neurodiversity Document filing system

Document filing system

Do you know where your birth certificate is? Can you find your rental-agreement within 5 minutes? Do you feel comfortable with searching for your primary school reports?

If you answered "no" to any of these questions, you might want to consider this filing system.

I have ADHD and find it particularily easy to use and it works very well for me.


A filing system should be easy to use and easy to maintain. You should feel comfortable with it and it should be satisfying to use it. It also should be very cheap.

Tools and Resources

For the filing system you need an empty box (e.g. a shoe box) which is large enough to fit A4 paper in it.

You also need a lable printer. Lable printers are fun to use, making it more likely that you use the system. Sometimes you can get a cheap one with lots of printing tape on eBay Kleinanzeigen or similar sites.

You need small pieces of paper (e.g. index cards) and a pen.

You need lots of transparent plastic sleeves ("Einsteckh├╝llen"). Don't use the ones with holes, use the ones which are open on the top and on the side. Buy a pack of 100 or 200 and try to keep a stock of them.

You also need a few magazine holders ("Zeitschriftenbox", "Zeitschriftensammler"). How many depents on the amount of documents you have. I use 4 of them, but you an easily add more.

What is a document?

Your birth certificate is a document. Your rent-contract as well. The electrical bill as well.

But also small things, like the receipt for the new toaster which you need to keep for warranty claims.

Everytime you see a document or another piece of paper, think about whether you want to keep it long term. Some things you might be able to instantly throw away (do so now!). Some things you only want to keep for a short time (e.g. a magazine where you want to read an article). These don't belong in the filing system.

The document dump

Everytime you have a document, put it in the shoe-box. This is your document dump. It will gradually fill with all your documents. Next time you tidy up your desk, put all the documents in the box.

After a short amount of time, all documents will be in the box and whenever you need something, you will have the confidence that it's in there. You don't need to remember where things are. You don't neet to sift through piles of random things. Everything is always in the box (for now).

The idea of this is that it's amost zero effort to put that piece of paper in your hand away.

The plastic sleeves

To organize your filing system, you put all your documents in plastic sleeves.

Be sure to not combine multiple topics in one sleeve. If you have a receipt for a toaster, use a new sleeve. If you have the monthly power-bill and the yearly power-bill you can combine them in one sleeve.


When you put a document into a new sleeve, use the lable printer and print a label for it.

I try to not ovethink this and use the first term that comes to mind.

As these sleeves will be sorted alphabetically it makes sometimes sense to write lables so they group together (e.g. "Versicherung - Leben", "Versicherung - Unfall", "Versicherung - Haushalt").

Lable printers are fun and as you now ready own one, there are more things you can do with it (want to label your kitchen spices?).

Sorting things into the system

The plastic sleeves go into the magazine holders in strict alphabetical order.

If the holder get's to full, add a new one and move half the sleeves over.

Cross references

Sometimes it's not clear how to lable things. E.g. I have a receipt for a motorcycle helmet. I put it together with the other documents into the "Motorcycle" sleeve. But sometimes I might search for "Helmet".

Get a new sleeve, label it with "Helmet" and put an index card into it with "see Motorcycle" written on it.

If a sleeve gets to full (e.g. documents related to your flat), you can put the contents somewhere else (e.g. a document binder) and put an index card into the sleeve with the location of the binder written on it.


If you have a new document you can of course put it into the correct sleeve immediately or create a new sleeve for it. But very often, it's just easier to put it into the shoe box and forget about it.

This way, if you need a document, you can search in the magazine boxes first, and if it's not there, it has to be in the shoe box.

If the shoe box get's full it might be time to do some maintenance.

Taking out the trash

First, go through all sleeves in the magazine boxes in order, and check if there are any documents which you don't need anymore. If you find some, throw them away (e.g. the warranty of that toaster expired, but maybe you still want to keep the owners manual).

If things are not sorted correctly, now is the time to fix that.

Filing the documents from the shoe box

Next, go through the shoe box and put all documents into the correct sleeves. If you find a document which doesn't have a sleeve yet, create a new one.

Put all the new sleeves on a pile and once you've put all documents into sleeves, you can sort them into the magazine boxes.

You can easily interupt this task at any time and continue later. If you have half-filed documents, just put them back into the shoe box and postpone for another day.