The Miscellaneous File: A Black Hole

The Miscellaneous File: A Black Hole

Beth Zeigler
Oct 30, 2008

103008misc-02.jpgEvery filing system we've ever come across has one of these mysteriously labeled miscellaneous files. When we get around to opening it, out pours magazine clippings, old receipts and duplicate photos that a friend passed along from a get-together. Labeling a file folder miscellaneous is a definite no-no in our books. Find out how you can avoid this mistake after the jump.

The miscellaneous file acts as a place for the user to put papers that they can't decide on--which can be quite tempting to use. But because no one remembers what the heck they initially filed in the miscellaneous file, paper retrieval is impossible. We like to say that clutter is a delayed decision--which is exactly what the miscellaneous file acts as--a delayed decision on where your papers should permanently live.

Besides not allowing your filing system to have a miscellaneous file here are some easy tips to keep your paperwork retrievable.

  • For the paperwork that just can't seem to create a place for--ask yourself, can I find this information online. If I needed it again, could I find it easily elsewhere? If you can easily find it online, create a bookmark for the item.
  • Allow yourself only 5-6 categories in your filing system. If you group files by categories, your brain will have a better chance remembering files that are related to that category. You can always fall back on your filing table of contents to point you in the right direction.
  • Keep active files within arms reach. Active files are for things that still require action, such as Bills To Pay, Current Clients, or files associated with Ongoing Projects.
  • We like having an inbox/outbox system. That way, if we don't feel like opening our mail when we bring it indoors, it has a place to land. The outbox acts as a reminder tool so you'll never forget the belongings you need to take to work, a meeting, or a visit with a friend.
  • Keeping a pending file on hand is a great idea for items that you're waiting for a response on. They require no further action on your part (that's why they aren't active files) but you can't file them away because you're still awaiting a response.
  • If you clip articles from newspapers and magazines, it's necessary that you implement a system so the information remains searchable. A great way to keep information at your fingertips is with a binder. You can divide the categories into sections with tabs to easily find articles.

    Do you have a miscellaneous file? What's in it?

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