5 File Folders Save the Day!

5 File Folders Save the Day!

Don’t you wonder how that “pile” appears? The USPS told me this…

Each day an average of fifteen pieces of mail arrive in your mailbox. If you flip through and deal with only ten of the fifteen pieces, you are left with five dangling pieces a day to be dealt with “later.”

That’s why stacks of mail can appear from out of nowhere.
At the rate of five pieces of mail per day, that means 150 pieces a month, 1,565 pieces a year, or sixteen inches of guilt piled on your desk or countertops.

5 File Folders in a portable file from an office supply store like Staples or Office Depot will clean up any paper pile that accumulates during the day. A portable file holder is a key ingredient for a “Personal Organizing Center.” Every home needs one.

Five File Folders to Handle Mail

1) Calendar – Put an item in the CALENDAR file only after putting it on your monthly calendar. This cleans up “refrigerator clutter” and includes invitations, schedules, & upcoming events.

2) To Do – Only if an item takes more than 5 minutes to do AND you’ve listed it on a Master List on the countertop can you put it in this file. Assign it to the 3 days you can most control: Today, Tomorrow, or the next day.

3) To Decide – Place items that you are thinking about doing, ordering, or following up on in here. Then when you decide to do it, you know right where to find it! The last day of the month, toss the unused items for a fresh start next month.

4) To Pay – If you don’t have one place by your checkbook to pay bills, keep them in a designated file folder so they don’t get lost. Important!

5) (Your Name)- Keep anything of interest just for you in there. Now add a File Folder with each person in your family. Explain that no longer will there be visible paper clutter on the counter, and it needs to be emptied daily or by Saturday noon on the weekend.

Spend 15 minutes a day to make sure the papers are done, filed, or tossed. Work until your kitchen counter is clear of paperwork. Done!

A Client Story: One client spent all Saturday cleaning up her paper piles, her husband even made dinner since she was doing a great job catching up. She finished by bedtime but said, “I kept running downstairs about 5 times just to see how clean it looked! I felt great!”

Are you ready to Simplify Your Life? Join Marcia in her course, “Simplify Life: 7 Weeks to a New You!”



  1. Cathy March 29, 2011 at 11:18 am - Reply

    The picture alone attracted me to your article. I’m going to try to put this to use and clear my desk of “to decide” papers! Thank you for making this so simple!

    • Administrator March 29, 2011 at 1:59 pm - Reply

      I used this picture setup on the Fox 5 TV Interview. I bought the black desktop holder from Target ($6.99), Gerber Daisy flowers from Target ($9.99), pink file folders (office supply store), and Brother P-Touch Labelmaker(Office Depot) for file tabs. Thie 5 File Folder makes you want to stay organized!

  2. Jan Orphan April 21, 2011 at 5:23 pm - Reply

    Thanks Marcia for helping me out even when you were not feeling well. My desk space feels so freeing now and it seems like a burden has been lifted off my shoulders and…I can think more clearly!
    You’re the BEST!!!

  3. Debber April 28, 2011 at 8:00 am - Reply

    Marcia . . . these ideas are fabulous! I’m pretty well-organized already, but still have some cluttery spots that need attention. Thanks for the ideas–way to get my brain jump-started!!!

  4. SIMPLYoverwhelmed August 25, 2011 at 12:38 pm - Reply

    I am just having a tough time. I hate the mail. It reminds me of all the bills I have to pay and the money we do not have. I just let it sit there until my husband says something. I have a filing sysyem in place of things that I should keep. The problem is when I do I find the time to put the mail in the folders. As soon as I get home I have a baby in the carrier wiggling to get out and an eight year old trying to figure out where is his t shirt for football pratice and I wil not mention the husband who can not find anything either.

  5. Carla March 19, 2012 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    Dotb, I am in the same boat with you. This system for me would end up being another “pile” for me.

  6. Karen May 6, 2013 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    I think the idea is to empty all the folders ASAP. The To Pay folder would be for bills (paid near your payday). The Name folder should probably be kept at no more than 1 inch thick — remove old items to keep it that size. Everything else could be done the day they are received.

  7. Tess September 20, 2013 at 1:54 pm - Reply

    My problem would be the folders with the “Your Name” on them. One for my husband, one for each of my teenage daughters. Their folders would never get emptied, they hardly pick up their shoes – any good ideas on how to encourage them to help keep us organized and not sound like “crabby mom”?

    • admin October 19, 2013 at 8:06 pm - Reply

      A family conversation first with your husband about when to go through his will be a start. Give him 2 choices – Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon for example. Likely he’ll come up with a better time and tell you which papers to pitch and which he wants to see. For your teen daughters, likely the weekend is good when school pressure is off. Meet them in their room on Sunday night or when they’re in a good mood. Keep me posted what times work for them. Yes, don’t nag!

  8. Margie September 24, 2013 at 11:30 am - Reply

    Marcia, I always find wisdom in your methods. Here is a problem for me. I purchased the “Neat Desk” a few years ago to help with filing. I wish a Neat Desk expert came with it to get me started on a working system. Any encouraging thoughts?

    • admin October 19, 2013 at 8:00 pm - Reply

      Yes, Neat Desk likely has a technical support that you can contact. Check their website. I purchased ScanSnap and their Tech support was on the phone with amazing patience and answered all my questions, so your company should, too. Otherwise try it again and it may go easier.

  9. Toni R. February 11, 2014 at 7:50 pm - Reply

    Where can I find a desktop organizer like the one in the picture? I’m having a hard time finding one that holds BOTH folders as well as separate compartments for pens, paper clips, etc? Our “paperwork center” is on one of the kitchen counters so I’d like to keep it as contained as possible!!!

    • admin February 11, 2014 at 10:36 pm - Reply

      Desktop Organizers like the picture can be found at Target, Office Depot, Staples, etc. I counted 24 in one store. Find one that you like since they change the style often. Think “functional and pretty” when you choose the front file folder that you will see. Enjoy! P.S. I even bought the Gerber Daisy arrangement at Target all premade. Email me what you end up getting.

  10. Toni R. February 11, 2014 at 7:53 pm - Reply

    Also, is there a section with before and after pictures?
    1) I’d love some inspiration!
    2) I am about to start a major simplification/organization of our house (one room at a time) and would feel incentivized to share the progress!

    • admin February 11, 2014 at 10:40 pm - Reply

      Good News! My book, Simplify Your Space, walks you Room-by-Room through your home to simplify and declutter. There are diagrams and checklists to show you “How To” and make sure you cover all the bases. AND this spring, likely March 20, I will do a weekly Group Coaching Course taking you through your own home using that book. So get it now and get started. The course will have all the photos. Meanwhile all the “Before and After” photos are in the “Simplify Your Life” DVD and Online Courses, also in the “Store” at OrganizingPro.com.

  11. candis morton June 4, 2014 at 8:30 am - Reply

    I have so much stuff that I am afraid to throw out for fear that I might need it some day. I know, very few things that end up in a file or a pile ever get looked at or needed again. I feel overwhelmed and unable to make it happen……

    • admin June 11, 2014 at 11:38 am - Reply

      You CAN make it happen! Turn a pile upside down. Then pick up the first paper and decide if you need it. With a recyle bin nearby you’ll be decisive and you can let go of most papers! Also, listen to our Coaching Call for “5 Ways to Get Organized” at http://www.OrganizingPro.com/summercoaching.

  12. Yvonne Davis September 25, 2014 at 9:41 am - Reply

    Thank you, Marcia. I am advising my friends and family to follow you on OrganizingPro.com

    • admin October 6, 2014 at 10:07 am - Reply

      Thanks! I always love to have readers encourage their friends to join our Online Community for Coaching, Classes, and free information.

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