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  • Writer's pictureShawndra Holmberg, CPO-CD

Organizing Zones for Your Paper

Not everything you keep can occupy the same space, so identifying storage and organizing zones for your paper is important.


Organizing Zones for Your Paper - Hot (red), Warm (yellow), Cold (blue)

Use Hot Zones for paper, information, and related tools you access daily or weekly. These items are placed closest to the area where you do your paper activity, such as mail process, bill paying, bookkeeping, writing, and project planning.

The intent is to keep these items easy to access and within arms reach. Look at the drawers, shelves, walls, and flat surfaces around you. Areas you can reach without getting out of your seat are HOT ZONES. They are prime real estate; keep them clear of clutter and keep the space free for the things you use most often. This zone could be used for your cell phone, planner, motivational reminders and, of course, your computer, reference books, notebooks, and routinely accessed files.

Hot Zones aren't just in your office space. Think of the hot zones near the doors you enter and exit your home or your office. Are there opportunities to place furniture, hooks, baskets, or other organizing tools nearby to make these hot zones usable?

Use Warm Zones for those items you only access a couple of times a month or year. You can put a bit of an effort into locating these things, so they don't have to be taking up your prime real estate. You can stand up and stretch to reach the box on the top shelf to get the specialty paper you only use for holiday letters. You can kneel to look into that bottom file drawer to pull out your insurance file folder. You can walk across the room to grab a reference notebook off the bookcase. Remember to put the items back when you're done.

The intent is to keep these items available but not within arm's reach. Look at the drawers, bookshelves, walls, and flat surfaces around you. Identify areas you can access with a minimum amount of effort but aren't in your hot zones. These are your WARM ZONES. These zones can be used for reference material, specialty items, and equipment you use sporadically.

Cold Zones are for archives, the information you need to keep but won't access very often if ever (taxes, important papers). Getting to these files can require more effort. Archives and cold files don't have to be even in the same room necessarily. Important papers might be in a fire safe, safe deposit box at your bank, or any secure location you've chosen. Tax files can be in a box or file drawer at the back of a storage closet. It's likely you're only going to access this one time a year. Of course, your current tax file, where you drop your receipts and statements in often, should be your Hot Zone.

The intent is to keep these items but to keep them out of your everyday space. Look at high spots (for lightweight items - don't put heavy boxes over your head), low areas, far corners, under other Warm Zone boxes, and options in other rooms. These will be your COLD ZONES.

Organizing Zones:

Organizing Zones in an office - Desk is Hot zone, table, bookshelves, filing cabinets are Warm zones, Cold zones are in another room

You can use the idea of Hot, Warm, and Cold zones for the various activities in your space. Think of what you do and where. Then stage your tools and supplies according to the zones: HOT - close and easy to access; WARM - nearby and a little bit of effort to reach; and COLD - more effort required to access.

You can also apply organizing zones to your garage, bedroom, kitchen, and closets.

If you want more information about organizing your paper, check out my book 31 Small Steps to Organize Your Paper available at

31 Small Steps to Organize Your Paper book by Shawndra Holmberg, CPO-CD, buy at


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