How accessible are your genealogy materials?

Pile of papersDo you have a good place to store your genealogy stuff? Many of us don’t have the luxury of a dedicated genealogy room. And even if we do, that doesn’t mean everything’s accessible. When your material isn’t easy to get to, it can be hard to do (or start) genealogy research.

Organizers talk about the concept of “prime real estate,” where you reserve the most accessible storage spaces for the most frequently accessed materials. You want to make it easy to get stuff out and put it away again. When your research materials are accessible, one barrier to doing the research vanishes.

Take a look around your genealogy research space. Here are some tell-tale clues that there’s room for improvement:

  • Papers in piles
  • Books or papers on the floor
  • Cluttered work surfaces
  • Folders or binders without labels

If you can see yourself in this description, maybe it’s time to think about improvements.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Throw alphabetical order to the wind and put the binders or file folders containing your current research front and center
  • If you use binders and you find that you pile papers rather than placing them in the right spot in the binder, consider switching to file folders. (See my earlier blog post, Folders or binders? for more info.)
  • Try to create a habit of putting papers away after you use them, or creating a small stack to file on a designated day each week
  • Use a timer to help you focus on getting rid of your backlog (file for 15 minutes a day, for instance)
  • Streamline your system with some file clean-out sessions where you get rid of duplicates or unnecessary pieces of paper
  • Label the heck out of everything! (Don’t feel like you have to use a fancy label maker…regular Avery labels printed out on your printer will do)

This isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. You don’t have to reserve an entire weekend for a complete workspace overhaul. You can make small improvements, a little at a time. (I’d start with analyzing what’s being stored in your prime real estate.)

An end-of-the-year audit of your storage space might pave the way for a breakthrough year next year!


  1. Guilty of all the above I’m afraid! I think ‘a little at a time’ is definitely the way to go.

    • Thanks for your comment, Caroline. Absolutely, a little at a time can make a huge difference! It keeps you from feeling overwhelmed and actually allows you to start organizing.

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