Yesterday, I posted about my Command Central Station here.
Today, I want to elaborate on how I organise the file folders that hold the incoming paperwork that flows into our house! I do admit that this is a long post, but I wanted to put all of this information in one location for you :)
Last year I did an Online Course with Simplify 101 called 'Organise Your Paper Clutter'. (I know, I was a bit obsessed with online courses last year - I did four of them in total!) I really did feel like paper was taking over my life, and despite many things being 'digital' now, I still wasn't managing the digital files well either. This course really helped me to break down all of the papers that I have coming into the house and then how to direct them once they arrive. This is what helped me to come up with the folder categories for this system. Note that last year I used different folder categories, and it just didn't work as well, so it is really important to work out what is going to be the best system for your household, as we are all very different! Experiment with different categories and keep the ones that work, but cull the ones that don't.
My 'desk day' is Wednesday. Every Wednesday I make time to sit down with all of my folders and open each one, and action anything that needs to be completed. Some days it can take me up to an hour to work through the folders, banking and budgeting, but I don't really do anything else with it all during the week, so I don't mind. I know that everything gets paid on time (because it has been filed in the appropriate folder as soon as it comes in the door), and I also take this time to file away the completed paperwork from this little session into my filing cabinet. So, in this one sitting, everything is actioned, filed and then it can be forgotten!
Here are the six folders that I use:
The Finance Folder
This folder holds all bills that come into the house. If I put something on the credit card, I also put the receipt in this folder, and if I make an online purchase with the credit card, I write it on a post-it note and put it in here too. That way, when I sit down to do the banking, I know to transfer the money over to pay off the credit card immediately, before we receive any charges. I also have a list of our bank accounts and our current budget plan on the inside of the folder, for easy reference.
The Events Folder
This folder holds any invitations, flyers, brochures, maps, etc of upcoming events. As mentioned yesterday, I don't like my fridge to be filled with paper clutter, so storing it in here is an easy alternative for us. I often pop an invitation into my photo/memo stand on my buffet, so it is actually displayed and enjoyed (some invitations these days are just so gorgeous!). But I find that by having everything in the folder, when I go through the folder each Wednesday, it reminds me what is coming up and if I need to buy a present, arrange a plate of food, or do something else to prepare for an event.
The Business Folder
Obviously, this holds all current paperwork associated with Mick's business. I have a monthly checklist of jobs on the inside of the folder that I work through, plus I file any receipts or paperwork associated with the current quarter in here.
The Medical Folder
Although this can sit empty quite a lot, since being pregnant, I have found that I needed this. And I am sure that once the baby comes, there will be more things to go in here too. In this folder, we keep repeat prescriptions, doctors referrals, pathology requests, and any other information that enters the house that we will need to refer back to in the next month or two.
The Calendar/Templates Folder
In here, I keep my calendar pages for the remainder of the year, that are not yet posted on the Calendar. I also have a page with the calendar dates for the entire year, including school/public holidays and special days. I don't refer to these all that often, but when I need them I know they are nice and handy. I also keep blank templates of my Weekly To Do lists in this folder. I need a new one of these each Friday when I plan for the week ahead, so I love having these nice and handy, and not having to print them off each week saves me heaps of time. And I also keep my blank Meal Plan templates in here too.
The To Action Folder
This folder can have little notes that I write myself 'to do' for the next Wednesday that I sit down to action the folders, such as making a phone call or making a new template to help me to organise something. However, this folder is also where I temporarily store my filing (for our archive system - filing cabinets which live in the study). For example, if a letter comes in from the bank advising us that our interest rate has changed, but I don't have anything that I need to specifically action, - we always leave our repayments the same. However, I like to keep this paper as a record, so I put it in my To Action folder and then on Wednesday I can simply file it into the filing cabinet with our other bank records. It really is a waste of my time filing into the filing cabinet every time I get some mail that I want to file away, so I save myself the time and energy and just do it once a week.
And that is all I have to share about my six magic folders! The key to filing into all of these folders, is that everything that goes in, must come out again within the next month or two. This is our 'action system'. Anything that needs to get filed for longer than that, goes into the filing cabinet, as that is our 'archive system'. I learnt in my course last year, that to keep an action system functional, you need to make sure it is not cluttered up with papers that don't need to be there! Keeping this in mind has really helped me out. As soon as I open the mail, I put the papers into the folder that they need to go into so that I can action them on the next Wednesday. This means that when we open the mail, there is not a pile of papers on the kitchen bench needing attention, rather they are all safely filed away, and I don't need to think about them again until my next Desk Day.
Last year, I discovered that I much prefer a vertical filing system to a horizontal one. If I have an in-tray, it just piles high and I forget what is down the bottom. Vertical, on the other hand, allows much more to be easily seen, and it is easy to slot papers into folders that are standing up, as opposed to ones that are piled on top of each other. Vertical files don't allow things to 'pile up', which certainly helps me to keep on top of the constant flow of paperwork, rather than letting it pile a mile high! There are lots of great vertical file folders on the market, I have used another type before at work too, and absolutely loved it - read about it here!
This folder system has been a long, evolving process for us. I have tried using pinboards, in-trays and other folder systems over the years. This is by far the best system that I have found and I love it. Don't be afraid to try something new for your action paperwork. Once you find a system that works for you, you will feel so organised and stress-free! Good luck :)