Office Organization

by : Karen Fritscher-Porter

Many professional organizers don't leave either home or office without one tool. What is it? Drum roll please…

…The answer is a labelmaker. "Most organizers favorite tool is the electronic labelmaker," confirms Diane Hatcher, president of Timesavers Professional Organizing Services, Cooper City, Florida ( "I particularly use a Brother PT65. It's a portable labelmaker. And almost everybody that sees mine wants one."

So why the love affair between professional organizers and labelmakers? It's because of what you can do with this little inexpensive object (which is less clunky and more portable than its fading cousin, the typewriter). Essentially, a labelmaker spits out self-adhesive tape with the words and phrases you type onto its keyboard. (A label printer that attaches to and works in conjunction with your computer would use your computer keyboard as the input device). You can view what you're inputting on a tiny screen on portable labelmakers, usually an LCD display similar to ones seen on cameras or handheld calculators.

And while label makers are fun gadgets, they're more than just that. They're practical and useful devices. For instance, here are several ways Hatcher says you can use a labelmaker in an office setting:

1. Label open shelves for supplies or in a supply cabinet. (e.g. "8 1/2 X 11 paper," "bond paper," and "ivory card stock")

2. Label file folders. (e.g. "Jane Doe" and "travel expenses")

3. Label edges of notebooks/binders. (e.g. "organizing conference/March 2004" and "reference information")

4. Label stacking trays on your desk or elsewhere. (e.g. "incoming," "outgoing," and "pending")

5. Label cupboards and drawers. (e.g. "utensils," "coffee supplies," and "property of xyz department" in a shared kitchen/work room.)

By now you probably realize the list of labeling opportunities is endless and not just limited to paper file folders. In fact, if you place a label(such as "projector," "coffee" or "flip chart markers")in the designated spot for an item, when that item is checked out or depleted, you'll quickly know to look for its user or add it to your shopping list.

Pending your labelmaker choice, tape refills come in multiple colors and sizes. For instance, you can have gold writing on a clear background or the popular black writing on a white background. Tape could be a half inch wide or even an inch wide. Prices for tape cartridge refills vary. Label-making devices with a built-in automatic cutter will slice the tape to the appropriate length (versus using handheld scissors). "My labelmaker prints five sizes of type in seven styles on one or two lines," says Hatcher. "And I can purchase refill tapes in colors such as gold, silver, pink or blue."

Label-making gadgets usually operate on batteries though AC adapters are sometimes an option too. Some labeling systems use software and a USB cable that connects a labelmaker to your computer. Other systems are portable handheld devices making it easier for you to label at any location in the office.

Manufacturers often call label-making devices different names such as handheld labeling system, electronic labeling system, label printer, handheld labelmaker and electronic labeler. Sizes vary from small handheld devices that you can hold in one hand to large ones about the size of an adding machine. And prices vary starting from $20 to $30 and rising with added features. Look for label-making systems at your nearest office supply retailer. Many other type retailers sell them too. Or do a search with the label-making device terms noted above on the Web. Happy labeling!

© 2004 Karen Fritscher-Porter