The Noguchi Filing System Keeps Paper Documents Organised On Its Own

The Noguchi Filing System Keeps Paper Documents Organised On Its Own

As much as many of us would love to go paperless, it’s just not possible for everyone. For those of us still struggling with paper files, the Noguchi filing system can keep our documents in order effortlessly. All you do is set it up, and it organises itself. Here’s how it works.

Picture: Dave Grey

Unclutterer’s David Caolo tipped us off to this method — all you need are a few 9-inch x 12-inch envelopes. Trim off the top, about an inch, including the flap. You do this to make the files inside easy to access. Then label the envelope with its contents and date along the side. You can even add a colour-coding flag if you prefer, but that’s really it. The image above is a helpful example of what your folder should look like. In practice, here’s how it works, according to Caolo:

Don’t attempt to organise, classify, or otherwise sort the envelopes. It will be tempting to do so, but the beauty here is that the system takes care of organising for you. As you take a folder off the shelf to use it, return it to the far left. Over time, three things happen:

  • The folders you use most often appear on the left hand side. Because you access them regularly, you always know where they are. With time, the project you work on most often will be in the leftmost envelope. Then the next project in the second left position, and then the next, all the way down the line.
  • Files you use less frequently will migrate to the middle and right. You know how hard it can be to find a paper or file you seldom use? With the Noguchi system it’s easy because you know it’s not on the left.
  • The files you never access make it to the far right. These “holy files,” as the system calls them, can be removed from the shelf and safely archived away or purged, thereby preventing the shelf from getting cluttered with countless envelopes.

That’s all there is to it. Since you’re not spending time fishing through files looking for the one you want, or making sure to put them back in the right place among all the others, and you don’t spend a lot of time organising folders, you save time in the long run.

The system, invented by Japanese economist Noguchi Yukio, was meant to be a self-organising way to keep everything neatly arranged while keeping the most important or most used files easily accessible. In short, it creates a self-maintaining archive of seldom-used files, but it the stuff you use often together. I’ve tried it for a bit, and it works like a charm. Hit the link below to read Unclutterer’s post on it, or just give it a try.

The Noguchi Filing System [Unclutterer]