There had to be a way to apply the Underwear Principle to her filing situation. The filing system needed to be a two part system. First, what to do with “Current” paperwork? Secondly, she needed an easy but efficient “Archive” system.
First, the “Current” System. She had to watch. Evaluate. What was naturally happening with the paper in the house? It seemed to accumulate in the kitchen. Everywhere in the kitchen, but still, mostly in the kitchen. Paid bills stacked in one corner. Receipts in a drawer. The refrigerator wallpapered in paperwork from school. Recipes and telephone numbers taped to the inside of kitchen cabinets. A stack of papers to be shredded next to the garbage can. Paper. Paper everywhere.
POWR was on a quest. Organize the paper, but keep it in the kitchen. This new filing system had to be just as easy for her family to follow as it was for them to put the papers in their current locations. She went back to her books and articles, culled what she deemed to be the best ideas for her situation, made a decision, bought the necessary organizing paraphernalia, explained the new system to the family and implemented it.
Then she waited.
To see how it would fail.
So she could modify it.
See, that’s the key to any family organizing system. A successful organizing system will ALWAYS FAIL if it only works for the person who created it. It has to work for everyone else as well. So POWR watched her family. She watched the paper trail. She modified the system. And again. And again. And again. (you get the idea).
Finally Currently, the system works like this:
1. There are two large magnetic clips on the front of the fridge. One for each kid. These clips hold ACTIVE papers ONLY. Lunch order forms, project instructions, this week’s spelling words, upcoming birthday invitations, permission slips, etc.
2. There are two plastic bins in the laundry room (off the kitchen). One for each kid. These bins hold all inactive paper for the kid for that year. So there’s a “1st grade” box for her daughter and a “7th grade” box for her son. They put their papers in their own boxes. Whenever she sees paper, she can say “put this in your box” and it disappears! At the end of the year, the boxes get lids and are stacked in the top of the kiddo’s closet. Then, some time later when the papers aren’t as precious and the kids can bear to part with them, she can sort through the box with them. Great for a rainy summer afternoon.
3. There are cork boards on the inside of as many kitchen cabinet doors as will accommodate them. Tacked behind one door are frequently used recipes and measurement conversions, behind another one telephone numbers. One cork board is designated for her son, another for her daughter, who uses hers to keep track of every Webkinz card she owns.
4. There’s a tabletop hanging file folder box on a counter, right next to a cross cut shredder and the garbage can. There are no folders inside labeled with the names of vendors. There are no folders inside the hanging folders at all. Just the hanging folders, with generic labels like:
“Automobiles” for all family car info including insurance, repair, maintenance.
“Insurance – Health” for all medical, prescription, vision, dental paperwork for the entire family.
“House” for all things related to the house, like homeowner association info, pest control, security alarm, newspaper delivery, etc.
“Phone/Cable/Internet” which includes both cell and home phone records, cable and internet bills, cable repair records, etc.
“Banking” for well, all things bank related.
“Credit” for all credit card statements. (The fewer you have, the smaller the folder.)
“Instruction Manuals” for things used frequently, like the phone, the cameras, the DVD player, the camera.
And here’s a key component in the new filing system: papers are stuffed in the hanging folder in whatever order as long as it is within the same year. The papers inside each folder are NOT organized AT ALL. Not by vendor, by date, by person, or even by size. The order of the papers inside each folder doesn’t matter. When (if ever) a paper is needed, each folder is small enough to be searched in less than a minute. It’s essentially a “stuff it” system, similar to a “pile” system. Only vertical.
5. Receipts. Big issue in her house. They got tossed and stuffed EVERYWHERE. Last year’s system was a binder clip in a kitchen drawer. All receipts for the current month were added to the clip throughout the month. A 3×5 paper was in the front noting the name of the month. At the end of the month, the full clip was moved to an out of the way location (for her, in the laundry room in one of those plastic drawer units.) A new clip, a new 3×5 paper and they begin again. When they need a receipt, say for a return, they know exactly where to find the receipt and there was absolutely no organizing effort required in the process.
This year, POWR’s husband has asked for a change. The process of clipping receipts was annoying. He wants a “stuff it” system, similar to the one described in #4 above. So, they are trying a magnetized plastic box on the side of the fridge. No clip to squeeze, no drawer to open and close, no lid to remove and replace. Once a month, she’ll empty the box, rubber band that month’s receipts and put them in the plastic drawer unit in the laundry room as usual. Another modification.
next up? The archive system.