Make Easy Work Of Alphabetizing

Photo: Pixabay/myrfa

My client sent me a box of hundreds of 8.5 x 11 personalized sheets of paper in random order, along with imprinted labels. He needed these sheets sorted, labeled and mailed.

90% or more of my work for clients is done using technology. But on occasion, there are times to still do an “old fashioned” project like stuff a mailing.  Despite claims for paperless offices that were predicted years ago, we still handle a lot of snail mail and paper files.

So, when you have a project like this and need to alphabetize it, what are the quickest ways to do it? Here is a method I’ve been using:

First: I divide sheets into two piles based on first letters of last name

A to K and L to Z.

CA-A to K

CA-L to Z.jpg

The benefit of this is that it does not require a lot of thought to sort. I don’t want to get hung up in specific detailed alphabetizing yet.

Second: I divide the two piles into four, again using first letters of last names:

A-E / F-K / L-Q / R-Z  

CA-A to E.jpg

CA-F to K.jpgCA-L to Q.jpg

CA-R to Z

Notice that these divisions complement the first one of A-K and L-Z.

Third: Now taking one pile at a time, I further divide it by individual letter


A  B  C  D  Etc.

In this project, there were many recipients who were getting more than one sheet, but there was no need to match them exactly quite yet.

Fourth: Now working with each smaller pile, I sort and match everyone appropriately. If necessary, I move to further divisions using second letters of last name using vowels or common consonants, depending on what I feel will sort it fastest.


Now I can find the mailing label that matches the name.

The key to this divide and conquer method is to keep the number of piles to a minimum initially. The more spread out your project becomes, the more unwieldy it can get. Keeping divisions simple in the beginning, and then progressively more detailed, saves space and does not feel as overwhelming.

*The above scenario is partially fictional, to provide a helpful demonstration. However, it is based on a real-life project my company did for a client.

Photo source:

Beth Beutler is the Founder/CEO of H.O.P.E. Unlimited, a small business offering collaborative virtual assistance and professional development education/mentoring to Help Overwhelmed Professionals Excel. She has over 30 years of experience in administrative assistance and office management, soft skills training, and writing.