Are your filing cabinets packed so full you hesitate to open a drawer? You start opening file folders only to find documents you can’t believe you’ve kept. Sure, there was a reason to hang onto that document for a while, but “a while” expired five years ago. Do you face the same challenge with your digital files?

We all have information whose value is temporary. The season is beginning for your favorite sports team. The game schedule is an important document right now, so you select a logical paper or digital file, and file it so you can find it when you need it.

When the season is over, that game schedule no longer holds the same value. However, it’s still in your files. Multiply this example by the countless other examples of files whose value is temporary but somehow get stored permanently.

The text remainder of the text in this post explains the concept behind the “temporary trash can.” The audio and video show you how I apply the concept to Evernote.

The “Temporary Trash Can”

When I first wrote about the concept of temporary file storage and how I handle it, a reader termed my method the “temporary trash can.” I liked the term, so it stuck.

For paper files, I designate one filing cabinet drawer as the “Temporary Trash Can.” It houses 26 folders labeled A through Z. Items of temporary value go there rather than my general reference filing system.

As an example, I have instructions on assembling a “Work Smart” office chair. After assembling the chair, I would like to hang onto the instructions for a few weeks just in case something happens with the chair. But what I don’t want to do is wind up saving the assembly instructions long after the chair is gone.

Thanks to the “Temporary Trash Can,” those assembly instructions go into the “W” file for “Work Smart.” Once a year, I go through all 26 files and throw away the vast majority of what’s there. By that time, the sports team has finished its season, the chair is performing well, and plenty of other paperwork has outlived its usefulness. Anything that remains has proven to be of lasting value and gets moved into the general reference filing system.

The “Temporary Trash Can” for digital files  

Do you have Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, or PowerPoint presentations whose value is short lived? Don’t clutter your filing system by saving them long-term. Create a “Temporary Trash Can” for those digital documents in OneDrive or iCloud. Do the same in Google Drive. Purge this temporary storage once a year, once a month, or at whatever interval is right for you.   

To make sure I don’t forget to purge the physical and digital versions of the “Temporary Trash Can,” I have repeating tasks on my digital task list that remind me to handle this routine.

Some information is of lasting value. Other information is soon destined for the trash can. Separate the two from the beginning and you’ll save yourself time and space.

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