We’ve got a great guest post today for the Establish a House series from Callie at Lemon Verbena who shares how she keeps on top of all the paperwork at her house. Can you tell this is something I struggle with? I have had two different bloggers share their ideas with us this past month!
I’m so excited to share on Cranial Hiccups today and have loved this series. I’m excited to be a part of it. I love systems, simple systems that run themselves, that keep us moving forward with little thought or effort. They work well for us because we have found an easy way to form habits that work with ourselves and with our families.
When it comes to organizing paperwork in our home, I rely on simple daily practices and a weekly check in. In my house I handle the paperwork, all of the bills, the papers that come home everyday with the kids from school and every Sunday from church, the important mail and the junk mail, all of the invites with dates to remember, and so much more. It can become overwhelming at times. For the past couple years I have been using the same systems for handling our daily paperwork that comes into our home and it has been working well for us. I have a few ideas to share with you for handling paperwork simply and effectively.
Here are my basic tips for dealing with paperwork.
First you need some basic tools set up in strategic places throughout your house.
- Inboxes | An inbox upstairs and an inbox downstairs.
- Containers For Favorite Pens | Pretty containers for your favorite pens make sitting and working on paperwork less of a chore. I promise, it makes a big difference.
- Planner | I have a paper planner, electronic works just as well.
- Small File Boxes | I have two small file boxes in my home, one for the kids schoolwork and one for finances and projects for me.
- Filing Cabinet | A file drawer for longterm paperwork storage. (We have a filing cabinet, but a large file box would work just as well.)
- Storage Tubs | Long term storage tubs for each of my kids keepsakes.
Handle Paper Quickly | I try to handle paperwork as quickly as I can. When it comes through the door of our home I process it. I recycle what needs to be recycled quickly. Any paperwork that I need to do something with (field trip forms, bills, school picture order forms, etc.) goes into my inbox. My inbox upstairs (a metal tray) is processed once a week so I know that these papers will be taken care of. This inbox is a lifesaver. Since my desk and files are downstairs, this metal tray keep things organized upstairs until I take them downstairs and process them. I also have an inbox downstairs where I can quickly put paperwork when I’m in our basement. Any other paperwork that comes into our home I try to process quickly. Even with systems in place I find papers everywhere. I constantly am recycling or putting papers into my inbox as I find them. At the end of the day, you will find that day’s daily paperwork either in the recycling box or in my inboxes.
Small File Boxes | I like using small file boxes for things that I need to access easily. One I use for the kid’s schoolwork and any papers that relate to school, like forms that need to be signed and returned. I also have a small file box in my office downstairs that contains the papers that I need. This small file box contains my tickler file (one file for each month of the year), project files, and finance files.
Kid’s Schoolwork | I put what they need for school in the small filing container in the kitchen that houses files for each of the kids. Each of my children have a file. All of the paperwork we need to keep goes in these files. I also have a clipboard in each of their files where I clip their homework that needs to be done.
Toss It Out | My advice is to get rid of most of your paperwork. Just realizing the volume of paper that we could potentially have in our home on a daily basis, papers that we don’t need, and that we don’t want, helps to just get rid of it. Sentimental papers are harder to get rid. It helps to imagine what my children will want to look at in 20 years. I know that my children will love a small collection of their very best artwork and writing from their school years, so I’m able to let go of the rest and keep the very best.
The 2 Minute Rule | I follow the 2 minute rule, which is if you can process the paperwork in 2 minutes or less, stop and do it. This rule is life changing. It really frees you up of all those little things that can weigh you down during the day. And once you process that piece of paper, you can get rid of it.
Weekly Check In | Once a week I take both of my inboxes, which are now full of papers, and go through every piece of paper one by one. My goal is to empty the inboxes. The bills get paid and filed. The invitations and events get entered into my planner. The sentimental kid’s schoolwork, artwork, and drawings get put into tubs in the garage or saved in the to be scrapbooked file. Any papers that I need for the future go into the small file box in my office. Again, this contains my tickler file (one file for each month of the year), project files, and finance files. Longterm files are put in the filing cabinet.
File Everything | If you must keep something, create a place for it. Files work great for this.
Train Your People | My children know that when they come home from school they empty and hang up their backpacks before snack. (A great incentive to put things away.) There paperwork goes on the counter where I process it. This has worked well for us because I’m able to process everything their in the kitchen, without having a pile of papers sitting on my counter. My kids and husband know where my inboxes are and know to put paperwork in those inboxes. They also know if they want me to do something or remember something to put it on a post-it note and put it in my inbox. My husband usually picks up the mail and puts all of my mail in my inbox downstairs. I don’t worry about mail until I process it once a week.
Display Artwork | Any sentimental papers I want to save for the kids also goes in my inbox. . We do keep some artwork and display it on the walls in the kid’s bedroom or on a wall in the kitchen for a few weeks and then I either keep it in their tubs or throw it away. (Sometimes I do take a photo of it for their scrapbooks.)
Keep It Simple | I’m hoping this all doesn’t sound too complicated. I wanted to give you details of how I specifically handle all our papers and writing it all out can make it sound like a lot more then it really is. I’m listing a bunch of tasks that take me seconds to accomplish. Simply put, process your incoming paperwork daily and quickly, spend some time once a week emptying your inbox, and have a place for everything.
Having these systems in place frees my mind up to enjoy life. I know that if I spend a few minutes a day and about an hour each week, I can stay on top of it all. This way when I’m with my family, I’m with my family, and not worrying about anything else.
Callie Moon lives near Portland, OR with her amazing husband Steve and her 4 delightful children. She enjoys spending her days taking care of her home and family. She blogs, photographs, creates, cross stitches, thrifts, chauffeurs little ones, walks, reads, bakes, watches movies, and serves in her church. Early mornings and ice creams are her favorite. She adores whites and neutrals. Reading to her kids is one of the best ways she spends her time. She is a work in progress, always trying to exercise more and stress less. She works to be kind each day and picks herself up and tries again when she messes up. She shares her thoughts and daily adventures on her blog lemonverbenablog.blogspot.com.