Books to Help You Get, and Stay, Organized

By Barbara Ballinger, REALTOR® Magazine

There’s no shortage of books, videos, and tapes to help you organize your papers and files. alone lists almost 37,000 choices.

Many of the books are written by professional organizers, who are eager to help you eliminate mess in a few easy steps. Their books tend to cover similar ground—why we fail to get and stay organized, what supplies we need to set up user-friendly systems for our desk and electronic files, and what strategies we should deploy to avoid turning physical files into an alternate wastebasket.

Following are four books that demystify the process with easy-to-follow text, charts, drawings, and photographs.

  • The Office Clutter Cure by Don Aslett (Marsh Creek Press, 1994) Aslett understands the messes that accumulate in offices. He’s seen them daily as a professional office cleaner. A good incentive for clearing out the clutter, he writes, is to avoid having bad things happen to “good” papers: coffee stains, dirty fingerprints, rust from paper clips. Among his best tips are his 10 commandments, including “Thou shalt never let the To Be Filed pile rise higher than four inches.” Buy this book from
  • Organizing Your Home Office for Success: Expert Strategies That Can Work for You by Lisa Kanarek (Blakely Press, 1998). Kanarek’s tactics will work whether your office is at home or in a corporate setting. She also covers turning your car into a mobile office, useful for salespeople constantly on the move. Among her first pieces of advice is to determine your work style and whether you prefer to keep projects in view or out of sight. Each style can be tweaked to work, she says. If you’re the all-in-view style worker, switch to leaving one reminder out rather than an entire project. If, however, you’re the hide-it-all type, learn how to file papers in appropriately labeled folders so you don’t waste time retrieving them. Buy this book from
  • Organizing Your Work Space: A Guide to Personal Productivity by Odette Pollar (, 2nd Ed., 1999). Pollar’s golden rules of organization are to keep a filing system “simple, easy, and manageable.” She suggests three principles: file papers in the broadest possible category, such as “planning” rather than into “five-year plans” and “three-year plans”; label files with an easy-to-remember noun rather than a date, number, or adjective that you’re apt to forget; and alphabetize files within each group to make retrieval easy. Buy this book from
  • Organizing for Dummies by Eileen Roth with Elizabeth Miles (Hungry Minds Inc., 2000). A member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), Roth offers a good incentive to file papers. Studies have shown, she says, that people waste as much as 4.3 hours a week or the equivalent of 5.5 weeks a year searching for papers. She gives her strategies acronyms:
    • W-A-S-T-E, for instance, encourages workers to analyze every paper and ask: Is it Worthwhile? Will I use it Again? Can I easily find it Somewhere else? Will anything happen if I Toss it? Do I need the Entire item?
    • Her R-A-P-I-D strategy recommends dealing with incoming mail immediately so it doesn’t become part of a growing pile. Read what’s coming in; Attend to notices for meetings, conferences, events; Pay bills; deal with Important correspondence; and Dump what you don’t need.

Finally, if you can remember what you read here, either file it under “useful advice” or toss it.

Blog Contributor

This post was contributed exclusively for REALTOR® Magazine.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook