Use an In Basket

If you've worked in an office, you are probably familiar with an in basket; in fact, office tasks and time management usually revolve around the in basket. In an office or work environment, co-workers and supervisors place work to be done in your in basket and it gets processed regularly. The same methods can be used at home, in any area that tends to collect a lot of paper or clutter, from a home office to a kitchen or entry way. Your in basket can set the stage for a new system of organization in your office, work or home. Read on to learn how to use an in basket for effective organization.


  1. Buy or make an in basket. Think about your home d├ęcor, the location of the in basket, and what you will use it for. An in basket can be used to collect small items and clutter as well as paper, so plan accordingly and choose a basket that is deep enough to hold everything. Baskets can be made of wicker or natural materials, fabric, leather or paper. Look around your home first to see if you have something you can use. A cheap, shallow in basket can be made from a box lid, covered with gift wrap or other decorative paper.
  2. Sort quickly through the desk or room that you want to organize. Put items into the basket. They don't need to be processed or worked on at this point, just throw them in the basket. However, if you know some items are trash they can be thrown away to save time later.
  3. Schedule a time to go through the in basket, and make it a regular appointment. Depending on how much stuff you have to process, this could be daily, weekly or biweekly. Be sure to allow enough time to process everything. The goal of the in basket is to move things out of it, not use it for permanent storage.
  4. Go through the basket and prioritize the work that needs to be done. Your goals are to not touch papers too often and not spend a lot of time going through the basket. If it can be processed quickly, do so. If items in the basket are part of a larger project or something that is going to take some time, schedule a time to work on them.
  5. Work on other organization systems as you process your in basket. You may need to create files or a household binder to hold papers that need to be kept permanently or will not be used in the short term.
  6. Choose a location for the in box. It should be near a recycling bin so that trash can quickly be moved out.
  7. Teach other members of your household how to use an in basket, if applicable. Show children and other family members the basket and tell them what its purpose is. Show them how to put mail, school papers, and other clutter in the basket. Go through the steps until it becomes routine.
  8. Delegate tasks to other family members. If items in the in basket require work from others, make sure it gets done and doesn't just get lost in another pile of clutter.