Why the Touch-it-Once Rule Isn't Always Viable

digital organization habits paper organization productivity
pile of paper clutter


Have you heard of the Touch-it-Once rule? Have you tried it and it simply didn't stick? The idea is to handle items only once and not shuffle them from place to place. It is great in theory but not always practical or easy. I tried years ago to implement the rule with my paperwork and even used the suggestion to mark each piece of paper with a red dot every time I touched it. Needless to say, my papers looked like they had the measles! 


I knew I needed to find another way. 


While it would be great to train ourselves to do this with everything our natural way of working and life can get in the way. For example, it is highly unlikely that most people will open a bill, pay it right away and then file it. Are there people that do this? Of course, but that doesn't mean it is efficient or attainable for everyone.

I personally don't like filing! Yes, the Professional Organizer and former Accountant who specializes in paper and digital information management finds no joy in filing papers, however, give me a pile of papers to purge and I am in my happy place.


I started to apply what I call the "Touch it the Least You Can" rule.


I bring my mail in each day and put it on my front table. Then and only when I am ready to process I bring the pile to my desk. I recycle or shred all the junk and sort the rest into categories. My categories are To Do, To Pay, To Read, and To File. I use a 10 pocket folder to keep these items contained until I am ready to take action. The papers to be filed go into a folder in the front of my filing cabinet. This way I know if an item isn't in its proper folder I can find it in the front easily.

I also use these same categories for my digital bills and action items. I have these digital folders on my computer, in Evernote, and in my email filing system.

I pay my bills twice a month and file all my papers when my "To File" folder gets too thick. So this process has me touching my papers about 4 times. Mail retrieval, Process, Action, and File. 


Where do I recommend trying the Touch it Once rule? 


Anywhere you think you can be successful. 

Places I have been successful:

  • I put my dirty clothes in the hamper immediately after removing them.
  • I hang up my coat and put away my shoes when I enter the house.
  • I try to hang my keys on the key rack. I have struggled with this in the past but I have come a long way and now do this about 95% of the time.
  • I remove trash from my car each time I leave it. 

Do you have daily habits like these? If not can you think of one daily habit you can implement? I would love to hear them. Sending me an email [email protected]

If you struggle with clutter and disorganization check out my low-cost monthly membership https://joannkrall.com/membership