Organizing Your Filing: A 5-Step Purge

Organizing Your Filing: A 5-Step Purge

I know I’ve been MIA these days, but being gone doesn’t mean Elvis has left this building! Nu-uh. I wish I had some exotic adventures to share, but I don’t. No, instead the fed-up bug has gotten me, and I’ve been tackling a backlog of ‘to dos’ one-by-one.

The dreaded filing purge has moved to the top of my list. How does it always manage to slide back down? So sneaky!

This was my filing tray when I got started.

Overflowing Filing Tray

Yes, it was this bad!

And this is my filing tray now.

Empty Filing Tray

Who knew this tray was prettier than it looked?

I also tackled two filing cabinets, and did a whole lot of purging between them.

This is a little glimpse of the ‘in progress’…

In progress purging of files

Oh yes, it was this bad, too!

But in the end…

Here’s shredding bin one…

Overflowing shredding bin

And shredding bin two.


Believe it or not, we do as much electronically as we can! But I have to confess, some of this is years worth of backlog. Life happens, and paper builds up. Can you relate?

Here are a few tips when you’re purging years worth of files:

1. Don’t let years worth of files build up!

Okay, I just had to say it, LOL. πŸ˜‰

2. Empty your file drawers exactly as they are into file boxes.

This way you have half a chance of finding something while in the transition of purging and refiling.

3. Work methodically through the files, sorting as you go:

  • Refile – I recommend getting files back into the cabinets as quickly as possible.
  • Shred – keep your bins handy and fill them; tackle the shredding later, and don’t forget, you can hire a shredding service!
  • Recycle – fill your recycling bag as you go, so all you have to do is take it to curb side on recycling day.

4. Don’t get bogged down in the details.

The purging process is the clean sweep. Once this part is done, you can always go back to reorganize your filing system, revamp your colour coding, make up new file labels, or whatever detail-oriented job you feel is pressing to do!

5. Rome wasn’t built in a day!

Don’t overwhelm yourself with the task at hand. Depending on how backlogged your files are, tackle them in chunks over a few days. You’ll be so glad you did! Caution: do give yourself a deadline – there’s nothing worse than a job like this hanging over your head for too long.

Here’s where I left off…

Bankers Boxes of Files

Hubs and I have to go through these two boxes together.

So glad it was raining today!

How do you handle the purging of your files? Do you stay on top of it, or do you let it get away? Do you have any tips to share?

Thanks for stopping by!

Signature 100x47 b&w

Photographs by Sheila ZellerΒ 

22 thoughts on “Organizing Your Filing: A 5-Step Purge”

    • Your comment made me laugh, Lisa! I do exactly that – it’s that great feeling of accomplishment while at the same time feeling a bit in shock that it’s actually done! I love being able to get into the files again without paper cuts and pushed back cuticles LOL!

  • You have awesome timing my friend! I just bought a new-to-me filing cabinet from the ReStore and I’m going to start filling ‘er up! I’m not sure though how old is old enough to toss stuff (not important stuff like taxes… other stuff like old bills) – do you know? I think it’s six years….

    • You ask a great question, Heather! There is always a bit of flex in the ‘right’ answer, but generally…
      -Tax returns – 7 years
      -Bank statements (if you get a paper copy) – 1 year
      -Cancelled cheques (do people even write cheques anymore?) – 3 years
      -Medical bills and receipts – 3 years
      -Old bills and investment statements – just keep one year’s worth, and rotate the last year’s month out as that month for the new year comes in (and now with electronic billing, this is near redundant)
      -Salary statements – shred once taxes are done *when I was an employee I used to keep mine until the following year’s taxes were done, just to be sure there was no tax audit coming my way!
      -Check the expiry date on warranties, insurance documents, coupons, etc. – these are often the culprits of overflowing files, because we don’t realize they’ve expired

      A great filing tip is to file life insurance and investment statements with a copy of your will rather than alphabetically – this way everything is together in the tragic event that they are needed

      And then there’s the whole area of keeping photocopies of important documents in your filing cabinet, but storing the originals in a safe deposit box:
      Birth certificates, passports, marriage certificates, land titles, etc., etc.

      I hope this is helpful! Good luck with your filing cabinet! πŸ™‚

    • You always amaze me, Shauna! I think you are one of the most organized, dedicated, talented people I know. I have huge admiration for your ability to stay focused and on track… your blog is proof of that, and the projects you tackle. You are such an inspiration my friend!!!

  • It’s so funny that you posted this because I’m doing the same thing. We recently did a complete overhaul and bought a new computer, memory, storage Etc. because it was getting ridiculous on how slow our old computer was getting being bogged down with a zillion pics. Which now has spun a new interest if mine to clean the entire office which included the files. My shredder had a workout and I’m still purging!!!! I want to get some new shelves too! I love how inspired I feel after a good bout of organization! See you on the weekend!

  • Oh wow! I wish I was as motivated as you and all your readers! My two filing cabinets are full, so I have piles on pretty much all surfaces in my office…but I read about how piles of paper are a sign of genius so I feel like I can ride that wave and justify it for a little longer. Thanks for the inspiration tho…some say soon.

  • It’s an ebb and flow… it piles up, we purge, it piles up we purge… every time we say, now that it’s organized we should keep it this way… Oh boy! Nice job!

    ~Laurie @ Vin’yet Etc.

  • Just did ours in March. It’s a process, but if you don’t tackle it routinely, it can get really out of hand. Nice to have the contents to give everything a space.

  • I just did some purging of files tonight. Oh the joys of paper build up! Lol Not! Back at it tomorrow! Thanks for the tips πŸ™‚

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