Are you ready for a new way to file your “stuff”? Perhaps the old file cabinets just aren’t doing it anymore? While traditional methods of filing still very much have value, I’ve found a way that works for me and it came all the way from Japan. It’s called the Noguchi system named after it’s apparent creator Yukio Noguchi. I say apparent because Noguchi’s website is entirely written in Japanese and he’s never marketed this approach outside of his home country. Years ago, I first read of this system at a website no longer in existence. Since then, many have asked for a more thorough rendering of the system with appropriate diagrams on how to use it. It’s really simple and not much explanation is needed but for those of you new to the system and wanting to try something different, let me give you a basic rundown of how the Noguchi system works.
At right you can see what a file in the system looks like. To get started using the Noguchi system, you need to purchase some A4 or 9 x 12 envelopes at your local office supply store and then cut off the tops where you see the dotted line. From there, you place a document that you want to file in the envelope and then label it at the side. As you can see in the picture, the title of the document goes first, followed by the date, and then you can color code the file with a marker or label if you like. Personally, I use the 1/2″ x 3/4″ self adhesive neon labels you can but at any office supply store. I use different colors to code files for family, professional, church, school, or tax documents (I gave my tax documents their own color so I could find these easily when preparing my returns at the end of each year.
Once you have your file completed, then it’s simple to put into the new system. You simply file the document at the far left of your filing stack. You file these documents vertically on a bookshelf. Thus, the need for multiple filing cabinets is eliminated. As you can see in the diagram at left the files are always filed to the far left thus, the most active files in the system will always be in the left side of your stack. Using this system, when you access a file you automatically re-file it to the far left when you are done. Lesser used files naturally migrate to the right of the stack. The “Holy Files” that you see referenced in the diagram are old files that you no longer need in an active stack but you do not wish to discard. A simple filing box from the office supply store can quickly put these files in a place where they are easily found if needed months or even years later. In most cases you will find several files will eventually wind up to the right and can be discarded whenever you choose to cull old files. (For me, this is usually at the end of August). After nearly four years of using the system, I have very few “Holy” files and my stack stays fairly neat and tidy. I store everything from manuals, tax forms, medical records, church purchase orders, and insurance forms. Obviously, there’s more but the beauty of this system is it can be naturally tailored to your use.
Another plus is that I find myself filing things much more quickly now than before. I can quickly grab an envelope (I cut up several at a time) and label it when I need to file papers. It takes a minute or so and the paper is quickly put away for easy retrieval when I need it. The only horizontal file I really use anymore is my “43 folders” tickler file that is set up per David Allen’s instructions in “Getting Things Done”.
Many bloggers are asking for more thoroughness with the system but honestly, that’s all that’s required and all that I remember reading from the initial site that told of its design and use. I’m sure if Noguchi really wanted the money, he could come up with an ebook to sell for $5 on the system to make it more complex but the beauty of the Noguchi filing system is it’s simplicity. To try to add things to it would take away it’s very reason for using it.
The Noguchi system isn’t for everyone. I know of many very “Concrete” and “Linear” thinkers that might find this a bit alarming. But for someone who’s an “Abstract” organizer like me, the system does what I need it to do without creating a lot of clutter and stress. So now you can think (or file) outside the box when it comes to storing your important documents. Let me know if you try this and share your thoughts with me.