.

Go through each piece of paper and sort them into the following categories:

  • Action – Bills to pay, registration to complete, phone numbers, and addresses to record in your phone. If there is no consequence, then it is not an action.
  • File/Scan – Items that must be handled a second time. Do not use this as a catch-all. Try to recycle as much as possible on this first pass.
  • Recycle – Most of what you have in your home office will go in this box.
  • Shred – Papers with personal identification information.

Before choosing the Action or File/Scan categories, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does this require action? Is there a consequence?
  • Can I find this information online?
  • If I recycle this today, could I still retrieve the information?

Now that you've sorted through all your papers, it's time to set up a paper filing system. Choose a system that supports your work style. You could use a filing organiser with labelled file folders, or opt for open baskets or trays. Remember, it takes time to go through all your papers, so carve out space on your calendar and make it a priority.

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Create a filing system

Now that you've gathered all your important documents in one place, it's time to set up a filing system that works for you. The goal is to make finding a specific document fast and intuitive, so consider sorting your documents into categories that make sense to you. For example, you could have a "personal records" file, a "banking records" file, and a "home purchasing documents" file. You may also want to colour-code your system, assigning a primary colour to each category and then using different shades of that colour for related subcategories. This will make finding what you need a breeze and will prevent you from over-stuffing a single file folder.

Once you've decided on your categories, it's time to label your files. Clearly label the tabs on your hanging files and consider using interior file folders for extra organisation. The more specific your categories and labels are, the easier it will be to find what you're looking for. For example, instead of a general "Dental" file, you could have a "Dental - [Your Name]" file and a "Dental - [Partner's Name]" file.

If you have a large volume of paperwork, you'll likely want to invest in a filing cabinet. Look for one with both hanging files and interior file folders, and that has a lock for added security. If you don't have a lot of paperwork, you may be able to get away with using an open-topped filing box on your desk or bookshelf.

Remember to regularly go through your files and purge any documents that are no longer needed. This will help to prevent paper clutter from taking over and ensure you can always find what you need.

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Label your files

Labelling your files is an important step in keeping your home office organised and efficient. Here are some tips to help you label your files effectively:

Make Labels Easy to Read

Ensure your labels are clear, consistent, and easy to read. Avoid tiny or faint writing that may be hard to see. Consider using a label maker to create printed labels, which tend to be neater and more legible than handwritten ones.

Use Meaningful Categories

Create categories that are tailored to your specific needs. The labels should make sense to you and reflect the types of papers you need to store. For example, instead of a label that says "Aetna", use a generic term like "Insurance" to avoid confusion if you change insurance companies.

Avoid Too Broad or Generic Labels

While it's important to use generic terms to avoid company-specific labels, don't go too broad with labels like "Documents". Be specific about the type of documents, such as "Tax Documents", "Medical Documents", or "School Documents".

Think About How You Will Search for Files

Consider how you will search for a particular file in the future. For example, will it make more sense to label a file "Car Insurance" or "Auto Insurance"? Choose the wording that you are more likely to remember and search for when looking for a file.

Use Colour-Coded Files

If you respond well to colours, utilise colour-coded hanging files for different types of reference materials. For instance, use red for insurance files or green for tax and bank-related papers. Colourful files can brighten your mood and make filing a more enjoyable task.

Label Files by Date

Using dates in your file names can help with organisation and retrieval. A consistent format, such as [Year]-[Month]-[Date], will ensure your files are automatically alphabetised correctly. For example, "2024-06-14_DocumentName.doc".

Use Underscores or Dashes

When labelling digital files, separate words with underscores or dashes to ensure your computer translates the file names accurately. Avoid leaving spaces between letters, as this can cause issues when uploading files.

Label Using "Camel Case"

This method is commonly used in scripting and programming. Start with a lower-case letter, then capitalise the first letter of each subsequent word. For example, "project_myFirstProposal.doc".

Use Versioning for Tracking

Versioning is a useful way to track changes and updates to your files. Add a version number to your file name, such as "V1.0_myProject.doc", and increment the number with each new version.

By following these tips, you can create a filing system that is tailored to your needs, efficient, and easy to maintain.


Use a filing cabinet for lots of paperwork

If you have a lot of paperwork, a filing cabinet is a great storage solution. Here's how to use one to store your files effectively:

Choose a Filing Cabinet

Filing cabinets come in various styles, so you can choose one that matches your home office décor. Opt for a fire-resistant model for added protection in case of a fire. If you're concerned about flooding, be aware that documents in the lowest drawer may get damaged, so choose a cabinet with drawers higher up or look for alternative storage methods.

Prepare Your Filing Cabinet

Remove the contents of your filing cabinet and place them on a clean, flat surface. If your cabinet is new, start placing your pre-labelled hanging files and folders into the cabinet according to your chosen filing system. You can organise files alphabetically, chronologically, or by category – just ensure the system makes sense to you and anyone else who might need to use the cabinet.

Sort and Label Your Files

Sort your documents into categories that make sense to you, such as utilities, auto, medical, taxes, and finances. Then, place each stack of documents into a labelled hanging folder. You can use coloured folders or highlighters to differentiate categories further. Within each category, use sub-folders to keep things contained and clearly label each folder so that you can easily find what you need.

Store Your Files

Now it's time to place your papers and documents into the appropriate folders. When placing papers inside folders, organise them in chronological or reverse chronological order. This will make it easy to retrieve information when needed.

Maintain Your System

Stay on top of your filing by regularly sorting through your mail and filing papers. Set up an inbox on your desk and look through your incoming mail once a day. You can also set up a nearby recycling bin or shredder to make it easy to dispose of old or outdated papers. Reorganise your cabinet at least once a year to ensure it stays clutter-free.

Go Digital

Consider converting some of your files to digital formats to reduce physical clutter. Scan receipts, proofs of donation, bank statements, and other important documents, and store them in the cloud or on an external hard drive. This way, you'll have a digital backup of your important information.

Frequently asked questions

Start by sorting your paperwork into three categories: documents to keep permanently, documents to keep temporarily, and things to shred. If you have a lot of paperwork, invest in a filing cabinet and use both hanging files and internal file folders for easy access and organisation.

This depends on the amount of paperwork you have and how secure you need it to be. For a simple, cost-effective solution, a banker's box or plastic bin can work, but these offer limited protection from flooding and rodents and cannot be locked. Filing cabinets offer more security and can be locked, while a home safe or lockbox is ideal for the most important documents.

Choose a spot with a relatively constant temperature that is not prone to flooding, extreme heat or cold, or pests. This could be your home office, a storage closet, or even under your bed.

Create main categories with clearly labelled tabs and consider colour-coding each category to make finding the right file easier. You can also create subcategories with their own tabs for further organisation. For example, you could have a main category for "Dental" and then subcategories for each family member.

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