It’s time to tackle the growing paper pile monster that’s taking over your creative space. I always try to keep as much paperwork and documents possible so I have an accurate paper trail, but that leads to a lot of papers to maintain. These tips will help you manage the documents.
Eliminating: Throw out the trash and get rid of everything that you no longer need. Ask yourself is it worth holding on to? Can you afford the space, time, and money to file it and store it? Will you be needing this in the future or for reference? If you answer no, then toss it! Eliminating it will make you feel good.
Sorting: Once you have the papers that you must keep, sort them into large categories such as finance, exhibitions, goals, resumes, grants and more. Take care when going through materials you wish to keep nice and archive such as newspaper clippings, photos and prints of work.
Organizing: Some categories of paperwork and information are still extremely large after you have thrown out the unnecessary trash. At this point, you need to sub-sort these categories. Use catalog-sized envelopes to break grant proposals or exhibition submissions into years or by the project. Feel free to stick smaller envelopes and folders inside your files or your containers for each art category you have. I have my “Past Exhibitions” folder in my filing cabinet broken down into numerous folders labeled by year. This helps keep everything neat, organized, and easy to find. This also prevents your files and folder from bulging out of control.
Binders or Folders: Three ring binders are great for quick access. If you use the clear plastic sleeves, you can protect important paperwork from tearing or getting damaged. I tend to put materials I need and use frequently in binder and store other papers I may need later or for reference away in my filing cabinet. I keep my binders in my bookcase right next to my desk so I can grab them right away.
Filing Cabinet: If you don’t already have a filing cabinet, consider their benefit to you. They do take up space but will safely house your hard copy paperwork. If you have a lot to save and file, it’s a good investment. If you have a small maintainable stack of papers, stick to something smaller, or even buy one of those small plastic filing boxes or use one of those wire holders that will store loose hanging files. I use a series of colored folders to help organize my filing cabinet. I have finance paperwork in green folders, exhibition papers in blue folders, and so on. This allows me to have multiple exhibition filing folders for various shows, years, or projects I am working on.
Storage: Some desks are built with a drawer that holds hanging files, but consider using each drawer or shelf for different papers. Keep them neat by placing them in large manilla folders, or using a paper tray.
Don’t let lack of storage furniture impede your creative paper filing, I found my filing cabinet next to a dumpster. Completely free! Use old or extra furniture that would store your papers in a dry safe manner if you can. Who wants to spend a couple hundred dollars on a brand new filing cabinet when you can invest that money into your creative work?
Digitizing: This is a great way to completely eliminate paperwork and operate more eco-friendly. Be sure to create a system. You don’t want to turn one paper mess into a digitized file mess on your computer.
Once you dedicate a lot of time and effort to managing your paperwork, keep up with it. It’s easy to go back to old habits and begin to throw items, documents, notes, and mail back onto your desk. Make sure before you are done in your studio or workspace that you leave it clean. Clear off the papers and put them where they go, put them away or put them in the trash.