Home Forums Information Management Does anyone use color-coded file folders?

This topic contains 11 replies, has 11 voices, and was last updated by  PJ 5 years, 9 months ago.

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  • #160032


    Several years ago, I stopped using manila file folders. Instead I set up a system of brightly colored file folders, and it served me very well for a long time. However, during the recent years of personal crisis and depression, I abandoned filing altogether. Now I’m dealing with all the messy piles and bags of mixed-up papers, doing it 15 minutes at a time. As part of this process, I want to get back to my color-coding because it’s such a friendly and easy system for my ADD mind.

    I have 7 broad categories…

    blue = home
    green = finances
    red = taxes
    orange = health
    yellow = self development (education, travel, fun)
    lavender = transportation (car, license, bus)
    brown = nuts & bolts (ID, legal stuff, emergency contacts)

    …and within each of those 7 categories, the sub-categories are alphabetized using simple short words, hand-printed large with a black marker on white labels.

    Now that I’m cleaning up and re-instituting this system, I’d love to hear from other folks who use color-coded files. What are your tips to make it super simple and efficient?

  • #218706


    Does anyone use color-coded file folders?

    Sounds excellent, Ella, and if it’s already been established in your mind as the way to file, then I’d resurrect it once more. Sounds like you’re enjoying reclaiming control over a part of your life that wasn’t entirely within your power to steer. Nice work.

    I’ve used colours in a different way and while GTD hasn’t proven itself completely as “my thing”, the concept of Inbox, Project, Archive and Tickler will most likely always hang around. A few years ago I came up with the idea to have a lot of main folders on the computer rather than a lot of subfolders, which is why I needed a colouring system to quickly find things when scrolling Finder.
    – Project became red as in “hot”,
    – Archive blue for “cold”,
    – Tickler green for “potential to grow like grass” and
    – Inbox yellow as in “the last remaining basic colour” and “sunny, just sort these out instead of have them messy forever”.

    I tried a tweaked version for the paper stuff for a while but it really didn’t work. I didn’t want to buy yet another set of folders, so tried working with what I had. And it wasn’t a success. So now the Projects are in a filing folder thingy where Archive used to be (makes most sense and I’m a happy camper), Archive is waiting to be properly filed with pre-2012 archived papers, Inbox is still in the inboxes established about a year ago (and it’s working as it should), whereas Ticklers are in a green folder thingy.

    A tickler that is waiting for my dental appointment is a set of old x-ray pictures from when I was a kid. Others are some birthday cards to be sent out later this year. The ticklers have been constantly forgotten about, but that’s because I don’t have many files tied to specific dates. The folder contains 12 month file dividers and 31 day file dividers. What I should do is to make a reminder in iCal and it’s good to go; I keep the ongoing monthly divider in front of all the others, then come the 31 days, then the 11 remaining months in order. Once the month switches, the one from the front is moved to the end to become the last one. The same movement happens with the daily dividers (in theory since I don’t look at them every day as GTD would require; I’d do this were I at an office job though).

    Archives on the other hand are: bank, taxes, social security applications, health (including a package insurance), home (rental contract, electricity, telephone, etc.), hobbies etc., company stuff, and probably something I forgot about. I don’t want any “miscellaneous” anywhere because it doesn’t say anything at all; the same as “junk drawer”.

  • #218711


    Does anyone use color-coded file folders?

    I have a small blue binder for “important papers” and a small hot pink one for sentimental items. The important papers binder have plastic folders for each category (with no business, no loans, medical stuff kept at the doctors and tax files in pdf I don’t need to keep a lot of paperwork so plastic folders are good enough for me). The sentimental items isn’t really organized more than a plastic folder for drawings my younger siblings drew for me, and then just a lot of random stuff that I don’t want to get rid of. I have totally defeated my paper monster! 🙂

    I would colour code it if I had more stuff to manage, but for now less is more.

  • #218718


    Does anyone use color-coded file folders?

    When I had all 5 of my dd’s at home, I used a color coded calendar/file folder for them.
    Each dd had a different color for their calendar events and a matching color folder in the wall mounted
    file holder on the wall next to the calendar. It made keeping track of all their stuff so much easier.
    School events, dr. appointments etc. It worked beautifully!
    Mine and dh are in pencil for the calendar and a manilla folder.
    I still use the system, just tweaked a little.
    Since the girls were really my “job” over the years, it is likely the best organizing habit I’ve ever used.

  • #218721


    Does anyone use color-coded file folders?

    I use red files for my action files (ones I use often) and yellow for things I need occasionally but not everyday. But I like your different colored files, Ella.

    I have each one labeled and in alphabetical order so I can put my hands on what I need easily.

  • #218726


    Does anyone use color-coded file folders?

    I use a color coded system much like Ella’s. Mine is in rolling crates (two sets of two stacked crates that sit side by side) because I hate filing cabinets. The system is in total disarray right now, though. We moved a little over a year ago and I stopped maintaining the filing altogether when I had to start traveling a lot for work, so I have several boxes of assorted crap that need to be sorted, purged and filed. Every time I go into my office to find something (or TRY to find something) in the boxes, the crates full of colorful folders sit there, mocking me. My passport was misplaced during the move and I still have not found it. Completely revamping the filing system is next on my list, but right now closets and clothing are a priority — I am making myself go through every piece of clothing I own, try it on, and decide whether to keep, consign, or take to Goodwill. It’s taking longer than I had hoped, but I know I’ll be glad I did it once it’s done. Then — on to the filing system!!

  • #218733

    Does anyone use color-coded file folders?

    I use color-coded files, too, but only for work. The easiest way to keep it up is to keep a box of various colored files *within reach* of my desk. I use both hanging files and manila folders. I use the double-file system where each file folder fits inside its own matching color hanging file. I can take one out, use it, and put it back without being baffled by where it goes.

    What I did not learn until recently is that manila folders in the US come in slightly different sizes. Some will fit gracefully into a Pendaflex hanging folder and some won’t. I donated the ones that would not fit. I use a label maker to label files; it’s just plain fun.

    For home ,I use a folding file similar to this one, replaced yearly.
    Again, there are two brands that are slightly different sizes, and I had to change brands when I got a new desk that had smaller drawers.

  • #218748


    Does anyone use color-coded file folders?

    I mostly try to stay away from coloured folders and stick with standard letter-sized manila folders.

    I have a couple of exceptions to this rule, particularly my Important Documents folder (which, because it’s bright red in a sea of beige folders, will immediately catch the eye of anyone looking for my will or other paperwork during an emergency).

  • #218767


    Does anyone use color-coded file folders?

    I have a color-coded system, too. It is similar to Ella’s but I have more categories, including work, insurance, kids’ activities, etc. It is really manila folders with colored tabs though. I like the system and it makes sense to me. Now to get DH on board with it… I’m not particularly fond of his method of keeping papers but I don’t want two separate systems. Can you tell this irritates me?

  • #218770

    Another Deb

    Does anyone use color-coded file folders?

    I acquired a large bundle of colored file folders that have tabs on the sides, such as are used in medical “wall” type files. These were very exciting because I can divide up my genealogy files into colors by family groups (green for the Irish side, of course!) and when I am working on them I can access the files on top of my desk where they lie in a sideways turned file box.

  • #218781


    Does anyone use color-coded file folders?

    Astreja: It was the “sea of beige folders” that was so stress-inducing for me, and the reason why I switched to color.

    happymonkey: I know just how you feel. My filing cabinet is mocking me, too. It’s sitting there in the corner, all in apple-pie order by color, but when the crises began to hit I reverted to piling and avoiding. In fact, I stopped opening my mail for many months because I couldn’t cope. Meanwhile, those colored files have grown old and in need of a good purging. There are many, many layers of tasks involved in cleaning up this mess. I have a long way to go.

    Now that I’m working on sorting out the medical stuff, it just occurred to me today: Why on earth did I chose orange for my Health category? I absolutely loathe the color orange! I’m going out tomorrow and buy PINK folders instead for all the Health stuff, as in “being in the pink” 🙂

  • #218783


    Does anyone use color-coded file folders?

    Pink folders sound great Ella! Pink is my financial folder colour. I also have different colours for my own health related file, my pets folders, etc. When things got really busy over the last year or so, I did much the same as Ella, stopping filing or even dealing with the paperwork that was coming in, but having the files in different colours certainly did help me establish my filing system in the first place, and helped me maintain it for a while. The fact that it has fallen apart has little to do with the filing aspect, and more to do with the fact that most of the papers that need filing first need something to be done about them.

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