Filing Systems

by Hettie Woehler
(last updated December 3, 2020)

Even though there are all kinds of records, and they can come in a variety of different formats, there are going to be some general rules that will apply to each and every one of them. As such, it is important that you take time to decide on the filing system that best meet your needs, before you begin to start organizing your records. Here are some brief descriptions about the different types of filing systems that you can choose from, and a quick definition of each.

  • Alphabetic. Organizes names or subjects by letters of the alphabet.
  • Alphanumeric. Stores files in alphabetical as well as numeric order.
  • Filing according to topics. These are used for a small numbers of files. Numerous topics soon pose problems as an index system will be necessary to find files.
  • Geographic systems. You could use a country as the top level folder, town for the first subcategory and, hotels as the third group in the hierarchy.
  • Numeric classifications. Use numbers to arrange files. Straight numeric systems number files consecutively in sequence. Although straight numeric filing systems are simple to use and expand, it can cause problems as the user will need to know the precise number of the file they wish to retrieve.
  • Chronologic systems. Arrange files by date. Correspondence is commonly arranged using a chronological system. For example a file named "nancy20100522" gives the person's first name and the date of the correspondence. Such a file could be filed in a subfolder called client_ payments.

But how to determine which system is right for your office? In order to determine which system is right for an office's records, four questions must be answered. Those questions are listed below, as well as a brief explanation of the question. The answer for each question is going to be up to you.

  • How are the records used or retrieved? Types of records and the usual method of retrieval may determine the filing system.
  • How many records do you have? If there are limited records, you can usually use an alphabetic filing system. Large volumes of records usually require numeric or alphanumeric systems.
  • How big is the office or agency? Large agencies, especially those with multiple branch offices, may use an alphanumeric central filing system to insure consistent filing practices throughout the agency. Larger agencies have more people filing and retrieving records which means that a logical and constant system will be necessary for fast and easy retrieval.
  • Who uses the records? The needs of the people filing and retrieving records must be considered when choosing a filing system. Together with this requirement, files must be named logically to avoid confusion.

Author Bio

Hettie Woehler

Hettie lives in Mokopane, South Africa. She writes articles for a country-wide monthly newspaper, The Vessel. She self-published a devotional book in 1993 and writes a regular column, Hettie's Chatterbox, for the S.A. Neuromuscular Foundation. ...


Image Storage

Gone are the days of magnetic films which needed to be developed and often we had to pay for boo-boos and mistakes too! ...

Discover More

Time Management Software

Deciding on the right time management software is an important step towards effective time management throughout the ...

Discover More

Mold Cleaning Strategies

With just the slightest bit of moisture, and a little bit of darkness, you can easily find yourself faced with a mold ...

Discover More

Find the Right Tool Right Away Finally, a homeowner's set that includes all the tools needed to complete basic DIY projects at an affordable price! The tools are stored in a molded case for security and portability. Check out Stanley 65-Piece Homeowner's Tool Kit today!

More Organizing Tips

Keeping Track of Your Incoming Bills

In today's fast- paced society, the need to keep your important bills organized so they are paid on time is crucial. ...

Discover More

Organizing Your Bills

Bills can be a major pain, particularly when you don't have a whole lot of money to go around. However, by taking some ...

Discover More

Organizing Electronic Files

Finding space free on your computer's hard drive does not have to be difficult. Keeping electronic files organized will ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Receive an e-mail several times each week with a featured organizational tip. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is eight more than 6?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


FREE SERVICE: Receive an e-mail several times each week with a featured organizational tip. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)