The Noguchi Filing System

Nog"…a rather unconventional filing system, the system proposed and used by
Noguchi Yukio, an economist and writer of bestselling books about such things.
Implementation of the system requires the user to discard many conventional
notions about how to store paper documents.
The basic elements of the system are as follows.
All the user need prepare is a collection of A4-sized envelopes and
some means for marking the outside of the envelope. If some color coding
(optional) is to be done, this can be done with marker pens.
All documents, regardless of their class, level of importance, or
perceived chance of being required at a later date are stored in A4-sized
envelopes, which have the flaps cut off… By "all documents," Noguchi means just that. He puts all categories of
documents, including things like membership lists and his passport in envelopes."

The Noguchi Filing System
By William Lise


[via Rebecca’s Pocket]

7 thoughts on “The Noguchi Filing System

  1. Very interesting approach to organizing files. As a big fan of GTD, this post caught my eye. Although I am not sure yet if I would use this system, it certainly is innovative and worthy of further consideration!

  2. This really works.

    You might think you’d spend ages trying to find a file, but becuase you vaguely remember what you did before and after you were using it, you can home in quite quickly. Also, going through your files like this means your back brain has a rough idea of what things you have filed, what’s cooking, what’s getting used a lot…

  3. What the man has done is reinvent “the pile.” He’s turned it sideways and added manilla envelopes. He cleans out the deadwood when the shelf is full. Pilers clean out the deadwood when the pile falls over.

    If you’re a person whose livelihood depends on research and on being able to find previously recovered items quickly, I’d say this system will work for you for about a month. After that you’ll be wishing for filing cabinets and a good file index.

  4. Bill, you’re quite right.

    I don’t have many paper based files in my stack, which is why it works for me. And, I only use it for my personal projects. All the household related filing and reference materials I share with my girlfriend are in a filing cabinet.

    It also works for me because I create a file for any bit of paper, even a single page, so I don’t just have a few large all purpose files.

    The thing is to have a method that works for you. I’d hate for my doctor to use such a filing system for my records. But for my small set of personal projects; it works fine.

  5. I have an excess of old family information. The amount defies organization into a reasonable biography or memoir. I have adopted the Noguchi system purely to get information in an order to record. The use of paper envelopes plus last-in-front in a filing drawer saves space and contains small outsized scraps, but in addition I use a binary color code on the edge, starting with current generation and going back, male red and female green. For example–my maternal grandmother would be red, green, green. Lateral relatives — brothers, cousins, etc. take a third color, starting at the identifying direct relative, e.g. my wife’s paternal aunt would be green, red, a color such as blue, and green.
    I would appreciate suggestions.

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