One of my all time favorite organizing tools is my home management binder. I fondly refer to our household binder as my “command central binder” as it really is an integral part of keeping our home running smoothly. It also helps tame paper clutter caused by disorganized paperwork strewn on counter tops and plastered to the refrigerator.
Do you use a home management binder? If you’ve never heard of one, or you’ve been thinking about setting one up for a while (but haven’t quite gotten around to it yet) be sure to check out my free online class that walks you through how to set up a home management binder, step-by-step. Then, whether you’re new to the whole home management binder idea or you’re a seasoned veteran, here are some tips for making the most out of this terrific paper organizing system.
Start with what you know for sure.
If your home management binder is a well-intentioned item on your to-do list, give yourself permission to bite size this project by starting with what you know for sure. For example, do you need a spot to store sports schedules or the calendar from your yoga studio? What papers get left on the counter because you need to refer to them again and don’t want to file them too far away (or too far out of sight?) Start with the papers that are causing you trouble and those you know need a new and better home. Then…
Let your home management binder evolve over time.
It can be intimidating when we see someone else’s perfectly constructed (and beautiful!) home management binder on a blog post or on Pinterest. We can begin to feel as if we need to get from here (piles of paper on several flat surfaces) to there (perfect home management binder) in one single step. Let go of that pressure and stress, and instead, let your binder grow and change over time. You’ll relieve a lot of pressure and you’ll end up with something much better for you than if you tried to figure it all out ahead of time.
Use sticky notes to experiment with categories.
Often figuring out the best categories for your home management binder can be a point where people get stuck. But this is a minor problem, easily solved by our friend the sticky note. Simply select categories that make sense to you, and then, use sticky notes to create dividers in your binder. Next, live with the system for a while. Once you’ve used it for a few weeks, assess how things are going. The reason for categorizing things is to make them easier to find. Are your categories allowing you to know where important papers are located? If so, make some permanent category labels using binder tabs and a label maker. By the way, this works for completely new home management binders as well as for when you’ve been using one for a while and want to change or add categories.
Edit as you go.
When you add something new to your binder, do a quick scan for any old items that are no longer current or relevant. Editing as you go will keep your binder a current, up-to-date and useful tool.
Schedule seasonal clean outs.
There are a few times of the year when it makes sense to do a more thorough clean out of your binder. Here are some ideas. By the way, you’ll probably find you don’t need to do all of these, especially if you edit as you go.
- The start of summer. Clean out papers from the old school year and create space for the one coming up. Also, clear out any paperwork related to winter activities, creating open spaces for the pool schedule and other summer papers.
- Back-to-school. If the start of summer had you thinking about things other than last year’s school papers, take some time at the end of summer to clear out your binder. You’ll thank me when those new school papers start to filter in and you have a place to put them!
- Before the holidays. If you use your home management binder to plan and organize the holidays, do a quick clean out in mid-October to create space for new lists and ideas for the upcoming season.
- January. It’s the new year so why not give your binder a fresh start, too? Add new monthly calendars and do a sanity check on your monthly organizing checklists.
- Spring. Make a binder clean-out part of your annual spring cleaning process.
Add some home management binder printables.
These checklists and planning forms will help you simplify all sorts of home management tasks like organizing, meal planning and cleaning. Check out simplify 101’s home management binder printables.
Don’t try to include everything in this one system.
While a home reference binder is a really useful system, don’t try to make it be your only paper organizing system. Your binder shouldn’t be a replacement for an archive system (something I discuss in my Organize Your Paper Clutter online class.) Instead, use your binder for papers that you refer to frequently and / or items you want to be accessible in an emergency. Remember, if you’re just getting started our free class will simplify the process of setting up your own home management binder by giving you step-by-step instructions and a supply list. Snag your spot in this free class now.
If you use a home management binder, what tips do you have to share? What works for you? (Is your binder a total life saver like mine is for me?) Thanks for sharing your ideas in the comments!