Dear Kathi,

My desk is overloaded with papers and bills. I have tried several different systems but I still end up buried under paperwork. How can I make my desk function?

Emille, San Marcos


Your desk sounds like it under attack from your paperwork. You are not alone. You can take charge by delegating a space for each type of aggressive paper that enters your office/desk area.

Businesses typically handle these categories of paper every week.

1. Business Cards
2. Reference Materials
3. Client Information
4. Mail
5. Work in Progress

Use these simple solutions:

1. Schedule a regular time every week to enter Business Card and new contact information into your computer database. If you don’t use a computer, file these cards weekly either by category or alphabetically into a rolodex or a card binder. If you use a computer and can’t seem to enter the data quick enough, consider purchasing a business card scanner. These little $100 scanners are huge time savers with built in programs to enter the data into your email or Excel program for easy retrieval.

2. Skim through the publications that you wish to read as they arrive and either tear out the important articles or earmark them with sticky notes. Remove these papers from your desk area and place into some type of a “to go” basket. Once mobile, you can read during lunch, at home, or whenever you have a free moment. Make sure to toss the information immediately after reading unless it needs to be archived for future reference. If this is the case, file it as it re-enters your office area. Do not let it land back onto your desk!

3. In most professions, every client should have a space within a filing system. Clients will be represented by either active or archival files. If you several active clients at a time, consider creating an easy access desktop vertical file folder area. As clients become inactive, file their folders either alphabetically by last name or if you have different types of clients, by category and then alphabetically.

4. Mail should be sorted, separated and conquered before it enters your office and hits your desk. Consider auto-paying bills online to eliminate monthly mailings. Here is an entire article written about mail flow. The second question in this column addresses (no pun intended) the mail conundrum that we each experience.

5. If you have several projects underway at a time, create a space for each project. Separate into a file folder, basket or bin depending on how much paperwork is required to complete each project. Make sure to contain projects individually so they won’t accidentally merge into one another. This will save time, frustration and increase your productivity.

Most importantly, make sure your work area is large enough for your particular profession. It is counterproductive to work in an area that doesn’t hold the tools you need within arms reach. For the majority of us, a large desk is mandatory because we have to support a computer, printer, phone, day planner, files and often more. When everything is stowed in your desk area, don’t forget to leave space for taking notes with old-fashioned pen and paper!

If you would a copy of the free eBook ~ Master Your Papers, click here.

Kathi is a professional organizer, image consultant and event planner based in San Diego California.

Please submit your questions to: [email protected]. San Diego Professional Organizer