One type of clutter I encounter all too often is organizing gear that doesn’t work. Professional organizers try all kinds of gizmos to keep up with what our clients might find useful, but also so that we can advise them on which ones to avoid. Here are some of my latest “likes” and “dislikes.”
Like: An in-box or basket slightly bigger than a piece of 8 1/2 by 11 inch piece of paper and slightly deeper than a ream of the same paper. It should be able to fit most paper items without getting buried, but not so deep that you don’t feel you have to empty it at least weekly.
Dislike: Wire in-baskets. Your in-box should not have holes in it. I’m of the David Allen “Getting Things Done” school that teaches anything, even a button, a Band-Aid or an allergy pill, that you don’t have time to put away or know what to do with at the moment should go into your in-box. If the in-box has holes, little things can fall through it.
Like: The Brother P-Touch labeler and black type on white half-inch label tape. An AC adapter sounds like a good idea, but batteries assure that you can easily move around with your labeler and use it anywhere. The simpler models usually don’t have AC adapters.
Dislike: Complicated labelers that give you too many font choices and tape in clear or various colors. Black and white is easiest on the eyes, and the simpler the machine, the better. Stick to one font size and style, and stick to all capital letters. Go as small on font size as is comfortable for you to read, so that you don’t waste label tape.
Like: For inside file drawers, I suggest plain manila folders and army green hanging folders.
Dislike: Colored folders, because color coding is almost always a waste of time — if your files are in alphabetical order and in categories that make sense to you, there is no reason to color code. Also, you don’t have to buy and store a variety of colors.
A “dislike” that is now a “like”: I used to dislike the hanging files that have plastic (rather than metal) hangers, because the plastic hangers are thicker and take up more room in a file drawer. However, the plastic hangers glide so much better on the rails than metal hangers that I am just about to convert to them.
Like: A simple file system for managing receipts. If you have a small business or are running a household, a simple file for all receipts can be all you need. If you want to make tax season even easier, toss any receipts you don’t need for tax purposes and save only those for expenses you will deduct or that you need for insurance purposes (art, jewelry, home improvements, etc). The next step would be separate file folders for tax deductible receipts, for example, medical, travel and entertainment, supplies, etc. The simpler your system, the more likely your receipts are to be put into it, and then you can put them into Excel, Quickbooks or other programs as often as you need to in order to stay on top of your books.
Dislike: Receipt scanners. Maybe someday they will improve the technology, but I spent a bundle on a receipt scanner and found it so inaccurate that I ended up typing the information in myself a lot of the time anyway. The whole process was much more time-consuming than adding up paper receipts at the end of the month with a simple calculator. Obviously, bigger businesses will need more complex systems to handle their tax deductible expenses.
What organizing gagdets have really worked for you and which have not been effective? I’d love to know. Email me at email@example.com. I will share the responses and more of my likes and dislikes in a future column.