Found today via Vox:
A book I read recently has prompted me to try 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 Noguchi Filing System)
The basic method is to stick your papers to be filed into letter-size envelopes, and store them vertically in order of filing. Any pair of items on the filing shelf will always be in newest-on-the-left order:
A detail that escaped me at first was that folders removed from the shelf don't go back where they came from, but back to the beginning. I'd like to say that I should give this a try, but I've already been beta-testing a spatially enhanced version for most of my adult life: any mail, papers, or books that I wish to file get put down right where I'm standing. Spatial memory is preserved through location, and temporal cues build up over time in the form of stacks of paper and envelopes and crap. My dad uses a limited spatial version, based on the surface area of the kitchen table. It's augmented with a primitive sort of "wiki", in the form of doodles, notes and sketches on most of the white envelopes.
Kidding aside, I like the temporal memory aspect. It's worth noting that an early decision I made with Vox was to organize by first-appearance from the left. Old stuff hovers on the left, new things fly in from the right. When the project was looking at Google News, this choice was strongly accentuated for the longstanding big names such as Powell, Bush, or Blair.
I also like the no-brain feature. "Filing" is divorced from all categorization costs, simpler even than the free associations of tagging. This could probably work very well for small-to-medium organizational needs, but would grow maddening above a certain point. I can imagine that the system would work optimally with a very small set of predefined categories implemented as separate shelves, though all of this raises the question: how to implement something like this for digital files?