Organising your filing system

Good filing systems

For your organisation to function well, it's essential to have an effective and efficient filing system.

A good filing system is:

  • easy to understand and use
  • a suitable size for the available space
  • accessible to all who are authorised to use it 
  • able to keep the records safe and in good condition, and
  • able to keep the records secure to fit with the provisions of the Privacy Act 1993 (see later).

Filing equipment

Filing equipment you may choose to use includes:

  • box files 
  • computer files
  • filing cabinets (lockable) 
  • ring binder folders 
  • manila or colour-coded folders, and 
  • filing baskets.

Filing location

For larger organisations with a lot of information, there are different ways of physically storing your paper-based records system. Storage can either be in one central place (centralised) or files can be kept in different locations (departmentalised), depending on the nature of the information e.g. accounts, projects, etc. Alternatively, you can use a combination of the two: workers keep files they use a lot in their own offices/rooms, but back-ups and less-used files have a central home.

Checklist for establishing a filing system

To establish your filing system:

  • divide your organisation's information into classifications (as per the earlier guidelines)
  • create a file list of the divisions you've made 
  • use dividers for different subjects under that file
  • document the expected content of each file so people know where to put what 
  • decide on an appropriate filing system that keeps records in order e.g. file papers in chronological or date order, with the most recent papers on top or at the front
  • consider how you are going to protect your records from dirt, dust, fire, water, earthquake, humidity, sunlight, intruders, insects, rodents etc, and
  • make sure that the paper records match the electronic records.

 Checklist for maintaining your systems

At least once a year, spend time on maintaining your records and filing systems by:

  • removing out-of-date material (e.g. old newsletters from other organisations) 
  • disposing of any confidential information securely by either shredding documents or using a document disposal company
  • sorting out and filing away historical material 
  • checking that the file divisions are still relevant (if necessary, consult a records management professional) 
  • undertaking an audit to ensure that the required information is kept in the expected place.


Next page: Keeping information safe and private

Previous page: Organising your records

Contents of the Community Resource Kit