Paper Refinement Series
Did you know that Paper Management is the number one reason that people hire a professional organizer? Despite our society’s best efforts to “go paperless”, it has certainly been my experience working as a professional organizer that excess paper clutter is a universal challenge in the homes in which I work. As such, today I am posting the first in a series of blog posts that will focus on paper management.
Let’s begin with organizing all of the reference paperwork for product purchases. A common source of paper clutter that I come across in client’s homes is product manuals, warranties, and receipts for big-ticket items. I have a favorite method for corralling all of these when on the job. Until recently, however, I had not found the time to properly organize my own set of manuals (ever hear that saying about the cobbler’s children who have no shoes? Sometimes this holds true for organizers too)! As you can see from the picture below, these papers were taking up an entire drawer in my filing cabinet. As part of my recent file cabinet overhaul, my goal was to free up the filing cabinet drawer for storing my business-related files.
As you might have guessed, the first step in the process is to gather all the paper into a central location and begin sorting into categories. I suggest that you set aside papers for home improvement purchases (i.e., carpeting, plumbing fixtures) and large appliances. These papers should be placed in a separate binder to be given to the new homeowner in the event that you sell your home. That leaves you with the papers for items that would go with you in the event of a move. Depending upon your consumer tendencies, your piles may look something like this:
During the sorting process, have the recycle bin close at hand, as you will invariably come across manuals and warranties for items you no longer own, especially if it’s been a few years since you’ve tended to these files:
My preferred method for containing all of these papers is to use 3-ring binders that use poly binder pockets with Velcro closures for each category of products. Binder pockets work great for this purpose, and can typically accommodate up to 200 pages per pocket. I use Post It stick-on filing tabs to label the product categories.
Take a peek at what the binder looks like when fully assembled:
One binder is rarely sufficient for the average household with kids. In fact, our papers required a total of four binders to contain all of our product manual/warranty information (the three binders for “portable” products below, as well as our binder for stuff that will stay with the house).
The final step is to create a cover sheet and a spine insert for the binder that summarizes the product categories contained within each binder:
Of course, for those who are really on the “paperless” bandwagon, you can often bypass this whole process by searching for the PDF versions of the product manuals online, as most manufacturers are making manuals available electronically now. BT.com offers a comprehensive list of online resources for locating just about any product manual you might be searching for.
Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means that if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and/or with my clients and believe will add value to my readers.