Paper management can be daunting. All of us have had the mad scramble looking for a permission slip at the last minute. Here is the system I have finally settled on, that seems to keep me pretty much on track.
1. Inbox: one basket that serves as the primary holding spot for all incoming paper.
2. Control Journal: has a section for schedules, where I keep orchestra schedules, sports schedules and rosters, a school calendar, and anything else I need for easy reference.
3. Action File: a file for daily, short-term filing. Use an action file to organize bills for payment, papers that require response, and information that must be filed. I use an accordion file for portability, but you can also use a table top file.
4. Basic Files: a household’s working file system. These are files that you use weekly or monthly. Basic files hold medical insurance records, credit card statements, and bank statements. Use basic files for routine activities like bill paying, tax files, medical information and home maintenance. I keep these in the top drawer of my filing cabinet.
5. Classic Files: archives for long-term file storage. These are files that you only have for reference. Copies of tax returns and insurance policies, homeowners’ records, medical records, and copies of legal documents belong here. I keep these in the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet.
6. Keepsakes: things I am keeping for my scrapbooks and memory files. I keep these in separate boxes for each child.
Using an accordion file or a small tabletop file with hanging folders, label your categories. I use the Getting Things Done method, so mine are labeled like this:
I like the Getting Things Done system because of its use of contexts. When I am running errands, I look in my @go section. When I am at the computer, I do things behind the @computer section. I can make calls waiting in car line, and do my paperwork and pay bills at my desk. You can make the system fit your needs.
I have one file folder in the front of each drawer of my file drawers labeled “to file,” as well as one in the front of my basic files labeled “keepsakes.” Every Sunday, I file what is in those files in the appropriate folders. For now, we are going to talk about daily maintenance.
Here is how my system works.
1. I put my mail in my inbox, on top of all the paperwork from the boys and my husband. Train everyone in the house to place any bills, receipts, school handouts and forms, general mail, coupons, any paper, into the inbox.
2. Every day, review each item sitting in the household inbox.
3. Decide what to do with each piece of paper the first time you handle it.
4. I keep calendars, schedules, and phone lists in clear page protectors in my control journal.
Here are some examples:
Flyer about mountain property goes in the trash
Handout about a field trip for Cooper goes in @cooper
Orchestra schedule for Riley gets hole punched and put in my control binder behind “schedules”
Flyer about music lessons that has a website I want to check out goes in @computer
Application for passports goes in @paperwork
Printout from a website for a project I want to make goes in @home…
401k statement goes in my “to file” folder in my classic files
Program from an orchestra concert goes in “keepsakes”
I keep my action file in my bag that I take with me when I run errands, that has my planner and my control journal journal in it. I love the portability. Every Sunday I go through my action file, decide what needs to be done this week, fill out paperwork, mail bills, and write down in my planner what needs to be acted on. Then I file all of the paperwork in my “to file” folders. Otherwise, I would have piles and piles of paper on my desk, and tons of things I would forget to do.