Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Paper Vomit

Sorry for the lack of bloggeronis lately, I've been really busy with trying to get our food allergy situation worked out. BTW, even though it's been challenging....we're adapting. I see the biggest difference in Sassypants and her behavior. It's amazing how food allergies can affect children's behavior.

I'm always on the lookout for products and tips to help control the all the "paper vomit" that comes through our house. With the mass amounts of junk mail and all the school papers that come home with the girls....we're bombarded with 'secondary tree material'. It really is a constant battle, and I never win. I am always buying organizational office products, but the only thing that I have consistently used that works for ME (me, being the key word) is this Pendaflex folder.

Pendaflex #51050 Folder
I found this little jewel by accident at the sale bin at Office Depot about 5 years ago. It's really hard to find now, but if you Google "Pendaflex 51050", there are lots of online office supply companies that sell it. I'm a 'stacker' and very much a visual person when it comes to papers. If there's something that needs my attention in the next month....it has to be OUT so that I can remember it. Have you ever heard of "Mommy Memory"? I am the poster child for it.

I have 2 of these. One is labeled "Action", and the other is labeled "To File". I can go quickly through the mail or a stack of papers and whisk them in these folders.

Here's an example of what I do for the "Action" File:

1) Check mail. Bring it in the house and IMMEDIATELY categorize in the "Action" file. If I can't deal with mail right then, I leave it in the mail box. Otherwise, I'll pile it on my kitchen island and never see it again.

2) Categorize--As you can see I can quickly categorize anything that comes in within a few minutes. Here's how I use the individual categories:

  • Banking/Financial-that's for any checks (cha-ching) or banking transactions that need to be addressed. I usually keep deposit slips in here.
  • Errands- This is the place for drycleaning tickets, stuff to be mailed, etc.
    Incoming- This is where I put the miscellaneous mail that I really don't have time to deal with at the moment.
  • To Do/Decide-This is where I put things like permission slips for school, calls to make, and just my overall long term 'to do' list. I'll also put things like job quotes from the lawn guy in there to mull over later.
  • To File- After I've paid a bill, I put the statements here. Any receipts, papers, etc. that need to be filed go here also.
  • To Pay-All incoming bills go here. If there is a bill that I need to pay in person, I put it in the "Errands" slot.

This folder doesn't look like it will hold much, but it will stack HIGH! I can fit a lot in here, and the best part is there are those elastic bands on each corner and everything can stay snug inside. I take this with me to run errands and will even 'categorize' my mail while waiting in carpool line or while the girls are at swim lessons, etc.

My other folder is the "To File" folder. This file is for things that have already been completed from the "Action" file or items that come in and don't need attention and are ready to be filed.

The categories for this folder are:

  • Banking/Financial- We now have 4 checking accounts (don't ask...it's crazy and works for us), a business loan, house loan, retirement accounts, and investment accounts. They all go in here to be separated later.
  • Credit Cards- All credit card statements go here after they've been paid.
  • Household-This is where all utility bills, household expenses and receipts, and basically anything to do with running the house gets filed.
  • Taxes- This is where I file any donations, expenses, or statements, etc. that can be used for tax purposes.
  • Personal/Medical- This is where I file any cards, notes, correspondence, etc. It could also be things like gym and pool memberships. Any health or dental insurance statements go in here.
  • Miscellaneous-This is where I file things I don't know where in the heck they belong at the time like product manuals or a recipe I'm saving.

You may be asking, "Why are you filing stuff in here before you file it 'for real'?" The main reason is sheer volume. We have A LOT of stuff that comes through here. It is so much easier for me to quickly sort, then when I have time...work on one section at a time. I try to clean out my 'To File' folder once a week or every other week.

This is just a system that I've made up over the years. I know that it may seem complicated, but it's really quite easy and allows me to work on the "paper vomit" a little at a time. Best of all, it's portable and doesn't require baskets, file folders (initially), or a briefcase.

What works for you? Do you have any tips?


  1. whoa! I need to adopt that system!! You dont even want to see the paper jungle I am livin in these days....Thanks so much! = )

  2. How great! I actually have a file thingy similar but I just put every paid bill receipt in there and I label it 2008 and everything from 2008 that has been paid goes in there. By the end of the year, instead of getting out zillions of files, I just pull it out and have everything right there if I need it...I started the "not filing thing" in 2007, so I have a 2007 file, 2008, and 2009...works good. I may have to try your other organizational idea and go a step furthur with it, great great idea!!! I am a stacker to and the stacks drive me bananas!!

  3. I LOVE this system. I am a 'stacker' also (I'm seriously beginning to think we're related).

    I get the mail, open it up, and stack it in a place on my desk so I won't forget it. THEN it all just gets piled up, etc .... I may have to look for your file folder system. It would work for me!!

    GREAT POST, girl!

  4. I have a very similar system to deal with the paper at our house. I also have a "school paper drawer." I put two weeks' worth of school papers in there before I toss them because sometimes my son will want to see the picture he brought home the day before, or that numbers worksheet he did the day before that. But then I toss it all after about 2 weeks (and then hope he does not ask for something after that amount of time has passed).

  5. This might be the most wonderful thing I have ever seen. I want one and I don't even have that much stuff to file.

  6. what a great idea. i just ordered one. i love being organized and this is another great way. thanks!