There are two things you need to keep in mind when managing the paper and information that comes into your home on a daily basis. First, you need to choose just one location to process it. Second, you need to process it in a timely manner. Remember, clutter is simply a result of delayed decisions.
To set up a Family Information Center keep the following tips in mind:
• it should be located in a heavily trafficked area like the kitchen or a mudroom.
• it needs to have wall space for a bulletin board or wall calendar , a surface for an action center and reference material and ideally, a floor surface for a shredder (although there are some great tabletop shredders available)
• it needs to have a file close by to file papers that need to be retained for a long period of time. Remember to file once a week. If you wait any longer the task becomes unbearable to most people.
Once you have determined a place where you will process incoming information it is important to gather all the papers that are around your home and process them. if you are completely overwhelmed, at least place all the paper in one pile and process it for ten minutes a day until it’s gone. There are three different types of paper: reference, action, and trash. Reference papers are school schedules, invitations, legal papers and such. How long you keep them depends on the importance of the paper. Papers for medical and tax purposes have to be kept for a longer period of time but are seldom looked at. These papers belong in a file cabinet somewhere in your home but necessarily in your information center. Reference papers such as sports schedules, school information and such need to be referred to on a regular basis and should be kept in a binder or folio close at hand. I love Mom Agenda’s Kitchen Folio. Check it out at
www.momagenda.com Don’t forget to check out the free printables to keep you and your family on track.
Papers that require an action such as bills to pay, invitations that require a response, permission slips to sign, etc. need to be placed in an action center. I love the three tier sorter from Office Max for this purpose. www.officemax.com As you see there is a place to label each tray. Use one for items to do that are high priority (check it daily) label the second tray for items that are not really important such as things you may want to do with your family or things you want to buy (check it weekly) and the third tray for paper that needs to be filed. File it each week.
Paper that is to be thrown away needs to be discarded before it hits a hard surface. Open mail over a trash can, recycle bin or shredder on a daily basis and quickly put items in their predefined spaces: either the trash, the action center or a file.
To keep track of schedules use an individual planner. whether you choose an electronic schedule or a paper depends entirely on your personality. There are a lot of people who still prefer paper, including me. I have used and loved Mom Agenda’s personal portfolio for years. I like to look at my entire month at a glance and the uncluttered pages of this planner make be feel like I’m in control even though there is hardly a square in that doesn’t contain something I have to do or somewhere I have to be.
I think it’s gorgeous and I love to carry it. My good friend prefers her I phone which absolutely doesn’t work for me. Decide which calendar works best for you and then input all your commitments on a daily basis.
If you have a large or busy family. I think it’s important to have a family calendar. Dry erase calendars are perfect for this. Each family member can use a different color to mark their schedules and everyone knows where to look to see who is doing what. If you prefer the computer screen you can do the same thing online. I really like the clean look of the magnetic dry erase calendar at the container store, www.containerstore.com
If you don’t have the wall space, mom agenda has come out with a home office addition planner that is large enough to capture all your important information and attractive enough to leave out.
So, if you apply the organizing triangle to your new Family Information Center. The system would be the defined spaces that your paper goes to immediately when it comes in the door. The products are the planners, folios, action centers and shredder. The habits, keep on top of things. It only takes five minutes to process your mail each day. Remember, it’s not the things we do that wear us out. It is what is left undone.
Don’t know about the organizing triangle? It is my own organizing method that I teach my clients and use myself. Find out more in my coauthored book, Get Organized Today. Available at a discount on my site www.simplyputorganizing.com