Drowning in papers, paperwork and files? Learn the Basket Method to organize all of your papers and you’ll never have paper clutter again.
What’s the best way to keep all of your paper organized? The basket method.
Backstory: I once worked as a consultant at a large firm that serviced political campaigns. The in-house accountant was a total pro: super organized, detail-oriented, Microsoft Excel/QuickBooks whiz. He was so good he taught classes to aspiring accountants at a local college.
Without boring you with the details, accounting for political campaigns is a tricky topic because you need to disclose statements on a varying basis. I was responsible for project managing this process and was truly hyper about getting things done on time.
Enter: The master accountant.
He simply put a basket in front of his desk, labeled it “X’s Campaign” on a piece of masking tape and told me to dump everything in there. I protested:
- “But what about…?”
- “How can we…?” “
- “Do you think…?”
And every time he would answer, “Elizabeth, I’m busy, just relax and put your papers in the campaign basket.”
Why is it important to keep it simple when you’re dealing with paper organization and storage?
What is the Basket Method?
Papers are important. If you lose one, you’ve got to go get another copy which may involve phone calls to customer service departments or road trips to the Town Hall. No wants to do either of those.
In order to keep track of papers you may need for up upcoming project, it’s vital to keep it simple.
What is the basket strategy?
The basket method, my friends, is the simplest way to keep all of your papers organized. It’s so easy I almost feel ridiculous writing it up, but once you start applying this super simple method you’ll wish you did a lot sooner.
In short: If you have an important project or transaction coming up, like filing your tax return or applying to 16 different colleges, you commit to keeping all of your papers needed for that project in the same space (a basket, a bin, a file folder) so you’re not flailing around trying to find one random paper.
- Every time someone hands you a paper related to that project you put it in the basket.
- Every time you open the mail and receive a paper you need for that project you put it in the basket.
- Every time you print a paper or document you need for that project you put it in the basket.
Then when you have time, whether it’s that evening or on the weekend or a month from now when you need to sort everything out, you know all of the papers and documents you need for that project are in that basket.
Why does The Basket Method work?
The basket strategy is genius because it’s so simple it falls into the KISS category, (“Keep It Simple, Stupid”). This is really important when you’re dealing with papers.
It kept everything in one place–this is crucial.
He was able to collect and handle things at one time, rather than dealing with each document more than once.
It kept things neat and tidy. Psychologically, it’s easier to tackle a neat pile than a bunch of papers strewn all over your home or office.
How can it work for you?
Try using the “basket strategy” for your mail and any other paper clutter you’ve accumulated for the next week and see if it works for you.
During transitional periods:
- Applying to college
- Planning a wedding
- New job
- Upcoming trip
- Estate planning