- Everything goes into an envelope
- Every envelope is tagged with date, the contents, and (optionally) some kind of color code for the content.
- The envelopes go into a shelf, say a bookself.
- Here's the slick part: Every time you put an envelope into the shelf, you put it at the left hand end. As a side effect of this, the envelopes sort themselves so that active things are on the left, less active on the right. Stuff on the far right end is "dead" and can be disposed of, or moved to less obtrusive space.
Actually, as the files got more full, I'd be tempted to take stuff from the right end of shelf A, and move it to the left end of shelf B, and so on.
There are two things I find interesting about this. First, it exploits what computer scientists call the principle of locality, which basically says that if you've used something recently you're more likely to use it again. This is exploited in computers through things like caching schemes.
The second is that it uses a principle of self-organization. Instead of having to come up with an organizational scheme and think it out in detail, your files self-organize, putting the most used ones together automatically. (I strongly suspect that they will end up roughly chronologically ordered after a while, at least on the rightward end of the system.)
More to come on this as I think more about it and experiment with it.