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).