a strategy for paper pilesHave you ever seen someone’s desk, either at work or in their home, that has paper piles covering the surface?  Perhaps your desk looks this way.  These people are known to the organizing world as pilers.  It’s a very common organizing style, or dare I say, lack of organizing style.

When asked, pilers will tell you that they can find what they need when they need it. If this style works for them, great, although I’m not sure how they can find a particular document in all those piles.  Maybe it’s some sort of brain radar that has yet to be discovered.

I’m not sure of the reasoning behind the action of piling. It could be that some just don’t know how to organize their paper.  Maybe they just don’t want to set up an organized system, or they don’t want to file their papers. Whatever the reason, pilers could make their lives easier to deal with their paper with some organization.

For most of us though, those paper piles are actually clutter which causes stress.  Maybe the pilers are stressed due to the clutter and just don’t realize that this is the source. At any rate there are some options to help the pilers keep their paper piles organized to some degree without dramatically changing their behavior.

The best way to deal with paper piles is to set up a filing system that works for the person that will use it.  If the piler doesn’t want to make such a dramatic change, containing the piles with the options below, is a small adjustment that will at least keep the paper from falling off the desk and becoming lost.


Using baskets to contain paper piles is the most basic way to keep them from getting lost.  It would be easier to rifle through a basket to find a particular document than a pile where papers could slip away possibly unnoticed. Different colored baskets could be used for different categories, draw the eye to the category and could be aesthetically pleasing.  Stackable baskets would use less desk and storage space.

Paper trays

Paper trays are another way to contain and organize paper piles.  They may not be as deep as baskets, but could provide more categories without using more space. Some can be wall mounted to free up desk space.  Labels provide an eye-catching way to find the paper category quickly.

Multi-drawer storage unit

This product usually comes in clear plastic, 3 drawer models and some are standalone with castors for mobility.  It’s basically the same as using baskets but they are all in the same unit.  Paper piles can be placed in the drawers in categories of your choice, and labeled to quickly find the category you need.

After you choose a containment option, you need to determine categories as mentioned in the options above.  The categories you choose need to make sense to you.  What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for others.

Using a containment strategy such as those listed above, could make the life of a piler more organized and less stressed in the long run.  Once you have this containment system put in place, the key is to use it as designed.  If you don’t, you will be back to where you started with paper piles everywhere.

What strategy do you use to contain paper piles?