Getting your life organized is one thing. Keeping it that way is another! Here are my top 5 favorite products for helping you stay in control of your paper, time and space.
Here’s how FreedomFiler describes its mission: “The FreedomFiler company was born in October 2001 when the company's founder, Seth Odam, discovered that the need to continually maintain a household filing cabinet was a myth. From this day, the FreedomFiler company was established with the belief that no one should ever have to clean out a household filing cabinet ever again. The company's product design and philosophy are driven by a heartfelt desire to bring this revolutionary new filing process to anyone who wants freedom from paper pain, or anyone who wants to have a better way to tame paper chaos.”
If you struggle with paper, as 75% of the people who contact Clear & SIMPLE do, FreedomFiler has the potential of transforming that relationship. I’m going to briefly describe how FreedomFiler works, but please visit the web site for more extensive information and ordering instructions. freedomfiler.com
FreedomFiler is a self-purging filing system. That doesn’t mean that the file folders automatically eject paper that has been sitting for too long. (Darn.) The system is self-purging because the color-coded labels (there are over 400 pre-printed labels as well as blank, customizable labels) indicate the length of time a document should be kept. For instance, items you keep permanently are coded with red labels. These types of items are things like investment, home improvement, and warranty documents—documents you want to keep either for as long as you live or as long as you own the asset. Orange labels indicate documents that can be removed and replaced. These kinds of documents are things like insurance statements and credit card policies. Orange indicates that each time you receive a new statement or policy information, the old documents can be removed and discarded.
Two of my favorite sections because they so beautifully simplify my life are the monthly and tax file sections. FreedomFiler dedicates two sets of green tabs to monthly files, one set for even years and one set for odd years. FreedomFiler functions on the basis of batch filing. When you batch file, rather than creating separate files for each statement you receive monthly (e.g. mortgage statements, bank statements, utility bills, etc.), you file all these items together in the appropriate month. Not only do you file monthly statements together, you can also file receipts in these monthly files unless they impact your taxes. (More about this later.)
If you aren’t sure about batch filing, think about the last time you had to access any type of monthly statement. Maybe you wanted to track your electricity usage from last January to this. If you batch file, you don’t have to sort through twelve months of statements. You can go directly to the file for January of last year and pull the statement. Batch filing contributes to the self-purging aspect of FreedomFiler because the record retention guidelines for this type of paper indicate that it be kept for one to two years. When you rotate your file folders from odd to even years, you simply dump or shred the contents of the folders and place the new items inside. How easy is that?! You can also use the folders for both business and personal items by using a separate file folder within your hanging file folders for either personal or business. There’s no need to duplicate your filing system.
Here is the beauty of the blue tax section: any time you receive a statement or receipt that impacts your taxes, place that item in your tax folder. That’s it! Can you imagine how easy it would be to file your taxes if you could access all the documents you needed because they’re were already in one place? Or how much easier would it be to just hand your accountant a file folder with all the necessary documents because you’d been collecting them all year? FreedomFiler makes it that easy! After you file your taxes, you place your completed return in the same folder, and you have your return filed for future reference. There are ten tax year file folders, so you can retain your taxes for ten years (seven to eight years in the general rule).
If you are intrigued by the idea that reference filing can be effective and easy, I again encourage you to visit the FreedomFiler website for information regarding the system construction needs, space requirements, etc. The system is easy enough to construct on your own, but if you want someone to construct it for you and train you in the use of the system, you can click the “Help Desk” link and then click “Find an Organizer” to contact a FreedomFiler certified professional organizer in your area.
Time: Planner Pad
Planner Pad is absolutely one of the smartest time management tools ever created. To quote the Planner Pad web site, “Planner Pad organizer's unique format lets you organize all your business and personal activities in one place and by category. It helps balance everything you do—in your career, home and personal life.
“Unlike ordinary day planners, the Planner Pad organizer devotes a two-page spread for each week. You can see an entire weeks' worth of planning with one look.”
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I use Planner Pad personally and love it for all the reasons listed above. Unlike most appointment-based planners, Planner Pad functions on the basis of roles, goals and tasks and keeps everything in an accessible, horizontal format divided into three sections. The top “project warehouse” section, is a place for you to note your business and personal activities by category. Something I love about this top section, besides its ease of use, is that if your “business” section consistently overflows into two sections, but your “self-care” section contains one item per week, you can visualize your current life balance and make adjustments if necessary. The middle section helps you prioritize your tasks according to the day of the week and gives you your daily action plan. Finally, the bottom section holds your fixed appointments and time slots for you to schedule your daily actions. For more information about Planner Pad, visit the web site at plannerpads.com/concept.asp.
Space: 15-Quart Sterilite Containers, White Plastic Utility Baskets and a Labeler
15-Quart Sterilite Containers
15-quart Sterilite containers are quite possibly the most-used container among professional organizers. These containers are versatile, affordable, readily-available and clear: all winning components of effective containers! While there are many clear plastic containers, I find that the 15-quart size is the most versatile for items such as children’s toys and treasures, home repair items, memorabilia, and in areas ranging from the kitchen pantry to the garage. This particular container is available at all big-box retailers (Target, Wal-Mart and Shopko), comes in various shapes and has different lid options ranging from snap-ons to latches.
White Plastic Utility Baskets
The beauty of this container is its simplicity. This is a no-frills container that, like the 15-quart Sterilite container, is unbelievably versatile, inexpensive (97 cents for a set of three!) and effective. These baskets are available at Wal-Mart in three sizes that seem to conveniently fit every drawer ever constructed, rest beautifully inside 15-quart Sterilites and plastic shoeboxes, and hold everything from office supplies to personal hygiene and pantry items. These little beauties are the ultimate solution to internal containing, which is one of the most effective ways to eliminate spatial chaos. We all know what happens when we have piles in drawers and someone slams the drawer closed: instant mess! When all items are divided within drawers and containers, not only are items easier to find, but our systems and spaces are easier to maintain.
While I’ve given you some of my favorite containers, I realize that without the help of my Brother P-Touch 1950 (available at Costco.com) all the containing in the world would do my clients precious little good. The labeler in and of itself isn’t the magic: it’s the labels! One of the most vital components to maintaining paper, time and space is labeling, so label everything! Labeling helps ensure that everyone knows where things go, so you can maintain your space and systems. Imagine what would happen if you had a file drawer where nothing was labeled. Could you find anything or put it away without great difficulty? The same applies to space. Using labels will make systems and space maintenance unbelievably easier!
I know that some people resist labeling because traditional labels from a labeler, while functional, are not gorgeous. There are other labeling options ranging from customized vinyl labels like those available at studiojk.etsy.com to bookplates to metal-rimmed tags that make labeling stylish!
All the best in maintaining your organized space!