I am not sure if this question is best here, workplace.sx, or someplace else ...

I would like to clean off my desk before the semester starts (I am lucky and still have a couple of weeks). My department is far from paperless and many things only get distributed in paper form. While I would love to be organized enough to file away the paperwork from each meeting as it happens, I don't. Instead I have a large pile of all of last years meetings on my desk. I feel like most of these meetings do not directly affect me. I have piles from previous years stuck in my file cabinet. Is it worth saving unorganized papers from meetings or should I just dump them. Is there a better strategy going forward (preferably one that only requires intervention twice a year.)?

  • 5
    I have a red recycling bin next to my desk .... Sep 4, 2012 at 10:24
  • @DaveClarke would love to hear the thought process behind what gets dumped and when. Is there significance to the red color?
    – StrongBad
    Sep 4, 2012 at 10:49
  • My twice a year strategy is to make sure I sort through my stack at the end of every semester. It's the last thing I do after submitting grades.
    – Ben Norris
    Sep 4, 2012 at 10:56
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    If anything is over 1 year old, but not related to an ongoing project or a student currently enrolled, I dump it. I dump stuff related to students 2 or more years after the event. Staff meetings and all of that kind of stuff usually last a year. Red is merely the colour of the recycling box provided by the university. Sometimes I wish for fire to speed things up. Sep 4, 2012 at 10:59
  • Why not feed everything to a digitisation device, so you can keep PDFs of (possibly) important files, get rid of all paper documents and sort out what's important whenever you have time? Sep 4, 2012 at 11:28

1 Answer 1


Personally, I would recommend that you start taking notes at these meetings and toss all the handouts. Include the name & contact info of the person doing most of the talking in your notes so that you can contact them in the future if necessary. I use an electronic note-taking tool with user-defined tags to keep track of everything, as I've found it easier to search later on; experiment with different approaches to see what works best with you.

This approach works with most types of handouts, but for things like calendars and class rosters you'll still want to work with paper. Personally, I use something like this; I have two on my desk and I haven't needed more in a while, as I throw out folders when done with them. Even if you just stick them in a huge pile, though, it'll still be less huge than your previous pile, so at least you're better off.

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