February 10, 2011

Turning Paper Piles into Files - Organizing

Farmer's Dozen - Paper Piles
Along with 10 children comes piles and piles of paper!  Every day the kids come home with backpacks full of papers, there are forms to sign, mail that comes in, newspapers, bills to pay, schedules to organize.  With the busyness of the day it is often hard to find time to go through it all immediately.  Organizing paperwork is really an easy process if kept up on, decluttering your counter, categorizing the paper and creating a place for everything.  Three easy steps.  This is what I do to organize my paper piles daily.

1.  First I gather "ALL" papers in the house, big and small, into one pile, so it is all in one place.  I usually go through this current paper pile in the morning.  I divide the paper into piles of "like" topics, examples; school, calendar, "my lists", announcements, coupons, bills, scouting, church calling, garbage...etc.  I don't make many decisions at this point except if I know I can throw it away.  The reason for doing this is so you don't have to deal with the same papers over and over, putting it into a pile repeatedly and then repeatedly looking through the same pile.
Farmer's Dozen - Calendar
2.  I then enter the calendar items on to the calendar.  I often say, "If it is not on the calendar, it is not going to happen!"  In the past I color coded my calendar, a color for each child and a color for the family.  I have also used the large desk calendars, but I like the 8 1/2"x11" calendars because I can take it with me.  I have also used "Planners", but right now, this is what works.  

3.  After entering all the calendar items on to the calendar, I place those loose papers into a "calendar file", so that I can refer back to these papers if I need to.  
Farmer's Dozen - Daily Schedule
Each day there is so much going on, I write that days schedule out on a separate piece of paper.  By writing it out on a separate piece of paper, I can figure out visually how it will all work since I can see it in chronological order on the paper!  I sometimes need to duplicate the schedule for other drivers, and have even emailed the schedule to grandma, uncle, triplet drivers, Rick and I, to get all drivers on the same page!   

4.  I take the remaining sorted piles and make a file folder for each of them, categorizing everything based on the variety of subjects.  Placing the piles into file folders by subjects listed on the tabs. I just go crazy with all the papers in one huge messy pile, so organizing the papers by topics, even if it is only one paper per file folder, gives the paper a place to be so that I can relocate it when I need it.  For example, Drivers Ed papers, School Papers, Bills, Wedding Announcements, Instructions...anything.
Farmer's Dozen - Files
The above files are school papers.  I have each child's grades gathered in a folder, kindergarten to current.  I also have the child's school papers in a file.  Any awards, important information to keep, transcripts, test results etc. are in this folder.  I am currently doing college applications, and filling out scholarships so these items are being organized.  In a separate drawer which is easily accessible, I also have a file for each child that is for their current school papers.  It has the teachers weekly letters, spelling lists, school letters, information applicable for the current year.  This helps so that we can locate homework or a spelling list quickly for that child, rather than going through piles of papers to find it.  

Incoming bills begin in the daily gathered paper pile, then when I sort the daily collection of papers by topics, I place the bills in a "Bill/receipt" pile, I can then go through that file later and put them in their individual file ie: dentist, insurance, taxes etc...
Farmer's Dozen - Files
Above is another example of files, I use files over and over.  The front 3 inches or so are files upside down that are empty and ready to be reused!  These files are usually a temporary storage place for papers, making it easier to find the papers when needed.  This gives them an immediate place to be until they need to be dealt with.  This is not pretty by any means, but helps me to locate items quickly when they are needed.
Farmer's Dozen - Files
The above picture showing that I reuse the file folders repeatedly.
Farmer's Dozen - Files
More examples of files.  Every piece of paper can be gathered into a file for easy access when the papers are needed.  By doing this daily, I don't have to make the decisions on what to do with each piece of paper other than if I know it can be thrown out or not.  This can just take a few minutes, where if you keep paper in a pile to be dealt with "later" , those minutes will turn into hours of paper filing and you are forced to reread and sort through your old paperwork often.  Deal with paperwork immediately or at least daily.
Farmer's Dozen - Post It's 
I love post-its and use them often.  I have them all over my house.  I am a list maker.  I think of things and have to write it down to clear my head.  I have them by my bed so in the middle of the night I can write down things that come to my mind.
Farmer's Dozen - Notes on hand
I have also written things down on my hand if unable to find post-its in the middle of the night.  This was to remind me to turn the oven on for the cinnamon rolls I was going to cook in the morning.  My need for notes and lists also could be because of my age since I can not remember things for longer than seconds.  This is my way of dealing with the piles of papers that come into my home to keep it manageable and useful.  What do you do?

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  1. thanks for following me! WOW!! I don't know how you do it!!! I have a hard time with just 2 kids!! Hope you have a great weekend! (I'm following you now too!)

  2. Piles of papers are the worst. I have several piles of "I can't get rid of this yet, but I'm not sure what to do with it." I think I need to make files, even if it's just one paper each. Thanks for explaining your system. :)

  3. Hi.. I learned a trick for reusing folders way back when I was working a part-time job at the Social Security Admin office. If you cover the tab with scotch tape (not the shiny kind the matte type) you can use a pencil for labeling and erase from the tape and reuse.

  4. Love this post. Thank you so much. I especially liked the Calendar Folder/File.... I never thought of doing that, I just paperclip the papers to the calendar itself & then move them when I need to see a date or something. Much better idea from you.

  5. You do a great job-- I just had to check it out if only I am so tired I read paper piles as paper towels - LOL - You have a wonderful family and thanks for sharing--

  6. You have a huge family there! With 10 children, I can only imagine how many papers get scattered in your house. It's not easy to get things organized, but you did a great job. By the way, thanks for your organizing tips!