Unless you are born organized, getting started with organizational systems isn’t always easy. It can be fun to buy all the pretty organization supplies and set up the systems, but keeping up with the plan is where many of us fall short. I am one of those people who has always loved the idea of organizing papers with cute folders and notebooks but never really mastered the art of actually using the system for more than a few days.
Over time, I’ve learned at least one thing about myself. I have to make my organization expectations very simple and doable or I won’t succeed with it. My new rule of thumb is “you have to start somewhere!” Instead of starting out feeling overwhelmed or getting in over my head by creating elaborate systems, I prefer to start with a plan so simple I know I can keep up with it. It may not be perfect or address every possible problem, but I can always expand the options and system to be more detailed once I master the first step!
Last month I shared a simple plan highlighting 12 months of organization projects. I was so overwhelmed by the positive response from readers who were excited to use the plan that I decided we might as well go through it step by step together.
To help encourage and inspire you to organize your life this year, we’ll be focusing on this plan each month here at The Decluttered Home. I’ll be sharing a monthly article to inspire and motivate you. You can also follow along over at The Inspired Room, where I’ll share even more details of my own organizational progress around my house every month.
What I especially like about the monthly organizing plan is not only is it very simple to implement, but it is flexible. While you might choose to do different activities on different timetables based on your own needs or yearly schedules, the end result is you can feel a sense of progress or organizational momentum in 12 areas of your life and home by the end of the year.
So let’s get started with the first assignment: organizing time-sensitive papers!
There are many systems where you set up folders for every day of the year or every week, as well as alphabetized systems and folders for every possible category of paper. Those are great if you feel like you will use a detailed filing system. But if paper overwhelms you like it does me (I’d much rather get rid of excess paper), trying to over-organize it all too soon may defeat the plan before you get in the habit of using it. This filing plan helps you to focus in on what to do with the most time-sensitive papers you accumulate throughout the year and establishes a system for dealing with them.
1. Set up your monthly folder system:
You can set up a monthly folder system in a file cabinet. However, if you want a more portable system or don’t have a file cabinet, I would recommend starting out with a pretty file box. Go to your local office supply store and find a box you like. It doesn’t matter if it is cardboard or plastic or metal. Buy a set of hanging file folders. Many of them come with a set of labels and may even have the months pre-printed on them. If not, you can write them out by hand or use a label machine.
2. What to put in your folders:
You may use your folders for tax receipts, important papers you will need for future reference, or reminders you want to save for a particular month down the road. You can toss in birthday cards to mail, coupons to use, gift certificates or holiday ideas you find in a magazine, or a recipe that you want to use for an upcoming holiday.
Get in the habit this month of putting time-sensitive papers in the folders rather than in a pile on the counter.
3. Take monthly action:
At the beginning of each month, set aside a day to go through the new monthly folder and deal with all the papers you put there. This will create a new habit of dealing with important tasks on a monthly basis.
Do you need to mail a birthday card? Do you need to set up a doctor’s appointment, order car license tabs claim or pay the bills? Do you need to make a grocery list for the recipes you want to use this month? You can handle all of the paper and to-do lists at one sitting and move on! The less we have to handle paper, the better.
Now the folder is ready to be used for your upcoming monthly receipts and papers you need to save.
At the end of the month, the receipts you filed to keep for tax purposes can be left in the folder or be sealed in a manila folder labeled by month for the upcoming tax season. Anything that is no longer needed can be recycled.
4. Make it a habit!
Make it a new habit to use your monthly folder system. As your simple filling system becomes a successful routine you actually use all month long, you can add more categories of folders to your box or drawer and start to tackle more paper organization around your house.
Let me know if you set up your own monthly filing system!