Sort Paper Quickly with a Decision Model

Posted by on Jun 8, 2013 in Nikki works with Elizabeth, the Professional Organizer | 0 comments

Sort Paper Quickly with a Decision Model

Elizabeth, Nikki’s Professional Organizer, is teaching Nikki her paper sorting system, including her filing decision model. The system includes not only how to quickly sort, but also a step by step method for deciding what to keep and how to file it.

There are piles, bags, boxes, and file cabinets full of paper to sort.  Nikki and Elizabeth begin by setting up what they need to sort:  black trash bags, clear trash bags, boxes, colored paper for labeling the boxes, and tape.  Trash will go in black trash bags, paper that can be recycled will go in clear plastic trash bags.  Elizabeth tapes labels on the first few bags to get the system cemented in Nikki’s memory.

Papers that need to be shredded are put in clearly labeled boxes.  Elizabeth recommends that Nikki take the paper to a commercial shredding company.  Nikki likes the idea of supporting the people with disabilities who work at Adelante Document Destruction Services, and the small cost is worth it to get it all done at once.

To sort quickly, papers will first be grouped into boxes by category.  Nikki will be using the FreedomFiler® system,, so Elizabeth labels each box with the name and color that the FreedomFiler® system uses.  After the initial sort the papers in each box will be filed.  Sticky notes on each document will note either, what action needs to be taken, or how to file it.  For example, a bill with a confusing charge is labeled, “Call about double charge on May 17th.”  Nikki’s latest contact lens prescription would be labeled, Nikki – Medical.  This avoids having to read each document again before filing.

Elizabeth’s decision model for determining what papers to keep, and how to file them, adapted from the FreedomFiler® system, asks these questions in the following order:

1.  Is this paper needed to complete an immediate action that needs to be taken?

If so:  put it in the Grey, Action box

If not, then:

2.  Is this item needed for taxes?

If so:  put it in the Light Blue, Tax box

If not, then:

3.  Is this an important document relating to a person, pet, or possession in your home or business, i.e. medical, investment, or title records?  This category is not used for monthly statements.

If so:  put it in the Red, Permanent box

If not, then:

4.  Is this an updated version of an existing document, i.e. a new lease or employee benefits package? This category is not used for monthly statements.

If so:  put it in the orange, Remove and Replace box

If not, then:

5.  Is this a current receipt or statement, not tax related?

If so:  put it in the Green, Monthly box

If not, then:

6.  Is this something you want to keep as a resource or reference, i.e. gardening tips or travel destinations?

If so:  put it in the Purple, Resource box

If not, then:

7.  Is this a document you want, or need, to keep for a long time, i.e. old tax returns or a legal settlement?

If so:  put it in the Dark Blue, Archive box

If not, then:

8.  Toss, shred or recycle.

With the system established Nikki is able to make decisions quickly and move on to the next piece of paper.











In the next several posts Nikki and Elizabeth will file the papers from each category.


Learn along with Nikki as she and Elizabeth, the Professional Organizer, get the house organized room by room.

Copyright© 2013 Elizabeth Tawney Gross, Organizing For Everyday, LLC

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