The Life Organization File: A step-by step guide to Creating Your Own Home Office Filing System
If you are anything like me, you have a million “notes to self,” and every once in a while, a little piece of paper can get lost in your shuffle. (Or let’s be honest – all the time.)
I have found a very simple system that can help even the most hopelessly unorganized amaze her friends and family with clever holiday ideas and on-time birthday greetings, (as well as getting the bills paid on time.)
The Life Organization File is based on the tickler file system. Here are the items you will need (most of which you probably have on hand):
Materials Needed for Your Home Office Filing System
- 1 File Box I love this metal storage box by Household Essentials
- Labels Avery Labels 5160 (optional)
- 12 Hanging Files I used Pendeflex Recycled Hanging File Folders Letter Size
- 43 File Folders I used the Pendiflex Top Tab File Folders in Black
- Labels – Avery Labels 5160 (optional)
- Label Templates (download here and here)
- Monthly Date Sheet (download here)
- 1 pen
- Post-it notes
- Your calendar
- Your address book
- Return address labels
- A book of stamps
How to Create Your Life Organization File
On each of the tabs of the 43 folders write one of the months of the year, (January – December) and, the days of the month (1-31) (Or you can download the label templates linked above to make it extra cute using Avery Labels #5160.)
Using your home calendar, write the names and important dates of events in your family that reoccur annually on the inside of the folder. For instance, the June folder in our house looks like this:
12 – Grandma Connie’s Birthday
25 – Our Wedding Anniversary
30 – Kimberly’s Birthday
For one-time events (graduations, baptisms) or holidays where the date changes annually (Father’s Day), write the information on a post-it note and place it on the inside of the folder along with the annual events.
How to Use Your Life Organization File (LOF) Home Office Filing System
Once your file is put together, the hardest part is over. Now all you have to do is begin
For Everyday Life
One day a week, I set aside some time to file any paperwork that needs to be filed. Say that my paperwork day is Monday and the next Monday is the 14th. Any paperwork that I need to file, pay or take care of goes in the file on the 14th. When Monday the 14th comes around, everything I need to file is right there in that folder. I also use that time to deal with the rest of my paperwork.
- Make your meal plans.
- Make your grocery list.
- Make your list of errands.
- See what sales are coming up (because you put all your sales flyers in the 14th folder).
This is also the folder where I drop all the information the kids bring home from school. I would check any notices to see if I can (or must) take care of it immediately. If not, I drop it in the Monday folder.
I have a place in the kitchen where I put mail as soon as it comes in the door. But when it’s time to deal with the mail, I always do it with my recycle basket, calendar, and LOF right next to me. Dates get entered on the calendar, papers are recycled, and forms, bills and important paperwork are dropped into the LOF to be taken care of.
Coupons and Store Cash
Is there anything more frustrating carrying around Kohl’s Cash for a month, just to check the date and realized it expired yesterday? When I get a coupon or store cash that is valid at a later date, I drop it into the date it starts so I have the best chance of using it.
If I’m working on an ongoing project, when I finish up each afternoon, I will put it in the next day’s folder so it’s not cluttering up my desk and I’m sure to find it the next day.
If I need to call the doctor’s office and it’s after hours, I will just drop a note into the next business day’s file as a reminder to do that as early in the day as possible.
If you have a regular day you run errands, put a post-it note on that day and drop in any coupons you plan on using. Plus, this is a great place to store your printed-out shopping list to be able to add to it.
For Special Occasions
About the 20th of each month, I pull next month’s folder and note upcoming birthdays and special events.
If you don’t have a card or a gift already for the event, you have at least a week to get that together. If you have been dropping in cards and gift ideas as they strike you throughout the year, you should have most of the work done in advance.
With your address book and stamps handy, address cards and notes and get them in the mail. (If the birthdays are later in the month, I just stick those cards in with my bills that need to be mailed about the same time.)
Here is the really great part. You know how you see a really great recipe for Christmas cookies, and it is January 15th? Clip out that recipe and drop it in your December file. It will be waiting for you next holiday season.
Have vacation plans for Thanksgiving? Place the tickets in the November file and you will be able to find them when it’s time to go.
Find the perfect Maxine card for your sister, but her birthday is still months away? Buy it now (saving you an emergency trip to buy a card!) and file it her birthday month’s folder.
See a great article on the net on flower pot painting and want to try it out when you visit your mom in May? Just drop it in the May folder and you will remember to take it with you. (And your mom will think you’re a genius!)
Some additional tips:
Once a year I go on a greeting card-buying spree. I buy cards that are “just right” for the people in my life, and some general ones to have on hand. When I get the cards home, I address them and stamp the envelopes, but do not sign them until I am ready to mail them. I want my greetings to be fresh and interesting.
This makes a great gift for an older family member who likes to send cards. Show them your file first to see if it would be something they would use. (Some of my relatives in their 90’s have better memories than I do and have no need for a file system!)
When I look through a catalog and see a gift idea, I rip it out and put it in the appropriate file. Even if I do not end up purchasing that exact item, it is nice to have ideas.
I also have a selection of thank-you, thinking of you, get well and a few sympathy cards on hand for last-minute notes.
The files are a great place to store directions to events such as weddings, and parties. You can even keep tickets to future events in the appropriate month’s file (instead of hanging out on the fridge for four months).
How to Keep Up Your Life Organization File
The most important part of this system (besides filing all your papers) is to check that day’s folder, every single day.
One of the tricks I played on myself when I was first trying to get used to using my LOF was to get four $5 Starbucks cards and have one of my kids randomly drop those cards throughout the 1-31 files. For four days a month, I got Starbucks just by checking my folders. $20 is a small price to pay for not being late with bills, remembering birthdays and generally killing it organizationally.
Set one day a week to do all your paperwork. If it is Monday, and this week Monday falls on the 14th then all that week, just drop any paperwork into the folder marked 14th. I will stick a giant Post-it on the Monday folder, so it’s easy to drop papers into for review. Once I’m done with that Monday, I will move the Post-it to the next Monday.
By using the Life Organizational File, you’ll be amazed at the amount of paperwork lying around your house that you can now organize and store in your files.
If you struggle with paperwork, this will solve 90% of your problem. Promise.
Tell me in the comments the biggest source of paper struggle in your home. I may feature your question in an upcoming post!
She and her husband Roger are the parents of four young adults in San Jose, CA. When she’s not dating her husband or hanging out with her puggle Jake, Kathi is speaking at retreats, conferences and women’s events across the US.
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