Frugal Friday--Conquering the Paper Mountain, 1 Binder at a time

10:50 PMHeather

With school starting on Monday, I am starting to twitch about those Monday folders--and all those papers.  The endless papers.  More papers--on top of the junk mail, bills, and other random and endless mountain of papers.  And, while at first glance a blog post about managing that mountain may not seem to be about saving money, but think again.  Of course, our time is money--and if you are like me, you know that losing a bill or a notice from the school about monies due can cost you dearly.  So, read on, and I will share the system that works for me.

This is the corner of my kitchen desk.  I used to have a different basket, but once I moved to a multiple binder system, I decided to organize my binders vertically--with the spines showing--and that would make me happy.  Of course, it'd make my perfectionistic and slightly obsessive self happier if the font on all 4 binders were the same.  Curse that recent coupon binder....

So, here's how things work.  My school binder has a section for each child.  For me, the key to a fabulous binder and successful binder system is the sturdy plastic pocket dividers.  Exhibit A, see below.
Those sturdy pockets go a long way to storing the kids' schedules and such.  Oh, and you gotta have a great 3 hole punch handy.  So, when my kids' papers come home, if they are things that we need to just keep up with and not necessarily fill out and send back, they go in the school binder, in that child's section.

If the children's papers are things I need to read and sign and return, I use a trick I learned at a MOPS meeting.  I write the due date in the top right corner in red ink.  Those things go in the task binder.  My task binder is where I go to check on urgent things, not-so-urgent things, and things that I just need to read.  Of course, each of these sections have the plastic pocket dividers to keep up with all the appropriate papers.

If the children's papers are things we need to post for THEIR benefit (such as directions to a school project), it can go in the school binder OR on their bulletin board in the laundry room.
This is also where all invitations are placed--a board for each child, and a board for us.  

The 3rd binder is my coupon binder, and I will dive into that more in depth on the next Frugal Friday.  I have recently moved my coupons from an accordian file to a binder, and it is so working for me!  As well as my new Grocery list app on my iPhone.  So, be looking for that post next Friday.

As for the 4th of my binder system, it is the family binder.  I first got this idea years ago from my friend Amy, and it is where this binder thing began.  The family binder includes a section where ALL bills are placed in the plastic pocket divider.  Being who I am, I have created a spreadsheet that lists all our regular monthly bills and their due dates, which goes behind the bill divider.  I use this to check off the bills when I pay them to be sure I don't forget any.  The other sections in the family binder are for flex plan receipts and a section for papers my husband needs to read.  I also have those little plastic business card sleeves to keep up with the business cards of our doctors, repairmen, etc.  
Here's the thing.  I can easily grab my task binder or my family binder on my way to an appointment or to sit and wait for the kids somewhere.  While I am just sitting, I can pay bills on my phone or accomplish my tasks. 

So, there you have it.  My approach to tackle the mountain of paperwork.  To lay it out again, it goes like this:

1.  School papers to keep go in the SCHOOL BINDER.
     --section for each child

2.  School papers to read, or fill out and return have the due date written in the top right corner and go in the TASK BINDER.  Mail that we receive that requires me to do something with it goes in this binder also.  
    --sections for urgent, not so urgent, read, and keep
3.  School papers that my children need to reference (as well as invitations) go on the appropriate person's bulletin board.

4.  Bills, flex plan receipts, and papers for my husband to read go in the FAMILY BINDER, in the appropriate section.

When I get the mail or school papers, I try to sort them immediately into the appropriate location.  Obviously, junk mail and other papers to trash go right into the recycling bin.  This pretty well keeps me on top of it all.  On a really busy day, I might stack papers and mail, but then it doesn't take long on the next day to climb Mount Paper.

INTENTIONAL challenge:  This is the system that works for me.  You may need to tweak it for yourself--maybe your favorite gadget ISN'T a label maker?  But, hopefully, I've offered some tidbit you'll find useful.  May your paper mountain be ever small...and by all means, understand if I can't answer the phone on Monday afternoons.  I'll be conquering those Monday folders.

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