As we’re approaching the end of the year, it’s time to take a day and do what is called “the file clean out day”. Once you know what you have, you can make decisions on what to purge, save, and possibly scan or archive.

Are you asking yourself, “what’s going on here?”. Consider what shape your filing system is in? Are your filing drawers stuffed so full that it’s nearly impossible to get another piece of paper into – or out of them? Are you hurting your knuckles every time you pull a file out? This time of year is a great time to review your files and purge as much as possible, creating space for next year’s papers.

If you’re using The Paper Tiger software, it’s pretty easy, as all you need to do is run a “file clean out report” and review it to assist you in the process. Don’t use Paper Tiger? Here’s what you can do to get through all your old papers and prepare yourself for the new year.

1. Determine what to keep. As you sort through papers, ask yourself, “What’s the value of keeping this piece of paper?”, “Can I find it somewhere online?” and “Are there any financial or legal concerns if I did not have the original?”. If the answers to these questions have minimal value, let the file go. Statistics indicate that 80% of the things you file will never get referred to again!

2. If you don’t have corporate records retention guidelines, create guidelines and use them as you purge your documents. Your accountant, attorney, or productivity consultant can advise you which documents you should keep for non-proprietary papers.

3. Keep only day-to-day paperwork at your fingertips. For rarely-used files that must be kept, I call these reference files. Store them in an out-of-the-way area. For rarely accessed but critical to keep files, store them ideally at an off-site storage facility or consider streamlining those types of papers to an electronic filing system. Scanning these documents upfront will minimize the need to keep moving them from one area to the next.

4. Toss the obvious. Instruction manuals for products you no longer own, research materials for no longer active ideas, drafts of letters, out-of-date magazines and articles, and receipts for items not needed for reimbursement or tax purposes.

5. File important documents in a fire safe filing cabinet. For your home office, consider a safety deposit box. The contents of your safety deposit box or home safe would include: passports; birth, death, and marriage certificates; deeds; divorce decrees; adoption and citizenship papers, insurance policy papers; lease agreements and loan documents; mortgage papers; personal property appraisals (jewelry, collectibles); Social Security cards; stock and bond certificates; vehicle titles; copies of wills; and powers of attorney papers. You get the picture. We still need the originals of a lot of these documents, so protect yourself and your assets. Remember to protect your combinations.

While you’re in the mood to be cleaning out files, don’t forget your PC. It also has files that you no longer need, slowing down your processing of work.

You can run maintenance programs which can ‘defrag’ your files– in other words clean up and arrange them in a way which makes it easier for your PC to find and the speed for running programs will be improved.

Empty your recycle bin. When you delete a file, you are only moving it to the Recycle Bin. If you do not regularly empty your Bin, the files inside may take up valuable disk space. Oftentimes, people overlook this task. You should empty your Recycle Bin regularly, at least once a week. So if you haven’t been doing it, add it to your file clean out day.

Remove Temporary Files. Temporary or junk files are left over by programs and are usually no longer needed. Internet Explorer stores many of the files used on the web pages you visit so that next time you go to a site it doesn’t have to download the same files again. However, this can build up over time and take up a lot of disk space. They waste space and that may eventually slow your PC down.

Another benefit of getting your papers organized is that you will feel more confident to go paperless. When you go paperless, you can store your files in the cloud with Google Drive.  You’ll have the best of both worlds being organized with paper and digitally.  
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