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  • Diana Schneidman

My filing system: it’s unique!

I love to read about getting organized. I love to find out how other people are doing it.

Like when all their work is stacked up under their desk and they dive under and sort through the mess to find the one paper they need.

I admit, it could be a little dry. But somehow it reveals a very personal side of people, proving that we know less about them than we had thought.

Or everything has been scanned onto their computer and they’ve gone paperless. How prestigious! I don’t think I know anyone who has achieved this.

I’m proud to say that my current stack of papers to be filed is only about two inches thick. And my tax receipts are all filed away.

But I do have a filing quirk so unusual—and for me, so effective—that I’ve got to share.

I maintain a separate file for each project and I place the files in order of currency. In other words, the more recently I have worked on a project, the closer its file is to the front of the drawer.

I have a broad classification by drawer: current projects, official and financial papers, past tax returns and medical, and hardcopy writing samples (of less interest with each passing year).

As I start a new project, I place the file at the front of the drawer. As I work on a project, its folder is returned to the front of the drawer and everything else automatically moves to the back.

Most of my work is on current projects and I can easily find the folder. This works really well at keeping my desk somewhat clean. I put the papers I am using in the front of the file and easily file it at the front of the drawer. And back when I worked in official business offices, I could clean up and leave for the day with only a moment’s preparation.

I admit, the system is weakest when I need to find something I haven’t worked on in ages. I may have to shuffle through quite a few files.

It is strongest when I am working solely on current projects.

I like this system because it avoids a conundrum I have never solved, even when I was a graduate student in library science decades ago: How do you label files so that the headings are meaningful and you can easily retrieve them when they have been put away in alphabetical order?

You’ll note that my system entirely avoids alphabetizing. This means I don’t have to decide if a file should be labeled “Filing system, blog” or “Blog: filing” or “System, filing, blog.” (Yuck.)

I also bought colored file folders. The colors stand for absolutely nothing. They just add a bit of visual interest when I pull open the drawer.

My system is a little different but for me, it works. What does that reveal about me?

Originally posted 11-9-09

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