Read these 16 Controlling Paper Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Organize tips and hundreds of other topics.
To make your personal reference binders extra functional, add a table of contents to the front listing what's inside. Simply list on a sheet of paper the documents contained in your binder. This eliminates having to look through the entire binder to find out if you still have the document you're looking for.
The 3-ring binder is a long-standing staple of paper management. They work the best for papers that contain important information that changes infrequently. Make them into your own personal reference books. Just as you would reach for a dictionary when you need to spell a word, you can reach for your personal binder when you’re looking for important reference information in your home.
All you need to have on hand:
Three Ring Binders (keep several on hand)
Three Hole Bunch
* You can buy these items inexpensively at dollar stores.
Happy Binder Making
Almost every purchase of an appliance comes with an owner's manual. Many of these are valuable to keep for future functions you need only periodically. A binder is a great option for these owner's manuals. Put each owner's manual in a sheet protector and be sure to keep a listing in the front of the binder of what manuals are contained inside
Have you noticed that product owner's manuals are now printed in several languages? It's likely that you can only read what's on a third of the paper in a modern-day owner's manual. Keep only the section of the manual in the language you speak. Rip out and toss the other pages.
Binders have their place for storing reference information, but for papers that arrive frequently, you'll be much more efficient using file folders. File folders are the quickest way of storing papers. Simply open the drawer, find the file, and place the papers inside.
Create a binder to contain all your insurance information. Group each category (health, life, auto, etc.) in a sheet protector. Make a directory for the front of your binder in which you list important info for each type of insurance such as the agent's name and phone number or deductible information.
Don't let your bulletin board become cluttered with outdated papers. Get in the habit of removing the papers as soon as the event is over. In the home the kitchen is the prime place for a bulletin board and many times the refrigerator will serve this purpose with papers being tacked on with magnets. Try using the time while you're waiting for food to cook to weed out old papers on your bulletin board and/or refrigerator.
File folders are sold as either third cut (3 tab positions) or fifth cut (5 tab positions). The most common way of putting them in a file drawer is to stagger them in the left, middle, and right positions. However for a more uniform look try using only the middle tab position folders for file drawers that pull straight out. For lateral files try using only first tab position folders for drawers that pull out to the left and only third or fifth tab position for drawers that pull out to the right.
A quick way to find what you're looking for within a category of files is to number and label your files and make a corresponding index. As an example, I have a section in my files at home called "Important Documents". In a file at the front of this category is an index listing each document and in which number file it's kept. (example: Social Security Cards - File 1, Birth Certificates - File 2, etc.) When I recently had to dig out paperwork on an old mortgage for a class action lawsuit, I simply went to my Important Documents Index, saw that I did indeed have a file on the previous mortgage, and quickly located the document I needed.
Financial statements and bank statements are a prime example of papers received frequently that work the best in file folders. These papers show up on a regular basis - at least quarterly and often monthly. Clearly label a file folder for each financial institution with whom you do business. When the statements arrive, drop them in the front of the folder. When you have completed your yearly taxes, keep only the year-end statements in your tax file and throw out the quarterly and monthly statements.
Information on small cards run the extra risk of getting lost. Often these small cards contain dates and times of events or appointments you don't want to miss. Put the event on your calendar at the earliest opportunity. If you still need the card for addresses or phone numbers, tack the card on your bulletin board/message center.
Your goal for handling junk mail is to only deal with it once. If you decide it's junk, don't set it down again to deal with it later. Ideally, you want to have either a wastebasket or recycling bin near the place where you read the mail. I've read tips suggesting that you read the mail outside so that you don't even bring that junk mail in the house. But to people who live in cold climates (like me!) this isn't very appealing. My solution was to keep a recylcing basket in the kitchen, the room I enter first when coming home and retrieving my mail.
Look in any business office and you'll notice there's always a few papers that are tacked to the wall. This happens for two reasons. First, the information may be time sensitive in which case it should not be filed away. Secondly, the information may be needed so often that it doesn't make sense to file it away. Your home can also benefit from this strategy by using a bulletin board as a message center for time-sensitive and often used information.
A piece of standard equipment in any office is the "In Box". It's extremely important to have a designated place for papers that require your attention. Your home can benefit from this strategy too, so that papers that require action don't get lost in the shuffle. See the "Paying Bills" tip section for an example of using an In-Box for your finances.