If you haven’t watched our latest organizing video about handling mail, I must recommend you do it. We show you how to set up a Command Center for all of your mail. But what about all of the other papers you have floating around your house? How you decide what to do with those? Who makes the decisions – you, your spouse, or your kids? What if you throw away something vital?
I want to show you how a Command Center can be used for those papers as well. In fact, it can be used for all of the active papers in your house that can’t be filed away just yet. Get ready for a life changer here…
The Basic Parts:
Essentially you are creating a file box with hanging folders and manila folders. A wall calendar/white board/cork board can be hung above it, too if you want to create a true space for the whole family to access. Your box can be mobile (lidded or with handles) or always stay in your house/business, but make sure it has a home that everyone who touches it knows about. Otherwise papers will not make their way there and then, what’s the point of it all?
Yes, your Command Center holds mail, just like we said in the video. But you can use it for so much more. The papers you store here are here because they are temporary. They will move on to be permanently filed, shredded, or given to someone else once their task is completed. You can create a folder for each one of these categories, with sub categories if you like:
Papers that need to be filed (archived papers)
Party/wedding invitations (because you need the directions, need to still RSVP, etc)
Project Ideas/Home Renovations
Tax Paperwork for the current year
To Dos – uncompleted lists, receipts for items to be returned, etc.
Now here is where things get fun. You get to decide upon the best system for you to keep track of the papers that are date specific. These are papers that you don’t want to file away in a filing cabinet because you haven’t taken action on them yet. They can be your paid bills (or bills you need to pay), or upcoming events (the party invitations), or a medical EOB you are waiting to match to a medical bill, or a school permission slip that needs to be signed.
These are all of those papers that end up on the fridge, on your desk, or on your dining room table...
These are all of the delayed decisions in your life...
These are all of the things that you really need to just deal with and they would be done quite quickly, but instead you misplace, then put off, and they drag out for days or even weeks...
This is the mess!!!
Think about what has/has not worked for you in the past and try to figure out why. Are you great with making decisions at work, but not at home - WHY? Do deadlines help you get motivated? Do you need help from other family members or are there too many cooks in the kitchen? Can you simply not find the papers you need because they are scattered to the four winds? The options I’m about to present work differently for everyone and only you will know what’s best for you. Pick one and try it out!
Monthly Folders – Set up 12 labeled folders – 1 for each month in the year
Put all of the important papers you need to access this month in the current monthly folder. Train your family members to do this also. Everything will be in one place and you’ll always know where to go. When the action needed to be taken with the paper is done, take the next appropriate step – put it in “To Be Filed,” shred it, put it in your kid’s backpack, whatever needs to be done.
Papers can stay in this folder (like paid bills) if that is your system – see our video for more details - or you can empty the folder as the month is done. We like this system because you can normally remember what month you did something, and it’s easy to find that paper in here. If you have multiple places for things, multiple folders, multiple systems, and they are all set up by multiple people… it gets too confusing. Date specific works.
Another bonus of this system is that you eliminate most of your filing into your filing cabinet. There's no need to file away the water bill/electric bill/phone bill/EOBs/etc. - just keep them in your monthly folders on your desk. At the end of the year, see what you truly need to file and recycle/shred the rest all in one swoop. There's no going through drawers of files, finding bills from the 90s for you!
Tickler File – Set up 31 labeled folders – 1 for each day of the month
Put all of the important papers you need to access each day in the appropriate daily folder. When the month ends, if any papers remain, you must decide why and where they need to go, which is possibly rolled into the next month if the task is not yet complete.
This system works only if you check it each day. If you are a "file it, forget it" kind of person, this will not work for you. If you try this system and keep rolling the papers into the next month, never to take action on them, then this is not the system for you either. But if you can get into the habit of checking it each morning, it might be a real time saver.
Named Folders – Set up several folders labeled with each family member’s name
Each paper for each family member will go in their folder. If you find something on the dining room table, relocate it here and the family will soon get the gist of the system – always check the Command Center. Be aware that mom’s folder might get really big or kid folders might never be checked. Schedule a monthly purge on the calendar to keep the papers in check.
Creative, Crazy Option – Think on top of the box
If you are one of those people that never look in the folders you create, then putting the most vital papers that need to be dealt with ASAP on top of your box could be an option for you. It basically means that if there is ever anything on top of your box, then there is a paper you need to take action on. If there's nothing there, then you are all caught up. This may drive the neat freaks crazy, but it works for some people. It's essentially an imaginary letter tray on top of your Command Center - precarious, but a very obvious reminder that stuff needs doing!
Binder – For the people who don't like files
Instead of a Command Box, create a Command Binder. Set up tabbed sections for all of your categories and put clear sheet protectors in each section so you can slide your papers into them. The upside is that this system is very mobile. The downside is the weight – those sheet protectors will get full fast.
Ideally, after implementing a Command Center, you should end up with a go to box that runs your life plus a much cleaner desk. You will still need a filing cabinet for those archived papers - your old taxes, medical records, mortgage paperwork, investment records, and such that you don't need to access on a regular basis, but need to hang on to. However your desk and the rest of your home (outside of your magical box) will be noticeably less paper-strewn. Plus, your mind might be in better shape, too. Putting off decisions, paying bills late, or missing the school play because you couldn’t find the monthly calendar, is just annoying. Get in the spirit of the fresh New Year, full of new possibilities, and go create your Command Center now.