To begin: Start with sticky notes, and color markers as well as plenty of folders and an empty cabinet or some cardboard banker boxes.
Create good generic categories like Utilities, Taxes and avoid using brand names that are subject to change.
Pay special attention to VIP (very important paper) documents like insurance, business renewals and deductions for medical, donations and taxes paid. Highlight them so you can easily find them at year-end. (Use color to make them easy to see)
Put your most important documents in a Fire Safe you can carry with you in an emergency.
If you can, scan your most important papers and save them to a thumb drive you can take with you.
Shred or burn sensitive information
Purge annually and archive or trash things you are not required to keep. Not sure what to keep? Ask a lawyer or tax professional. Rules of retention may be found on government websites.
Plan for less paper by getting bills and notices emailed instead.
Make an Index of your files to keep at the front of your file cabinet and on your computer, so someone else can find your papers should you need help in an emergency. Cross-reference things that may be hard to find: Example: telephone vs phone vs cell
Pick a perpetual date and set aside the time to get the job done. January is a great time to get your annual filing up to date and improve your system for the coming year. Going forward pick a weekly/monthly day to keep your file pile down.
Overwhelmed with the pile? Contact me or someone like me to help. Having a filing buddy with you can make the process less daunting.
When you are done, whether you tackled it alone or with a friend, reward yourself!