OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s easy to think that more organizing tools (in/out boxes, step sorters, shelves, baskets, cubbies, etc.) will make you more organized. But just the opposite is true unless one condition has been established. And that condition is that the specific purpose for that tool is clear.

Every organizing tool in your office must have a specific purpose. For example: an “in” box for incoming mail, a file box for items that need to be filed, a bin for documents that need to be read, etc. As soon as you have an organizing tool that doesn’t have a specific purpose, you have a place to chuck papers when you can’t (or won’t) decide what to do with them. That’s how papers get lost in the shuffle and piles accumulate well beyond the comfort zone.

If, as you are going through your papers day after day, you realize that you don’t have a place to put a certain category of stuff — perhaps business cards that need to be added to your mail list — then a place for that category needs to be created, using some sort of organizing tool.

Conversely, if you reach your hand out to any organizing tool on your desk and can’t name the specific function it serves, you need to get that tool out of your space. Otherwise it’s just a crap catcher. That’s s a professional term.

Get those unnecessary tools out of your workspace. If they’re potentially useful and you like them, don’t get rid of them. You never know when your needs might change or perhaps someone else in your office could use iy.