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Filing systems for all occasions ... or not
Scripps Howard News Service


June 22, 2005

Every business needs a filing system, but efficient filing is particularly vital for those of us who work in home offices.

When you work at home you must be able to retrieve information without a lot of wasted time and effort. Every minute counts. And if you work alone, you have no one else to blame when stuff goes missing.

A proper filing system not only keeps data handy, it also serves as a "track record" of your home-based business, from its optimistic launch to its eventual, unsurprising demise. Use file labels that are easy to change so you can chart the bathtub-drain geometry of this downward spiral.

The best way to keep files organized is to use a simple alphabetical system. Here are some suggestions for labeling folder tabs:

Assets - Usually a very slim file.

Business cards - Collect these from everyone you meet while "networking." They make dandy toothpicks. "B" also stands for "Bankruptcy," but that comes later.

Computer - Outdated manuals, voided warranties and backup disks kept in a folder stained with tears.

Debts - This file can grow so large it needs its own drawer.

Expenses - Everything the Internal Revenue Service might ever allow you to deduct, up to and including psychiatric treatment.

Financial plan - Typically an empty folder.

Goals - Can also be labeled "Goose chase." Or "Grasping at straws."

Health - Leave extra room for medical bills, etc. This file tends to grow as stress increases.

Investments - Or "Idiotic decisions."

Junk - A catchall, the last stop before the "round file."

Keepsakes - Awards, letters from satisfied clients, mementos of the good times. Thumb through this file whenever you're severely depressed.

Leases - Folder makes a giant sucking sound whenever it's opened.

Marketing plan - See "Wishful thinking."

Newsletters - These make good kindling.

Out of date - The letter "O" can also stand for "Overdue" or "Overly optimistic."

Profits - Hahahahaha.

Quacks - See "Health."

Resumes - It's smart to keep these handy and updated. You could be looking for a "real job" any minute now.

Supplies - "S" could stand for "Successes" or "Satisfaction," but "Supplies" are a sure thing.

Taxes - File should contain two business cards: one for accountant, one for bail bondsman.

Upcoming - Not a reference to your lunch but to pending events. Easy to change this one to "Useless" or "Unemployment benefits."

Vehicle - Leave room for a fat file because it will be a long time before you can replace your old beater.

Wishful thinking - Scratch out label and replace with "What was I thinking." Then "Wasted life." Then "Whiskey."

X - You never need this folder unless you go into xylophone sales. So it can be used as a place to hide overdue bills from your spouse.

Youth - Also see "M" for "Misspent" or "L" for "Lost."

Zippo - Contains the lighter you'll need to set your filing system ablaze.


Redding, Calif., author Steve Brewer's latest book is called "Boost."
Contact him at ABQBrewer(at)

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