Another big help for me in this paper-taming journey has been to create a home management or family binder. This is where we keep papers and other reference materials that we refer to often in daily life. It's a very simple set up: just a 3-ring binder, business card pocket pages, and page dividers with pockets is all you need. If you don't have pocket dividers, you can use standard dividers with page protectors for pockets instead. Ours looks like this. Nothing fancy.
If you have done some sorting already, you may have found things that will be perfect for this binder. For us, we have sections for:
- important phone numbers (just in case my kids, husband, or babysitter need to know and they don't have access to my phone): family, doctors, neighbors, etc.
- rosters and/or directories
- take out menus to our favorite restaurants, along with coupons, maps, etc.
- a copy of immunization records for each of us. I make it a goal to update them when we get shots or get a new copy made. I also include any medical information (e.g. medication information, doctor/insurance phone numbers, etc.) that I often need to look up when filling out forms for our kids.
- utilize the business card pages to make a "directory" within various sections of your binder. Here is our "medical directory":
- sports schedules
- coupons for shopping and if you're comfortable with it, gift cards
- brochures for activities we'd like to check out in the future
- maps for places you don't visit frequently but will most likely go to again in the future (e.g. our friends' church, friends' homes, new shopping spot, etc.)
- any home information you often need to reference. For me, I kept a "where to find it" list. I have consulted it on occasion, but I must admit that I didn't do a very good job at it. There are still things I cannot find! Intention was good, but execution---not quite.
The benefit of this kind of binder is that:
1. the rest of the family has access to common information that we all need in one centralized location
2. there is a place to put reference materials that we need in an organized manner without it littering the house
3. we know where to find said reference materials when we do need them instead of searching all over the house
4. I don't have to gather information out of a file box before sitting down to fill out release forms or permission slips for my kids. All I need is in one place: emergency contact numbers, medication dosages, insurance phone numbers, the date of our last tetanus shots.
Here are some suggestions that I have found helpful:
- before labeling my dividers permanently, I put them on "test drive" to see if they would actually work.
- train yourself to put information in the binder. This takes a little while to learn, but for me, it is worth the effort.
- update any information regularly. Out of date information is not going to be helpful. If I have something to update, I put notes/information in the front pocket of the binder so when I have several updates to make, I can do it all at once.
- clean it out periodically and remove outdated information, rosters, etc.
- show your family what it contains so they know where to go
- keep your binder thin. Ours is a 1" width. Keep it easily manageable by everyone.
- keep your binder in a centralized location. We put ours by the couch, where I often fill out forms for the kids.
As with the rest of my paper-taming journey, I think the key is creating places for the different types of paper I need to deal with. This binder has already saved me a lot of time hunting down what I need. Yes, it does require a little training time to learn how to start utilizing it. I still need to tweak it here and there. But for the most part, it has been a very useful tool in our home. I hope it works for you too!