The End of the Mail Trail

When does mail stop being mail? The second it comes out of your mailbox. That stuff piled up on your dining table is not mail. It’s bills to pay, solicitations to toss, statements to file, magazines to read, and material to review. Each envelope contains paper that requires action. Because those actions are hidden inside those envelopes, one fears the worst, but expose them to the light of day and you realize that your necessary actions are either a. easy or b. unnecessary (for now).

Tickle Your Memory

Ever wonder what a “tickler file” is? It’s a collection of 43 labeled folders, 31 days and 12 months, that helps you organize time-sensitive documents. It has been around in various formats since the early 20th century, but has probably been most notably covered in David Allen’s 2001 classic, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity.

To me the most valuable message from Allen’s book was,

“Out Where I Can See It.”

“Out Where I Can See It” is an understandable need, but the problem is if everything is important, then nothing is important. If the front page of a newspaper appeared solid gray with unbroken text, you probably wouldn’t bother with it. It’s too overwhelming. Not only would it take time to prioritize the most important articles, it would take time just to see them!

Files In A Bind

If your shelves are overrun with binders and they’re busting at the seams it may be time to rethink your use of binders. Binders have their place, but like so many things, they will serve you better if used within limits. Here’s how:


What Your Dining Table Has In Common With a Runway In Memphis

Want to make your home more inviting? The dining table is usually a great place to start. If it’s piled with mail, schoolwork, and crafts then it’s not very welcoming. To keep your table clear and inviting, it helps to think of it as a runway at the FedEx “Super Hub” at Memphis International Airport.

The most valuable organizing tool is a clear surface for processing.


Receipt Deceipt

One of the most insidious pieces of paper that regularly litters my clients’ homes is the receipt. Alone it may look small and harmless, but it can be powerful in its importance or unimportance. Let me explain the latter.

One piece of tax advice I hear is “keep everything!” Really? This 2004 receipt for “Beggin Strips” from Petco is going to help me save money on taxes? Unless you run a kennel, this piece of paper is probably not going to help you.

Don’t Apha-bet On It!

An associate of mine joked the other day about how I was so organized that I had my sock drawer alphabetized. Naturally I took the joke in the spirit of good-natured ribbing it was intended, but for many organizing systems I believe alphabetizing can do more harm than good.

Now don’t get me wrong,if you have items like old client files or CDs that are all the same type of thing, filing alphabetically makes the most sense, but…


Envelopes are necessary to help deliver mail, but mail stops being mail the second it comes out of your mailbox. At this moment envelopes are not only unnecessary, they are a natural enemy to staying organized.

Envelopes help in the sending of paper information in three ways. First, they conceal the information from outside eyes.

“Important” is Not a Category

Effective organizing begins with assigning basic categories, but “important” is NOT a category. It may be tempting to think, “I’ll just keep all my ‘important stuff’ together in one safe place and take my chances with the rest of it.” This is not a safe practice. Here are 5 reasons why.

1. “Important” changes with time. If this is the one system that makes you feel safe then the odds are very good that you don’t have a system for disposing of once-important items

Daily Mail Daily

The number one habit to stay organized is to sort the daily mail DAILY. If your clutter is so overwhelming you don’t know where to begin, start with the daily mail. This may seem insignificant next to more monstrous organizing challenges, but the act of sorting your daily mail EVERY day encompasses some of the most fundamental organizing principles.



Two Sides of a Coin

Originally from Matt Baier’s Organizing Works Newsletter, July 2008 TWO SIDES OF A COIN If you think of storage as a one-way street, disorganization is inevitable.  Instead, I find it helpful to think of storage as a coin, where STORAGE is heads and RETRIEVAL is tails. Storage without retrieval is not a solution.  It is solving one problem by creating …

Focus on Filing, Part 3: The Finer Points

Originally from Matt Baier’s Organizing Works Newsletter, June 2007 Focus On Filing, Part 3: The Finer Points For want of a Nail the Shoe was lost; for want of a Shoe the Horse was lost; and for want of a Horse the Rider was lost; being overtaken and slain by the Enemy, all for want of Care about a Horse-shoe …


Focus on Filing, Part 2: User-Friendly Filing

Originally from Matt Baier’s Organizing Works Newsletter, May 2007 FOCUS ON FILING, PART 2:  USER-FRIENDLY FILING The AVERAGE executive wastes one hour a day looking for lost or misplaced items.  That’s six weeks a year!      –The Wall Street Journal Last month I discussed the File Cycle, the lifecycle of a file in four stages of activity: Running, Sitting, …


Focus On Filing, Part 1: The Filecycle

Originally from Matt Baier’s Organizing Works Newsletter, April 2007 FOCUS ON FILING, PART 1:  THE FILE CYCLE “80% of papers that are filed are never referenced again.” Small Business Association  Do you sometimes feel like you don’t know where to begin when your desk is covered in papers?  If it was simply a matter of tossing it all in the trash …