Organizing 202 – Beyond the Basics: Houston … We Have a Problem!!!
By Sophia Noll
Does this sound familiar: I was late again because I couldn’t find the paper that had the event information! I never pay my bills on time because I don’t know where they are half the time … I love to save recipes and articles but can never find them when I need them … My kitchen table is covered with scattered school papers, mail, and invitations so I eat standing up at the counter! So let’s find a home for these items and regain control of our kitchen tables, our refrigerator doors, and our sanity!!!
Every household needs an information hub, a designated area for handling all the paper and information related to daily living and your families’ activities … I like to call it a “household command center.” The area that usually ends up as the drop off place for the family “fall out” is usually our kitchens. The countertops, refrigerator doors, and kitchen tables are weighed down with a plethora of paper, phone chargers, and items that are either on their way out or into our lives. Without a reliable system for handling items like household bills, school papers, and other critical documents they get buried, lost and or forgotten and endless time is wasted in a frantic search for them on a daily basis.
In choosing a specific place for your “command center” pick a high traffic area in your home where family members pass through on a frequent basis. It might not be the kitchen but the living area/den. Whatever area you choose you will need the following items:
• a desk-type flat surface
• storage for files
• files and folders
• basic office supplies (pens, paper, envelopes, stamps, scissors, tape, etc.)
• baskets or containers to hold the above items, incoming mail, outgoing mail, etc
• calendar & a bulletin board
• trash can and shredder
Before you start this project remove all of the items in the area you have chosen as your “command center”. Set up shelves, cabinets, or any other storage items you will be using. You can use nearby shelves, emptied out kitchen cabinets, or repurposed items you already have. If you are setting up in the dining room a buffet table can be used for storing papers and supplies. Make the area as attractive as you can with plants, lighting, or pictures so it is a space you will enjoy using.
Each family will have a “command center” that is tailored to their needs. Here are some ideas of what you might want to contain in your “command center” … incoming/outgoing mail/household records/family calendar/cell phone chargers/batteries/keys/library books and so on. Gather all the items and separate them into the categories you have selected. You know the drill by now: keep, throw away, give away, shred, or belongs in another area.
Once the papers have been sorted, set up a portable file container or if there is room a small file cabinet. Sometimes a portable file box is good because it can be stored in a cabinet if you don’t have the space for a two-drawer file cabinet. There are several ways to set up your filing system. For example you could have a Financial Section (Bills to Pay/Credit Card Statements/Receipts), Vital Records Section (Automobile Records/Insurance Records/Resumes), and Lifestyle Section (Restaurants/Pets/Recipes) You can also have individual folders for each person in the family and have sub folders for each of their needs, activities, and interests.
Now that you have gotten the existing paper piles under control you are ready for the next wave of incoming paper but this time you are prepared and ready!!! Use some colored files and label them: In, Out, Action, To File, School Papers to Sign, To Read, To Call, To Pay. As family members enter the home, with all their various papers and mail, have them stop at the “Center” and sort the items into these colored file categories. You can place these files in front of your existing file box/cabinet or have a separate container for them. If space is limited use a hanging file system. Then on a daily/weekly basis go through each file and take the actions required …
If your filing needs are minimal then a household notebook might suit you better. Purchase a three ring binder, some transparent sleeves and tabs for category dividers. The notebook can house menus to local restaurants, emergency numbers, a daily calendar, a telephone and message center, shopping check lists, tickets to events, and any other categories that suit your needs. It’s just a smaller version of the filing system outlined above. However, you will still need to incorporate the initial sorting of incoming mail and paper.
To keep track of your family’s activities and whereabouts place a large calendar, bulletin board and/or magnetic write on/wipe off board on the wall above the desk in your “center.” If there’s not enough room it can be hung on the back of a door. You can find a variety of options at the office supply stores. The purpose for these items is so you can record every family member’s schedule for the week/month in a centralized location. It’s helpful to assign different colors for each member’s assignments, appointments, and other responsibilities. Once this is done you can see the greater picture in just one glance!
For keys, hang up a key rack and be sure to label the stray ones. If you have other items that you want to keep in your “center” (i.e, batteries, phone/ipod chargers) place them in separate containers, label the containers, and place them on the shelf or in a cabinet. The object here is to containerize like items that you want to keep in your “center.” Plastic bins and baskets work well for these items.
In this busy and hurried world we live in we often pass like ships in the night. Having a “household command center” allows you to have key information close at hand and can make the difference between a productive and non-productive day. No more late fees because now your bills will be paid on time, no more misplaced school forms, your kitchen table will be used for eating again, and best of all you will save time and eliminate stress!
Sophia (In Its Place) has been organizing people’s lives for the past ten years from Maine to Asheville. She specializes in Organization, Personal Assistant, Household Management, Staging Homes, Senior Downsizing, and Concierge Services. Sophia offers free consultations and can be contacted at 828-333-3045. Spring is a wonderful time to tackle those organizing jobs! Give yourself the gift of Organizing!!!