Advice from Mom: Mom's Home Filing System
by Rae Osenbaugh
January is a good time to update your home filing system or to organize a system if you don't already have one. I find my file box is a real time-saver when I need to find a certain paper or piece of information.
No one filing system is best for everyone. What works for you could be a disaster for someone else. But, once set up, a filing system can help you be more efficient as you go about your household routines. I will give you a quick overview of my own system to give you some ideas for your own files.
First, I bought a plastic crate that can hold file folders. I got mine at K-Mart for about $3. I then bought a box of 100 file folders....I found them at an office supply center (Office Depot), on sale for about $5. I know 100 folders sounds like an awful lot, but I've had them a year now, and am just about ready to get another box. Whenever I think of another category to file, so it is simple to grab another folder, label it, and add to my box.
Most of the folders in my file box are in alphabetical order, except for those labeled by family members (kids folders are in birth-order, because that's the way I think of them....), and the folders for each month.
I keep my monthly folders in the front of the box (no good reason, I just started out that way...). Here is where I keep calendars from previous months (I have a large calendar on the refrigerator with the family schedule, when I put a new month up, I file the old one.). Keeping my old calendars is like having a journal of family activities and appointments without having to write it down twice.
My files on family members are in the back of the box (again, no good reason, sometimes old habits are hard to change). I still keep a folder for kids who have moved on to college or have their own families. Once in a while something comes in the mail for them, or I have something I want to send them, I can find it when I get ready to send a package or letter. Important school papers, announcements, news clippings, etc. all go into their personal folders. These are considered short-term files, otherwise each folder would start overflowing quickly, and then multiplied by nine kids...well, you can imagine the mess I'd have!
The main section of folders is right between the months and the kids. I have these folders alphabetized rather than categorized. I think I'd come up with too many categories if I started sorting that way, so it is more efficient to just alphabetize everything together.
My first folder is labeled "American School" --one daughter does her homeschooling through American Schools, so I need to keep enrollment papers, etc. The files continue: Bills, (I don't even open them, I just drop them in the folder until time to pay them), Cars, Community Info, Computer Receipts (I'm sure glad I have this file!), Foster Parent Support Group, Future Info, Hall County History (sometimes you can see where a person's interests are by looking through their files!), Home Business Info, HomeSchool, Home Improvements (ideas and things we have done), House Plans (this one is my husband's: he saves ideas from the newspaper that catch his eye), Insurance, Internet (information on all our passwords, etc.), Jan (my good friend in Iowa), Lincoln (local elementary school where 3 of my children attend), Shoemaker (more local history...), Stuhr Museum, Telephone (past bills give an idea of how much a call will cost), To Do-NOW! (but, I still sometimes forget...), Visitor's Board (more community involvement), WCG Bulletin (I put together our weekly church bulletin), Work at Home (some of those ideas that come in the mail are real strange, but I do sometimes refer to them) and the last on is Writers Group (I don't attend the local group often, but at least I have their information).
As I said, no system is perfect, in fact my desk is covered with loose papers and two more folders that should be in the file box....but in the long run, I do save time by knowing where my papers are.
Have a good week! -Rae
Rae is the mother of nine (and grandmother of two) in central Nebraska. She says her house runs smoothly due to "organized chaos, and lots of lists! Anyone wishing to drop her a line is welcome to at firstname.lastname@example.org
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