Based on the questions that seem to have arisen, I thought I would expound
a little more about my filing system.
Pocket Folders are not used directly in place of Manilla folders, Manilla
folders ARE used, but they are placed INSIDE of the pocket folders. Current
files are in 2-drawer or 4-drawer filing cabinets. Archived files are in
cardboard file boxes with lids. Each cardboard file box contains only a
certain type of file, that must be retained.
FWIW - The ONLY hanging file cabinets that I have found that actually work
well are wooden with brass rails that the files hang from. All the rest
seem to drop the front and/or back file all too often. Those with wire hangers
either bend or the wire comes loose from it's mounting dropping the whole
rack of files into the bottom of the drawer.
A question was asked about the expandable files, multi-pocketed files and
whether or not they had cover flaps. In our case, only a select few have
the flaps for closing them, the rest are open topped and fairly rigid. They
are large enough to hold a couple of pocket folders filled with Manilla folders
inside of each section, yet they compress quite easily not to waste space.
The expandable files are only used for daily access papers on projects that
Here is an example of how we used the expandable files.
I was in the historical home renovation business for over 25 years. There
is one heck of a lot of paperwork that goes with real estate that must be
right at your fingertips.
In the back section of the expandable file we had two pocket folders. The
rearmost pocket folder contained a Manilla folder for purchase contracts,
a Manilla folder for Appraisals and a Manilla folder for legal documents.
The second pocket folder contained a Manilla envelope for plat maps, original
architects plans and detailed measurements.
Also in the rearmost section were brown sealed Manilla envelopes that bore
only the year they pertained to. These Manilla envelopes contained receipts
for material purchases and other expenses that were claimed on that years
In the center section of the expandable file there were also two pocket folders,
each with Manilla folders inside. One of the pocket folders contained any
information that should be passed on to the buyer when the house was sold.
Warranty papers that went with appliances, doors, windows and fixtures,
etc. The other pocket folder contained renovation and service notes, items
that were completed and what adjustments had to be made from the original
The front section of the exandable file was used to hold daily access files
and receipts. One of the pocket envelopes would contain a folder named
and another for paid receipts. Another would contain permits and inspection
But the very front pocket envelop contained all the renovation activities.
Order of events, schedules, etc. Every paper that had to do with one particular
address could be found within this one expandable file.
When the house sold, all the pockets would be removed from the expandable
file (which could then be reused for another property) and placed in a larger
pocket file with a top flap. This file then went into our Tax drawer where
it would be audited. Depending upon the time of year, it may need to be
kept for each quarterly report. After the yearly taxes were completed, the
file would then be sealed and moved into the archives, which were cardboard
file boxes in storage.
Since we kept every original document in a single expandable file, it was
no problem to grab this entire file when we had a meeting that was related
to this particular property. Such as a planning and zoning commission meeting
or for closing. Or even for an audit. Everything was there and in one place.
You were never missing something from another file cabinet.
Every important document was also scanned and archived.
Daily work orders, schedules and the like were all computer generated, so
normally only the completion reports were placed in the paper files.
We also took a lot of pictures which were either scanned or digital to start
with. When we found defects that needed attended to, these were shot in
close up detail both before and after the repairs or corrections were made.
In essence, we kept Before, During and After photo's of almost every stage
of a project.
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
You would not believe the number of people who make false claims about certain
aspects of a construction project a few years down the road. Such as a bad
deck rail, reuse of original wiring, etc.
When these claims arise, the photo's show the original, the original removed
and the new installed and usually in enough detail to show it's quality.
Keeping all of these photo's sorted as to which room and wall they pertained
to can be a nightmare if we didn't have an excellent system for doing so.
In addition, each photo must bear some recognizable location key in the
image. If not, it could be a photo of almost any wall in any house. So
each image has some unique distinguishing feature that can prove it is the
photo of the object in question.
Since every document is on electronic media, only in rare cases do we need
to dig out the original archived paper files.
Before computers, we used to discard old paper files to make room for new.
Because of our storage area, a 14 year cycle worked quite well for us.
But everything from 1977 forward has a scanned copy that can be accessed
from our computers.
Another great aspect of storing scanned copies of everything, is that you
can store duplicates under different titles.
As an example, let's take a scanned photograph that belonged to your grandmother
and after her demise was then given to one of your aunt's, but you have no
idea which one or even if it survived.
The photo contains 3 individuals, your aunt Hilda, your Grandmother and an
unknown person, plus a Cocker Spaniel named Heather.
A copy may be placed in the photo's folder containing images of aunt Hilda,
another copy can be placed in your file for images of your Grandmother, and
a special file for images of unknown individuals. The unknown images file
is sorted by who might know who this person is, if you ever bump into them.
Then we go to the PETS files. There is a copy under the person's name who
owned the pet in their pet's file. Another copy might be placed in a file
named Pets that are listed both by pet names and by pet breeds.
In other words, you can do a search for relatives that own(ed) Cocker Spaniels
and all the images of Cocker Spaniels would come up, showing who owned them
and when (if known).
The same thing applies to scanned receipts. If you file a copy by vendor,
a copy by item, and another copy by where used (if applicable). You can
at a glance find out how many items were purchased from so and so vendor.
You can do an item search and find out a certain item and which vendors
they were purchased from. If you filed the items also where used, you can
look up the location to see which items were most commonly used at that
This does not necessarily mean that you have to physically store a large
image more than once. Many programs allow you to apply sort keys to files
and use as many sort keys as you want to use for that file. As far as images,
whether they are a photo or a document that was scanned. Each has a scan
header associated with it. A simple text document that can be printed with
the image. This text document is searchable with almost any program, including
the FIND text in file feature of Windows itself. So it's not necessarily
extra work to include the search codes if you are documenting an image.
It's not hard to put Aunt Hilda, Unknown, Grandma and Heather over the photo
image mentioned above. Only I normally use the full and correct names, including
maiden names and nicknames in the header.
Home filing is often much harder than business filing, due to the number
of things you would like to have at your fingertips.
The only trick that I can pass on regarding the filing of diverse items is
to try and use some heirachial system that works best for you. One that
would be easily recognized by someone other than yourself as well.
Don't be afraid to bury something too deep in a heirarchial type of filing
system. I think you will find it actually makes finding things a whole lot
easier in the long run.
Those who place EVERYTHING in like what is called the Root Directory on a
computer, can never find anything, because they cannot remember what they
called it and why.
Whereas those who used a few specific topics as the Root Directory with
as a sub-directory, can find theirs much more more quickly.