Does Content Management Start at Home?

I've been working on a project with some document management components, and realized that since I moved to the UK, my own papers have been getting steadily messier — a classic case of the shoemaker's children. Not only that, but I've committed the classic error of buying my tools before having a proper plan. In this case the tools were three sets of cheap self-assembly cardboard drawers, which should have given me space for nine categories of papers.

Unfortunately, the drawers didn't stack well and the surrounding structure bent under the weight, making them difficult to open. Not only that, but there wasn't really space for the third set of drawers, so they remained packed flat in the original packaging. My requirements gathering had been woefully inadequate.

Sad cardboard drawers

Sad cardboard drawers

This week, things came to a head. After spending ten minutes looking for a document with my UK National Insurance Number on, I resolved to sort things out properly. I knew I'd need a plan, to avoid getting bogged down deciding on individual documents without an overall idea of how things were supposed to work. So I opened Omnigraffle and started sketching.

I knew I needed a "current" box and an outbox. I had a pretty good idea that I'd need a number of good categories for easy access, as well as a smaller number of categories for the few papers which didn't need to be accessed often but deserved long-term storage. As I sketched, I realized that just as with the virtual inbox in any good task management tool I'd need a place to dump documents as they came in, for categorization and action as soon as I was able. And later, after consulting with a key stakeholder (my wife), I understood that it wasn't enough to _assume_ an expiry stage for papers I no longer needed — this had to be explicitly included in the plan. This was another parallel with enterprise content management, where the pruning of outdated or irrelevant content is sometimes neglected or even ignored.

After the main sketching and a few tweaks (always allow for tweaks!) my model was ready.

Joe's Home Document Management Model v0.1

Joe's Home Document Management Model v0.1

I bought a box suspension file system for the categories in "Current" status, and cleared out some wire trays for the "Inbox", "Doing", and "Post" categories. ("Take to work" will go straight in my work bag.) My model so far has been met with polite skepticism, but I'm determined to give it a good go.

Does your home organization reflect your practices at work? Val Swisher certainly saw parallels between tidy closet categorization and structured content. As for me, I'll follow best practices and run this small pilot to more accurately estimate ROI before rolling out a full-scale CMS (Clutter Management System).