Here are some easy and useful tips to use when organizing a home or business office. The main steps to organizing is to gather, sort, purge and assign a home for the items.

First, gather ALL of the loose paperwork that is on the desk, table, chairs and floor. Put the papers in a few stacks so they can be sorted through. Determine if your current filing system is working for you.

If the system IS working for you:
** Take out any old papers that are no longer needed in the folders and throw them away or shred them.
** Sort though the stacks of papers that you have gathered and file them in the correct folders.

If your system is NOT working for you:
** Create a file folder for the papers that you need to go through. Be VERY specific when determining what the paper should be filed under. For example, label a file folder 'auto insurance' not just 'car'.
** Purchase file folders and hanging folders for the papers.
** Purchase a file cabinet to hold all of the paperwork.
** Purchase a labelmaker to label the folders. Or if you have good handwriting,handwrite the information on the folders.
** If you have trouble sorting through the papers (like MANY people do!), take one small stack of papers at a time and determine which file the information should go in. You will either file or throw away the paper. Again, be very specific when labeling the files. Please try not to label the file as miscellaneous.
** File the folders either alphabetically or by category. Categories may include: household bills, warranties, tax information, financial papers, children's school papers.
** Use color folders for separate categories. For example, green folders for financial papers. Red folders for bills. Blue folders for tax information. Purple folders for warranties. Many people are visual people and the different colors may help you file the information away and, most importantly, FIND the information you need in a hurry.

IMPORTANT: Put all of your important documents and papers in a safe deposit box in a bank or in a secure location in your home in a fire resistant box. In an emergency, you should be able to go to that location and take all of the important papers with you.

When it comes to paper retention, many people are not sure how long to hang on to certain important papers, such as cancelled checks, receipts, property taxes and mortgage information. As regulations vary by state and personal situation, please consult with your accountant or financial advisor before you toss or shred your paperwork, to verify that the following recommendations will work for you in particular. Also you may go to and search under the Publication No. 552 for individual paper retention. The following are general guidelines to follow:

Toss out/shred each month:
** ATM, bank-deposit slips and credit card receipts after you have checked them against your bank or credit card statements.
** Receipts for minor purchases, unless there is a warranty or refund.

Toss out/shred after one year:
** Monthly bank and credit card statements.
** Monthly mortgage statements provided you receive a year-end summary of your account.
** Pay stubs after they are checked against your W-2 or 1099.

Toss out/shred after seven years:
** Your W-2 or 1099 forms.
* Cancelled checks and receipt or statements for mortgage interest, property taxes, deductible business expenses or other tax-deductible expenses.

Keep indefinitely:
** Annual tax returns
** Year-end summary statements from financial institutions.
** Receipts for home-improvement costs or major purchases that may be needed for insurance claims.

Just remember, you don't need to stress out about paperwork or the clutter in your office. Take 1 small stack or pile or area at a time and work on that for 1 hour or 30 minutes and then stop. The first step is always the hardest, but once you start, you will want to continue with the process and it gets easier as it goes on. If you need help with organizing in your home or office, please contact Organized To Perfection at

Author's Bio: 

My name is Elizabeth Fuchs and owner, operator of Organized To Perfection, Certified Professional Organizer. I graduated from Illinois State University with a B.S. in public relations. I started my organizing business in 2002. I specialize in organizing kitchens, closets, basements, garages, unpacking for household moves and creating efficient home office managment systems. In addition, I work with clients who have behaviors of ADD and OCD.