A few more than 43 Folders

Along with a few of the other ‘Getting Things Done’ geeks and productivity pedants over at 43 Folders’ Google Group, I have recently revised how I store my personal papers. My old filing system consisted of a briefcase sized portable hanging file box (purple box below) which was full to overflowing years ago and was supplemented by an old aluminium camera case and numerous folders (also shown below).


After reading and contributing to a thread about banker’s boxes, I was tempted to follow suit and go the cardboard route. However, the distinct possibility of having to move house later this year (and, quite possibly, continents) left me with little doubt that the drawer-style cardboard banker’s boxes favoured by my correspondent wouldn’t be suitable. A wander up and down the aisles of my local Staples led me to find a variety of Really Useful Products polypropylene archive boxes. After trying out various ideas, I choose the 35 litre stacking boxes with transparent lids for a number of reasons:

  • The size seemed to offer a good capacity but not one that would mean that the boxes would be too heavy to move easily.
  • Each box has vertical guides moulded in several places on the four inner faces to allow hard dividers to be inserted.
  • The linear dimensions of each box allows the use of A4 hanging files in one orientation or the use of foolscap hanging files in the other.
  • The grey handles act as snap locks and have holes to allow locks or zip ties to be used.

The only drawback I can find with these boxes is that there is about 1” of play between the top of the hanging folders and the lid of the box. Whilst only a small thing, this could mean that, if they were tipped-over in transit, the files and folders could move enough to slip out. However, folded newspapers or a layer of stiff foam under each lid before sealing would resolve this entirely.

Decision made, I grabbed two of these, 50 hanging files, 100 buff folders, a large pack of 3X3 Post-Its, a decent marker and headed for home.


The long-delayed and equally long-overdue task of overhauling my filing involved a long evening’s blitz on the various nooks and crannies in my home office before order was finally wrought from the chaos. Papers were divided on the most basic level (a pile of tax papers, a bunch of pay slips and so on) but that was about it. As these files are primarily for historical archiving and reference material, I used simple, single level A-Z labelling, jazzed up with a few filing hacks from the 43 Folders wiki rather the 43 ‘store then bring forward’ folders of the GTD tickler system. After a good few hours work, I had managed to turn the mess partially illustrated by the top picture into the picture of organisation you see below.


Given all the recycling/burning/shredding significant amounts of papers, old folders and envelopes, I am surprised by the amount of materials I am left with but it is so much more accessible/managable now. That said, I have yet to file my computer manuals, software and family reference files so I suspect another trip to Staples is in order for more of the same and the CD-sized equivalents.

my lo-fi ears are listening to Falling/Balligomingo/Beneath the Surface

One Response to “A few more than 43 Folders”

  1. Neil Ford says:

    Rather late to the party having just seen your post on the 43 Folders Google Group, we too are converts to the Really Useful boxes. Instead of storing cardboard boxes in an expensive storage unit, we’re going to use Really Useful boxes in our unused garage. It may be damp, but the RU boxes will cope no problem.

    Will have to investiage the filing options too.

    – Neil.

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