Dear Kathi,

I am a Special Ed schoolteacher. I hate to spend time going through stored materials for school lessons and plans. I find that it is usually easier to just start from scratch. I don’t have a good filing system and I end up with tons of worksheets, lessons and other collaterals. I have so much that I don’t even know what I have. How can I save time in my planning?

Mary, Encinitas


Organize your study materials by lesson categories. Consider using a four-drawer file cabinet for your lessons and collaterals. If this is not possible, due to space restrictions, follow this idea using a shelving unit. The important concept is that your lessons and related materials are grouped together into sections.

Each file drawer or shelf should have its own broad heading: Arts, Sciences, Language or whatever is applicable for your materials. Next, create major file categories within each space. Label hanging files with a tab on the far right. Split that major category into sub sections for instance, spelling, grammar, reading etc. Stagger the sub section file tabs from left to right as you create new folders. You won’t have hanging files for your shelves but instead you can create separate categories with boxes or magazine bins.

With a full file drawer or shelf for each major topic, you should have the space to store three ring binders, packets of homework sheets, books and other bulky items between the related topics of your hanging file folders.

If you still feel more comfortable starting anew each year without referring to last years’ notes, please discard your old materials at the end of each year. The only acceptable reason to keep old paperwork is that it will be referenced again. Keeping it for posterity and for some future time when you think you might want to stroll down memory lane is NOT a good enough reason. If you think you might look at these papers again, you are fooling yourself. Consider the fact that you aren’t even accessing them now to create new lessons. I have been through enough schoolteacher’s archives to know this is the truth.

If you do decide to create an archiving system, take the time to set it up with broad headings to make it easy to expand. Every year when you add materials to the folders or boxes, take a moment to purge through each file and discard the duplicate and obsolete papers.

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