As organizers, we tend to notice similarities and trends in the organizational challenges of our clients. Some are unique to certain people, some to the layout of the home. And other clutter causers are the same in every single household. Perhaps the most notorious of these is….THE PAPER TRAIL (cue imminent shark attack music).
The Paper Trail is easy to identify and oh-so-difficult to control. Without a system to process the constantly incoming bills, schoolwork, receipts, coupons, and other bits of paper, they can easily take over.
This blog is a series of four easy-to-follow household organizing tips that will address the Paper Trail and provide tips and methods to contain those pesky bits of paper littering your countertops. I hope these are helpful to you! Please comment below if you have any personal tips that have worked for you. Thank you and Happy Organizing.
The Tickler File
The Tickler File, sometimes known as 43 folders, is a unique organizational filing system for handling time-sensitive paper requiring an action. Essentially, it allows you to send a reminder to yourself in the future (thereby “tickling” your memory) while simultaneously organizing paper clutter. Sound like a great organizing solution? Yep, that’s because it is.
What is it? In a tickler file, you will see 12 hanging file folders, each labeled with a tab for a month in the year. Then, within the current month, you will have 31 manila file folders, each labeled 1-31. As you receive incoming paper that you need to act on, simply slip that paper into the day that you would like to complete the action.
How does it Work? You should review the file for the current date every day. Once you have reviewed and acted upon the contents, move the empty folder to the upcoming month. By the end of the month, each folder should be organized within the upcoming month’s hanging file.
Here is the trick with the tickler system. Are you ready? You might not like it.
Ok, here goes: you must review the system EVERY SINGLE DAY for it to work! Like any solution that will keep you organized, consistency is key.
It is EXTREMELY helpful to keep a Post-It pad and sharpie near your tickler. Before you slide that paper into the tickler, write the action required and the date. This will help to jog your memory as to the action required when you open it later.
Take a look at this example:
How To Set Up Your Tickler File
We used the Smead Viewables labeling system to create these beautiful tabs. We find it to be extremely user friendly, and our clients like the clean lines and colors. You can buy it online here. But do not get paralyzed by perfection – handwritten tabs are work just as well and will take less time to make.
If you are not ready to act on a piece of paper contained in today’s file, simply relocate it to another, more appropriate day to handle that action. Once you have acted on a piece of paper, either shred, toss or file it in a more permanent file drawer.
Where should it live? Your tickler file should be kept close to the action: either in a central “hub” area or in your home office. That way, you can have easy access to it while serving as a visual reminder to check your folders each day
Tickler File Examples:
- To-do reminders
- Pending bills
- Unpaid invoices
- Event fliers
- Travel tickets
- Hotel reservations
- Meeting information
- Birthday reminders
- Event tickets
- Call-back notes
- Follow-up reminders
- Maintenance reminders
- Any other papers that require future action