Think Inside The Box for Instant Organization and Productivity
by C.S. Clarke, Ph.D.
Here are three tips for quick and easy organization for your office and your home.
1. Project boxes. I hate filing, don't you? So, I avoid it by using file boxes. Huh? When I'm doing a project of any sort, I put all the paperwork, media and tools for the project in a file box. You know -- the cardboard kind you use for storage. (Bankers Boxes® and suchlike.) I put hanging file folders in it to keep stuff separated. I label the box, put an inventory sticker on the side and label all the hanging folders for their contents. Hanging file folders can accommodate not only paper and photos, but also cd's, dvd's, tapes, printable materials like label sheets, small tools like screwdrivers, thumb drives and even small digital cameras. Anything that won't fit in a hanging folder sits in the box, behind the folders. By doing all that, I have everything I need for the project handy, in one place, portable and organized. Workflow is like a dream. Everything where I want it, when I want it.
When I'm finished with the project, any items that are reusable for other projects go back to their original homes, and all the project-related work just stays in the box. Filing is unnecessary. Just put the box with other stored files. Of course, sometimes there aren't enough files to warrant a separate box for storage, so I just transfer the already-labeled hanging files to another box that has space and add the files to the inventory list on the side of the box. Then I can re-use the empty box for my next project.
2. Upstairs/downstairs boxes. If you live in a two-story house, it's particularly annoying to have to run up and down stairs to get items you need and then put them away. What happens for most of us is that those items don't get put back in the right place and we can't find them the next time we need them. Use a box or basket placed at the bottom of the stairs and one at the top to put the tools or other stuff you've "borrowed" from the other floor. You don't have to take it back up or down immediately; just return it to its proper floor when you next go there. And if you forget, at least you'll know where to find it. This works for one story houses too, just use "regional" rather than upstairs/downstairs. I actually use baskets for this most of the time but boxes are less expensive and can be wallpapered to make them more visually acceptable.
3. See-through storage boxes. When I stow my stuff, I like to be able to lay hands on it again without a lot of ado. I label all boxes, of course, but using plastic see-through boxes helps expedite recognition. If you use this method, you can tell at a glance that the box is filled with files, or cd's or computer accessories, or whatever. You don't have to read the label on the box or take it down from a shelf or from under another box just to lift the lid and look inside. Also, even though you may be able to see what kind of contents are in the box, remember to put an inventory list on side, since you may not have the exact item in that box -- it takes a few extra moments, but saves hours in long run. After all, even if you have only one specific kind of item in the box (and chances are you have more than one specific kind of item in the box), you may not have the particular one you seek. The inventory list, if kept current, will tell you if the box is the usual home of the thing you want.