Closed September 2017

National Organize Your Files Week- Yippee!

Hangingfilessideview The third full week in April (next week, 4/19/09-4/25/09) is National Organize Your Files Week— aren't you excited? How will you celebrate?

What do you mean, you're not celebrating?

Let's just get this out of the way– Nobody really gets excited about paper. Even those of us who teach about managing paper and help others file things for a living really don't love it either. We just don't mind when it's someone else's paper. Our own papers are much less fun.

Why is that? Objectivity! If it's someone else's paperwork, you have no emotional attachments or guilt related to the decisions in the piles. You can breeze through them faster.

We talk about how all clutter ultimately is delayed decisions and actions. Paper is a very concentrated dose of this– each pile of stacked thin sheets is compactly and efficiently holding potentially hundreds of delayed decisions and actions in a small 8.5 x 11" space.

When going through your own paperwork and mail, try to step back from it mentally and concentrate on these three questions to help you get through the piles faster:

1.  What is this? What does this paper want from me? I have had years of practice refining this skill… scanning the paper to quickly figure out the bottom line. You can learn this too! Look for the first question or sentence in the letter; anything that is bolded, underlined, highlighted, large, or red; and the last sentences in the letter. Look for catch words and phrases like "Pay by," "Due Date," "Return by," "Statement Enclosed," or any actual dates on the page. 

2.  Does this paper fall into the category of Action, Reference, or Trash? (Just remember A.R.T.) Once you've figured out what the paper is and what it wants from you, you can decide if you want to take action on it, keep it in your files, or shred/recycle it. If it requires action, keep it separated from the papers that you're simply keeping for reference. This is half the battle, my friends. Don't mix the two together.

3.  If this person or company knocked on my door or called me on the phone, would I spend time talking with them? For all of the catalogs and junk mail sales pitches directed your way, pretend that you are a super-busy executive who has time for only the things that matter most. Try to quickly bottom-line what they're selling and whether you are remotely interested, and don't fall for the trap of essentially "going out shopping" in the middle of the day by leisurely browsing through catalogs. Save the catalogs for a time when you really want to shop and put them together in a reading basket. Don't let them distract you from sorting all the way through the pile.

See if these questions will help you make the piles disappear more quickly! It leaves you more time to celebrate occasions like National Organize Your Files Week, which I plan to celebrate like author Katherine Mansfield, who said, "Tidied all my papers. Tore up and ruthlessly destroyed much. This is always a great satisfaction." Next post: dealing with the actual files already in your cabinet. Share your favorite paper tips in the comments!

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I have a small business. I hired my 16-year-old daughter to do the clerical work. Paid job or chore, either way get the children involved with the family filing. Let them learn early about the paper wars!

Kathie Spencer

If you have a scanner, I scan my articles and put them in a file on my computer…or put them on a disk.
Kathie, IN


I’m at the point where I am so sick of having “go through stuff” on my to-do list, I’m finally doing it. Cleared out seldom worn clothes, including shoes, socks, undies last weekend; dumped old make-up; made a “first pass” at a lot of the papers in my office (shredded most; created a “to file” pile). In my new life I will have time to do things I like, and not the ever-nagging burden of clutter.


Suggestion for Nancy, re: clipped magazine articles.
Don’t become my mother! Save yourself while there is still time!
Seriously, they write the same articles every month – “how to lose weight” “how to paint a chair a cute spring blue” “how to know what your man is thinking”. Don’t try to organize them, you’re not as good as a library. When you want them again, go to the library. Type a list on your computer with the date of the magazine and the article name, if that helps you to throw it out – then you can find it in the library if you really want it later. More likely, you’ll get tired of keeping the list, and just decide to throw it out and have lunch with a friend — good choice! Continue to remind yourself that it’s not your job to archive the world’s knowledge. You have a life to live – go forth and live it. 🙂


Nancy, I used a binder to file my pictures and articles that I had been saving for my ‘dream house’ ideas. I cut out the information/picture that I wanted to keep and placed them in sheet protectors. At the first of the year, we met with a home builder to discuss our ideas. I found that showing him pictures helped us to better visualize and discuss what we were wanting. We are hoping to start the house in the next year.

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I wanted to keep and placed them in sheet protectors. At the first of the year, we met with a home builder to discuss our ideas. I found that showing him pictures helped us to better visualize and discuss what we were wanting. We are hoping to start the house in the next year.

Ann Landau

I recommend Evernote and a a small Fujitsu scanner. I have no connection to these companies except as a happy user. Evernote allows me to save papers in that amorphous category called ‘maybe I will need this at a future date.’ and throw out the actual paper! I save things from the web. I save all my emailed receipts as well as scanning my paper ones.
I can also leave voice memos, save photos, and just use it as a journal. Evernote works on your computer, PC or Apple. It also works on tablets, and iPhones and Android phones. It has saved my sanity re papers. Check it out!


To Nancy: If at all possible, instead of clipping the pages out of magazines, see if you can find it online and pin it on Pinterest. No scanning necessary.


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