File under "H" for "Hopeless"

Every business needs a filing system, but efficient filing is particularly vital for those of us who work in home offices.

When you work at home, you must be able to retrieve information without a lot of wasted time and effort. Every minute counts. And, if you work alone, then you have no one else to blame when stuff goes missing.

A proper filing system not only keeps data handy, it also serves as a "track record" of your home-based business, from its optimistic launch to its eventual, unsurprising demise. Use file labels that are easy to change so you can chart the bathtub-drain geometry of this downward spiral.

The best way to keep your files organized is to utilize a simple alphabetical system. Here are some suggestions for labeling the folder tabs:

Assets -- Usually a very slim file.

Business Cards -- Collect these from everyone you meet while "networking." They make dandy toothpicks. "B" also stands for "Bankruptcy," but that comes later.

Computer -- Outdated manuals, voided warranties and backup disks kept in a folder stained with tears.

Debts -- This file can grow so large it needs its own drawer.

Expenses -- Everything the IRS might ever allow you to deduct, up to and including psychiatric treatment.

Financial Plan -- Typically an empty folder.

Goals -- Can also be labeled "Goose Chases." Or, "Grasping at Straws."

Health -- Leave extra room for medical bills, etc. This file tends to grow as stress increases.

Investments -- Or, "Idiotic Decisions."

Junk -- A catch-all, the last stop before the "round file."

Keepsakes -- Awards, letters from satisfied clients, mementos of the good times. Thumb through this file whenever you're severely depressed.

Leases -- Folder makes a giant sucking sound whenever it's opened.

Marketing Plan -- See "Wishful Thinking"

Newsletters -- These make good kindling.

Out of Date -- The letter "O" can also stand for "Overdue" or "Overly Optimistic."

Profits -- Hahahahaha.

Quacks -- See "Health."

Resumes -- It's smart to keep these handy and updated. You could be looking for a "real job" any minute now.

Supplies -- "S" could stand for "Successes" or "Satisfaction," but "Supplies" are a sure thing.

Taxes -- File should contain two business cards: One for accountant, one for bail bondsman.

Upcoming -- Not a reference to your lunch, but to pending events. Easy to change this one to "Useless" or "Unemployment Benefits."

Vehicle -- Leave room for a fat file because it will be a long time before you can replace your old beater.

Wishful Thinking -- Scratch out label and replace with "What Was I Thinking." Then "Wasted Life." Then "Whiskey."

"X" -- You never need this folder unless you go into xylophone sales, so it can be used as a place to hide overdue bills from your spouse.

Youth -- Also see "M" for "Misspent" or "L" for "Lost."

Zippo -- Contains the lighter you'll need to set your filing system ablaze.

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