Paper file organization systems

As a continuation of my series of posts on curbing paper clutter, I want to talk about paper file organization systems.

No matter how much paper I try to get out of my house, the reality is that some of the paper has to stay. (My next post in this series will discuss which papers these are, so stay tuned.) I have found that having a good organization system in place is essential before you sort through the pounds of paper that currently occupy your filing cabinet or random boxes or whatever makeshift system that might be bringing clutter into your life. If the papers that you decide to keep can immediately be sorted into a proper organization system, then you will be one step closer to being rid of your paper-clutter nightmare.

After years of trying to go it alone, I finally admitted that I had a filing problem on my hands and sought professional help. One organization system, FreedomFiler, was repeatedly mentioned on product review websites as being the best system to help a filing cabinet gone awry. I’ll admit, I was skeptical. I didn’t see how a bunch of labels could be better than the failed system I had developed. And, at $42.95 it had to be a rip-off, right?


FreedomFiler is an organization system that did exactly what it claimed to do and brought sustainable order to the papers in my home.

I think that the reason it works is because it’s intuitive and well-designed. I can wrap my mind around the whole of the system, so I never have to stop and wonder where a paper is filed or where a new paper should go. I appreciate systems that make sense, which also means that I know it is a long-term solution.

As a note, though, I want to add that I don’t use most of the “Active” tabs from the Home Filing Kit. I use another system for my immediate action papers and tasks, and so I don’t have these tabs in my filing system. After reading through the “Active” tabs in the FreedomFiler series, I could see that they would be very useful if I didn’t already have a system in place. Also, since I do use the majority of the tabs, I see FreedomFiler as an extremely valuable resource and the best I’ve found.

If you’re looking for an organization system to solve your paper problem, I strongly recommend the FreedomFiler system.

Visit the whole Paper Clutter Begone series:

  • Part 1 — Scanning documents to reduce paper clutter
  • Part 2 — Organizing digitally scanned data
  • Part 4 — Shredding unnecessary paper

20 Comments for “Paper file organization systems”

  1. posted by Anonymous on

    It sounds like an interesting system, but for your $43 are you getting anything beside some labels and 5 pages of instructions? It seems like someone could summarize the system to save the rest of us a bunch of money.

  2. posted by Anonymous on

    And where on the website does it show you what is on the labels?

  3. posted by Erin on

    I would look at the $43 to be a payment to the team for their time developing such a good system. You could pay a professional organizer to come into your home and create a similar product (and possibly an inferior product) for 10 times the price of FreedomFiler. Forty dollars for a service that you can use immediately out of the box, and will continue to use into the future, is inexpensive in comparison. Plus, a box of empty Avery labels of comparable number would still run you $20.

    Also, if they posted on their website what the labels said, then there would be no need to order the system. Like any company that spends money on research and development, I can see how they would want to make some return on that investment.

  4. posted by Cheap Guy on

    For many people the $43 may be a reasonable price for the service. I’d rather be able to make my own customized system that fits my needs. I don’t have a problem with FreedomFiler making a profit, but their price is too high for me. They seem to have categories like:

    Bills – unpaid, paid tax related, paid non-tax
    Receipts – tax deductible, medical
    Literature – to read, coupons, for review

    Would anyone else care to expand?

  5. posted by Erin on

    The next post in my series (which I think is scheduled to run early next week) discusses papers that you should keep in your home. I think that it is a pretty exhaustive list, and might be a good spring board for a self-created filing system. Stay tuned — it may be exactly what you’re seeking …

  6. posted by GTDWannabe on

    Cheap Guy, I understand their price may be too high for you and some others, but asking Erin to post their work product does not strike me as a fair response. If you would prefer to substitute your time and labor devising your own system for purchasing theirs, I respect that. But I can’t understand suggesting they have an obligation to share their efforts with you for free.

  7. posted by Cheap Guy on

    I never said anything about anyone having an obligation to share anything. I suspect there isn’t really much unique to the FreedomFiler system. Just as they have built on the work of others (what, you think they invented filing??), I’d like to learn from them.

  8. posted by Vic on

    I was lucky enough to be one of the people to trial an early prototype of Freedom Filer. Years later I am still using the original set and strongly recommend it – I haven’t had to spend an evening filing now for five years. I don’t anticipate ever changing it – so $43.00 looks good to me.

  9. posted by Liz Staley on

    What is special about FreedomFiler? It is an actual strategy and not just labeled files. It upholds a HUGE claims: it prevents the accumulation of paper, reduces your file, retrieval and maintenance time to zero, and eliminates the burden of setting up tax files every year. All systems label files, but only FreedomFiler affects how you live your life: FREE from cleaning out your files ever, again.

  10. posted by John on

    I have used the FreedomFiler system for about four years now. It would have been time consuming and expensive to devise a system as carefully thought out, buy generic supplies, and create labels that are as attractive. $43 bucks is nothing compared to that, especially since the system lasts forever. I would recommend anyone considering it to “just do it”.

  11. posted by Cheap Guy on

    It sounds like FreedomFiler hits the mark for a number of people. Would it be fair to say that main features are: (1) well thought-out categories and (2) things are arranged by longevity of the information so you know when to throw out old papers, triggered by updated papers? Is there something else to the system?

  12. posted by DanMo on

    OK, I’m in. Could this actually be the “perfect Mother’s Day gift”?!?!?!? 😉

    I have just put GTD in place at work, but had no easy way to inject those practices into my home/family life.

    The last time we had organization in my house was ~1996, and I still have the bankers’ boxes of previous years’ files to prove it, but we have piled up 10 years of archaeological artifacts between then and now (also quite a collection of kids’ artwork).

    We have moved a lateral file with 1996 in it from place to place with the intention of getting back to fundamental organization, and I hope this is the ticket (as mentioned by John and Cheap Guy just above).

  13. posted by scott on

    Jeez Liz – good to see you figured out to cut and paste your ad copy instead of actually adding value to the conversation.

  14. posted by SteveO on

    It would be nice if you could look at the FreedomFiler Web site without a password. Cripes.

  15. posted by Michael on

    SteveO hit the nail on the head. Why would I waste time trying to log on to a page that I needed a password to log on to which I could only get if I could log on to the page which I can’t because I can’t log on to the—- Oh dear. If that’s how FreedomFiler thinks, FreedomFiler can think that way without my fifty clams. Seems more like Scientology (“We can’t tell you until you join”) than uncluttering.

  16. posted by Erin on

    Hey Everyone!

    I just discovered that when you all were saying that you couldn’t get onto the FreedomFiler website that you meant you couldn’t even get onto the website’s main page. I’m so sorry about that!! The site requiring a password is a brand new thing and not the way things were when I originally wrote this post. I’ll contact the company and get back to you about how you can order the product if you’re interested, as well as learn more about it. My apologies!! — Erin

  17. posted by Bill on

    I didn’t have any trouble reading through the entire FreedomFiler site just now…they must have fixed it.

  18. posted by Unclutterer » Archive » Paper clutter begone, part 4 on

    […] Part 3 — Paper file organization systems […]

  19. posted by Attacking Paper Clutter with Freedom Filer on

    […] clutter as possible and keep it to just the basics, this program appealed to me, especially since it came highly recommended by Erin Doland, editor of my favorite organizational […]

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