Sunday, May 30, 2010

Keeping Papers - The Joy of Notebooks

This morning I was reading through my blog and came across a post in which I promised to share with you more about my organizational system for papers. Me?? I who have papers growing out of my carpet like toadstools? Okay, that was an exaggeration, and leads me a bit off-topic. Yes, when we lived in Kentucky, after our basement carpet flooded, toadstools grew. And not to worry, we tore out the carpet and replaced it with tile...after putting in a sump pump. But I digress.

How is it that I can have boxes and stacks of unsorted papers, and yet tell you how to be organized? For one thing, if I can do it, you can do it. And even thought you might already be doing it better than I am, there might be some little tidbit here that will inspire you with an idea of how to tweak what you've got.

In my previous post on Keeping Papers, I talked about keeping a portable file box with each family member's most important records, eg. birth, baptism, immunizations, diplomas.

My second line of attack is notebooks (also sometimes called binders; in other words, I am NOT talking about spiral notebooks here, but the kind you put papers in and take papers out...and hopefully put them back in again!).

Many years ago I began a "Household Notebook" when I read about the concept at Organized Home.Com. Since then, my notebook habit has grown to one notebook for each of several categories.

I have a notebook for Paying Bills (I call it something else in case anyone ever breaks into my home...although, really, if someone else wants to pay my bills, they are welcome to). In this notebook, I have my bill-paying spreadsheet; my budget; my plan for paying off debt; and copies of the most recent payments (okay, more than the most recent, but that would be the ideal).

I have a Medical Notebook for important information (diagnoses, allergies, surgeries); fee tickets (receipts); and bills. When there's been some mis-communication somewhere and our insurance hasn't paid a bill - and I have to call them (again) - I can readily locate all the information I need. Do I have every single piece of information in this notebook that should be in it? Do you need to ask that question? (Remember my piles.) But again, I always figure that waiting for perfection does not get the job done, and I just do the best I can.

Another notebook I have is my Addresses Notebook. Perhaps this would be better served as a section of a Household Notebook instead of a whole notebook, or maybe this is where I should be putting the directions I print out instead of putting them in a loose file (and never finding them again). At any rate, using a notebook (or notebook section) for addresses is especially handy when you are involved in organizations that pass out sheets (or send Excel spreadsheets) of contact information, such as baseball, choir, or etc.

Family Recipes is another category of notebook, one which is bursting at the seams. After printing an e-book about freezer cooking, I made an Appliance Cooking notebook and put the e-book in there, adding my own crockpot recipes, and hints for using the rice cooker. (Oh, how I love my appliances.)

Of course, we have our notebooks for homeschooling, too, and I have a writing notebook or two or three. You can organize according to your own needs, hobbies, and passions.

Not all my papers are in notebooks. No, I'm not referring to the unsorted papers; I mean that I also have files in a file cabinet. But I have found that notebooks are the easiest to use for the papers I want to see at a glance - or "grab and go": go call, go copy, or go cook.

What do you need to set up a system of notebooks? Notebooks (yeah, I know you knew that), dividers, something to label the notebooks with, and a three-hole-punch (not all of these are expensive).

Do any of you use a notebook system? I'd love to hear your ideas, as well as input from anyone who decides to try it.