The Binder Bandwagon- hop on!

Since we don't have an office, or a whole lot of counter space, I try to use a countertop mail organizer to keep all of our bills, receipts, pens, pencils, notepads, etc in one space. "Try" being the operative words here. In theory, it's an organized space- but this is how it actually looks 90% of the time. 





Despite my best intentions, the shelves overflow with junk instead of having neat piles in categories as I envision. The space on top becomes a graveyard for tools and random junk to accumulate. And then the chaos spills over to the refrigerator, where paperwork hangs askew until I run out of magnets. 

Many of my paperwork problems originate with my daughter's school.  We have class lists, and class calendars, and snow day cancellation phone trees, and tuition reminders, and service project sign up sheets.  It's all important stuff- and since my shelves are too full of....um....other stuff...I start hanging things up wherever I can find an inch of white space on my fridge. 

I've read several organizing blog posts lately about creating "command centers" and "home binders,"  and I foolishly shrugged them off thinking naively that I  have it all under control.  Well, I think these pictures are definitely not the pictures of someone with it all under control.

So, during our weekly trip to Target and a stop in the office aisle (only to get envelopes!), the bright colors jumped out at me and inspired me to jump on the binder bandwagon.


I sat down with all of my stuff, emptied the shelves...and then just sat there.  Despite having read several blog posts on the subject, I was having a hard time figuring out how to make a home binder for myself.  What categories would I need? How would I organize them?

I think maybe this is why I have put off the project until now. I just didn't know how to start.  Our life isn't that complicated that I need individualized schedules and calendars for everyone in the house- and I didn't think that I had enough "categories" of stuff to justify a binder.  But- clearly the big messy piles weren't doing anyone any favors in terms of finding what we're looking for.

I started out just by taking an inventory of the junk that had accumulated between those shelves: receipts, utility bills, school paperwork, coupons, grocery fliers, netflix envelopes, bank and health insurance mailings.  Some of it was stuff that would come and go over the next few days or weeks, and some of it was stuff that had been sitting there forever, just waiting for me to file it properly.  Once I had everything on paper I could start to see how to group things.  Rather than starting with someone else's checklist of what I should include in my binder- I came up with a list of what types of things are actually coming into my house and needing to be stored, and grouped them in a way that makes sense to me.  

I realized that I had two basic categories of stuff:
-Things that I want to save long term but have easy access to (aka, easier access than buried in my basement file cabinet), and
-Things that come in the mail (mostly) and I want/need to save temporarily

So one binder became the "save" binder- and I created folders for things such as school paperwork, financial paperwork, health paperwork, utilities contact info (and the most recently paid bill).  At some point lots of these things will be archived in the basement- but for now I have a place to put things when they come in the mail, and they will stay organized and at my fingertips.   Each family member also has a file in this binder to save whatever.  At the moment mine has the contact info for my hair salon, some paperwork regarding my Google AdSense account, and some magazine articles that I want to mail to friends.  It's a random collection of stuff, but it's all MY stuff, and now it's in a folder with my name on it, rather than buried underneath a mountain of pizza coupons.


The other binder became a "weekly/monthly" binder, where the contents will be periodically purged and rotated as new things arrive.  I created folders for local coupons, weekly circular ads from grocery stores and other places I shop, receipts (particularly the ever important Target receipt because as much as I LOVE that store, their return policy sucks), netflix envelopes, catalogs, and a folder for misc things of a timely nature "to be attended to."  Again, it's kind of vague- because the contents could be very random- but I am in this binder daily, so it's a nice reminder to attend to all of those things which need attention. 

I opted to punch holes in actual folders rather than just use dividers in an effort to keep things contained even when I get lazy. (Aka, if I want to throw them someplace quickly instead of punching holes and putting them away nicely).  I also included some clear plastic page protectors as a way to contain odd sized items (like store coupons).        

And when you put it all together....





Look at that! Organized shelves and a white refrigerator!  And I am happy to report that I have successfully used this system for several days- and been able to easy store and locate a multitude of mail and paperwork as it enters our house on a daily basis.  I also purchased (finally!) a small coupon organizer and opted to sort my non store specific coupons by expiration date.  After I took this picture, I really wish I would have purchased one in a coordinating color though.  The mustard yellow isn't really jiving with my spring green :)

As time goes on, I may tweak the contents of various folders or binders to suit our ever-changing needs,  but for now my system seems to be working fairly well for us.  So if you find that your paperwork organizing system is in need of a bit of a face lift- I encourage you to make your own binder(s).  Don't worry about how your junk will be sub-categorized, and if it'll fit into anyone else's mold of how incoming papers should be handled. Just take inventory of what types of things are actually lurking in your piles, and move forward with a system that makes sense to you...and then clue your family members in so they don't mess up your system :) 

23 comments:

  1. Looks great! The binders fit the organizer perfectly! I have a couple of binders from the same line and love them.

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  2. Awesome job! I'm so glad I'm not the only one w/ an incoming mail problem. I'm glad you found a system that works well for your family! I love the colors of the binders! Your organizer and fridge look soooo much better!

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  3. I just started using my home planner, and what a relief to have the information I used to keep in my head on paper. My goal is to keep using it and not slack off, so I put it on our kitchen counter at night and in the morning when I make my coffee I can look at my day ahead! http://uh-oisfororganization.blogspot.com/2011/02/my-personal-plannerhome-journal.html

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  4. Nice job! And I love that little whte shelf/drawer thingy. Where did you get that?

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  5. The organizer is actually from Michael's craft store. It came un-assembled, but was not too much work to put together. However, I did purchase it about a year ago- it only took me a year to figure out how to use it more effectively! :)

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  6. looks great! and i bet you're loving the functionality too. i've got binders i've been working on, too, but i haven't posted them yet. you've motivated me to finish that project!

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  7. Omgosh what a change. It looks great and the colors of your organizing stuff is really nice. I think that may be what my binder problem has been....trying to compartmentalize myself into other's ideas of what should be in it. I love your stuff you need close by to refer to section. That sounds like me. I am keeping this in mind for my future projects.

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  8. Looks great! I like how you decided on what you needed instead of doing it like everyone else because it will make it so much easier to maintain what works for you.

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  9. Great job! Those binders look great.

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  10. Awesome improvement! I love how that looks. I don't have a command center yet, but I know I need one. Right now I just have an antique wire basket on my kitchen island where I stash all my current papers. It's not working though. Total mess.

    I'm afraid I'm so lazy/crazy that I wouldn't take the time to put stuff in the right place in the binders though. (Which is what is happening with my recipe binder from hell.) Keep us posted and let us know if you keep up with it and if you still love it in a few weeks. Really looks great! Thanks for sharing!

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  11. Looks great. One of my goes for next week is my control journal (Fly Lady.) Let's just say it's gotten out of "control!"

    I love the blog by the way. You had me at the title-some of my favorite words!

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  12. I also did a binder this week. Like you I had difficulty going along with someone elses check list of what I should have and went with what I thought I needed. I have yet to find a home for my binder but at least I can find a bill when it is due. Great post!

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  13. looks so great...love the colors and the function...you are going to feel so much better now!

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  14. Love the binders - mine is ugly black. And how nicely they fit in your little organizer! Hope you are able to keep up with filing everything away (that is my downfall with the binder system).

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  15. great inspiration as I try to tackle my paper clutter for this week's challenge. pretty organizers make it so much nicer to deal with all the "STUFF" daily.

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  16. Looks great! I've shrugged off the binder as well but I may have to reevaluate.

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  17. Good for you! Looks MUCH better. I too shrugged off the idea of a household binder, but the more I see them the more I realize how useful they are! And the colors you picked are so pretty :) I especially liked how she kept a "Special Dates" chart and birthday card pocket. It really inspired me! I wrote this challenge about it if you would like to see:

    http://stephaniehillberry.com/2011/04/april-challenge-celebrating-those-you-love/

    Thanks for posting this! You did a lovely job :)

    Emily
    Deviantly Domesticated Team

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  18. Hi, I only just found out about the binders so haven't created one myself but decided to peruse around and see what everyone came up with and get some great ideas!

    I love your pics-I'm a visual person myself so it was a great way for me to really get a sense of how you organized, thx!

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  19. Great work! Pretty binders really make putting things in them more fun. I have 4 binders: meal planning, finances, holiday planning, and home management. Makes so life so much simpler when you just need to reach for all of your important things in one place. Thanks for sharing!

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  20. I love the way the binders look in your organizer. Thanks for sharing.

    Sharon

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  21. I know you wrote this ppost a while ago, but I just found it and I reconized myself so much reading it! I am trying to see the white of my fridge too :) Just thought I would let you know that I really enjoy the way you write!
    Cheers!

    Jade

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  22. Alexis Anne, did anybody tell you that you are a gift writer? Your personality just comes out in your writing. You make the reader want to know where you are taking them next. I just found your blog this morning and you already have inspired me to tackle my paper clutter on this computer desk the same way, then I can see "the forest for the trees." To me, separetely it in specific piles piece by piece seems overwhelming but the way you sat down and wrote what the contents related to makes it seem easier. I have so many projects that I want or need to work on, but every day obligations keep getting in my way. I keep telling myself to pick up so many pieces of this paper clutter and deal with it each night or day but then I get on the computer and make more to add to these piles. I tend to jump from one thing to another, and I hate that the ADD controls me. Thanks for the inspiration and I'm looking forward to trying your method to see if it works for me.

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  23. Ok...I thought I cornered the market on ways to keep paperwork organized and knew there was always something missing. Hole punch the file folder to use inside of the binder is genius! I always used indexes and more and more and then would have file folders in another box next to the binders. I needed to be hit on the head or something - haha! like the peanut butter and chocolate commercial. Thank you, and colors, yes I need colors in my file folders now. I also got a label maker for X-mas so this will be fun now - Office supply store, here I come... Thanks again.

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