Recently there was an advert on TV for a large office supply retailer which said "Get your office organised with these stackable in-trays", and I would cringe every time I saw it! 99% of the time, in-trays are part of the problem, NOT the solution, and it is very rare to come across people who are using in-trays effectively.

This is the reality of in-trays...
in-trays, office organising, paperwork tips, desk organising, decluttering

Look familiar?

In my opinion, the only thing in-trays are good for is storing "virgin" stationery - reams of paper, blank forms, envelopes, sheets of labels, and so on. This is because the contents are then uniform throughout - you can always just take the one on the top of the pile. As soon as you are having to flick through the pile trying to find something, you know you have a problem. How many times have you gone through the contents of your in-tray over and over again before finding that one piece of paper you need? You can waste so much time and energy on this "system". Time to think vertical! Vertical systems are so much easier to use than horizontal systems, as it is much easier to see and access what's there, and much easier to add new items in a meaningful place, rather than to the top of a jumbled pile.

I love using products like these to set up systems in my clients' homes and offices...

vertical files, vertical sorters, step files, organised desk, paperwork system
Products shown are: Eldon Incline Sorter, IKEA Kvissle magazine rack, Esselte Sorted and Sorted Plus, Marbig Enviro FoldaRack 

Remember to use clear and meaningful labels. Here are the categories I end up using the most, but the categories you choose will entirely depend on the nature and amount of paperwork coming in to your home and office:

  • Immediate action (for things that have a deadline and consequences attached - like bills to be paid, registrations to be completed, RSVPs to be sent, etc. You can also have a Non-urgent action category if required, for things that need to be done at some stage, but don't have a pressing deadline or consequence attached) 
  • Ready reference (for things that have useful information that you will need to reference in the near future but do not require any action from you - like invitations which has been RSVP'd to, school event info, doctor's referral letter for an appointment that has already been set, and so on) 
  • To be filed (for things that have been actioned and no longer need to be readily referenced - like receipts, paid bills, school reports etc)

Now you have a clear place for everything, a system that flows easily, and you can find what you need when you need it. No more over-stuffed nonsensical in-trays = happiness!