Home Binder to the Rescue

A major life change often forces reexamination of even the most tried and true organizing strategies. The irony is that during a major life change we are likely to say to ourselves, “I don’t have time to get organized” or “things are too crazy right now”, even though organization is what you may need the most.

I can vouch for this because I am in the midst of a huge life change. The influx of paper that comes with a home renovation (on top of a move) is rapidly catching up with me.

I’ve been touting around a spiral notebook for a few weeks; stuffing price lists and kitchen plans loosely inside as I dart from home improvement store to tile shop to home. But anytime I sit down to work, I become buried in piles of paper.

I was originally working at my desk, but it couldn’t even handle the mess! I relocated to the kitchen table only to find that I was soon overwhelmed there too.


I swear this pile feels more daunting than it looks in this picture (10 bonus points if you catch one of the hidden side effects of clutter). This is not the look I am going for, especially since the renovation is amping up. I’ll keep the cute kid and her drawings, but the rest has to go.

Organization grounds us. Knowing where your most important documents are at a moments notice, or having a routine you can count on is sure to offer calm and reassurance in the midst of chaos and change.

I know this, and yet still I’ve been avoiding finding a solution. It’s time to break out the trusty and true paper organizer from our school days, a binder! I’m going to create a home project binder.

Now I know this may not sound revolutionary but I know that sometimes it’s the simplest ideas that can make the most difference. And I must admit, at first I was a little hesitant to try a project binder.

I am a fan of a home management binder, but I’ve tried it before and it wasn’t a good fit for our family’s day to day operations. The binder was bulky and so I avoided carrying it around. The home management binder ended up taking up room on a shelf instead of being referred to daily. But I’m willing to give it a try again.

I found a small half inch binder in my stash of office supplies, and I knew right away it could help solve the problem I’d had before. The super thin binder is perfect for toting around from store to store, all while keeping my papers in check. Plus, I’d have an automatic home for papers to return to once I was finished referring to them at home.

Home Project



The first section is made up of notebook paper for LISTS. Lots and lots of lists. Yes, there are loads of cute printables and apps for lists but sometimes plain old notebook paper does the job.

I usually divide up one paper into 4 quadrants to be able to see everything on the same page while still having multiple lists going.

To-Do List

The first page features lists labeled as such:

  • Now
  • Soon
  • Talk with Dave (my hubby)
  • Materials to Buy

The other pages following are more for long term task lists.

Future Projects

This future project page is where I jot down all the ideas we want to do sometime in the future, but won’t be touching during phase 1 of our renovations. These ideas come sporadically and there are lots of them, so I need one trusted place to record them all.

I’m usually a huge pinterest fan (and trust me, I have loads of home reno idea boards going); but I also need a less high tech idea catch all for when I’m not in front of the computer (I have an iPod but no smart phone for this gal).

Planning the Move

Since we will be moving in a few months, my mind often starts trying to plan out the logistics for our move at the most random times. I want to capture the moving ideas without spending a lot of time thinking about them.

I quickly add whatever random idea or worry might come up to my “moving list” page. I know these notes will be there to process and organize as we actually get closer to the move date.

Price List

I have been comparison shopping for quite a while now. Tile, carpet, sinks, faucets, windows…the list goes on and on for all the materials we’ll be buying. (Did I mention the house is a wreck?) It doesn’t take long for all the numbers to blend together.

There is a great app that I’ve used for grocery store comparisons on my iPod; but for me it is easier to have a list of prices for one store followed by another stores prices right below. Low to no tech is working for me in this case.

This is about when my fabulous Post-it tabs come into action. I love how quick it is to add, move, or remove a section with these re-stickable beauties.


As you can see in this pic, the regular lined paper does need to be kept in the front of the binder or the divider tabs would be covered by the wider sheet protectors.


The 2nd half of the binder is made up of plastic sheet protectors. I’m mainly using plastic sheet protectors because I have a ton of them at home (gotta love using what you already have on hand). They are also a good choice because I love the ease and speed of adding new pages to the binder without hauling around a 3-hole punch.

I use them much like a pocket to carry multiple papers together like all the pictures of the kitchen plan, or various receipts. When I get to this section of the binder, it’s a cinch to flip right past one big group of papers instead of thumbing through each page individually.

My sheet protector sections are:

  • kitchen plans
  • bath
  • appliances
  • measurements/ layout
  • paint
  • invoices
  • receipts
  • contacts


I used one project pocket I had on hand for inspirations and ideas. Project or slash pockets are a little heftier so it makes a great holding spot for these keepers until I decide how to incorporate everything. It is mostly magazine clippings from my sister. Thanks sis!



Towards the back of the binder I have the 2nd most well used page, after my to-do list, a sheet protector for receipts. For anyone who has ever done any type of home project, you know the home improvement store soon becomes your BFF.


I need a spot to keep track of all those miscellaneous expenses, especially if we need to make a return.

In front of the receipt pocket is a simple table to track miscellaneous spending.  Nothing fancy here, just enough to get the job done.



One of the first things for me was to start a contact list of suppliers, contractors, and our new utility companies. I used a simple excel document in the beginning for the ease of addition and deletion as well as links to websites. Now that I am out and about I printed out a hard copy to have at the ready if I need to make a few calls.

The contact list and receipt pocket are purposely in the back of the binder for easy flip-to-ability.

So far the binder has been a fabulous addition to my many shopping trips and brainstorming sessions. Now it is funny for me to think about tromping around with just a flimsy spiral notebook. No wonder I couldn’t keep everything straight.

How about you? Do you swear by the organizing powers of the binder? Do you use other tools for keeping your major projects on track?

Finding your Paper Management Mojo

Today is the day! We’re in the home stretch. We have been going through each piece of paper, tackling those piles and conquering the to dos to get rid of paper clutter.

Organize your Paper Party

Today though, we conquer the real challenge, keeping our newly organized paper organized.

Are you new to our little Organizing Your Paper Party? Each week we’ve been following along with the ebook 10 Steps to Organized Paper, by Lisa Woodruff.

Here are 4 tips to maintain all that hard work you have put in these past 9 weeks and find your paper management mojo!


Schedule Maintenance

A schedule gives you the piece of mind to know you will go through each piece of paper on a regular basis. Some types of paper need more attention than others. For my own paper I use this schedule.



  • Sort mail
  • Record events and tasks on calendar
    • Trash/shred/recycle the paper or file under pending in your Action Files in case you need to reference it.

action files




  • Sort to pay and receipts files action files
  • File papers I have waiting in my to file folder (I really only do this every other month)


source Real Simple.

Since I am feeling in the printable mood, (did you grab the sample file categories printable?), here is fun little paper management schedule with room to write in.

paper management 2Click Here to Download

Here is blank version to plan out your own schedule.

Paper managementClick Here to Download


Along with scheduled time to go through files, plan to make some changes to your paper systems as you go. Paper clutter sneaks back in when you’re not looking. Pay attention to what’s working and what is not and tweak as needed.

As Lisa Woodruff explains, organization is a journey not a final destination.


Purge As You Go

When you use a file, take the extra minute to remove any paper you no longer need or belongs elsewhere. One example is when you add a new manual to your collection, remove the item it is replacing.

I love this tip from Julie Morgenstern. Every time to you access a file put a small little pencil dot right by the file name. At the end of the year, the number of dots next to file’s name indicates how often a file is use. Files with no dots can be tossed or moved into long-term storage if needed for tax purposes.

With that in mind keep extra files on hand. Create a home for that stray paper rather than adding it to a pile. Write the name on the files (messy or not) and get it into use. You can always set a time later to make “professional-looking” file tabs. The goal is to make filing as simple as possible!


Conquer Past Files

All this sound great; right? But what if you have a whole 4-drawer file cabinet full of old files. What do you do?

I can tell you what often happens…nothing. We let our old files sit and buy a new file box to house the current papers. Well not today!

Now that the current ones are in order, we can little by little conquer old files. Take on one folder a day to sort through. Just think, in just a months time you’ll be through 30 folders. 5 file folders each weekend will have the same effect. You pick!

You could find some of those important papers you’ll need to keep, but most of the papers you unearth will be out of date. You don’t need them any more and it will feel so freeing to release them from your life.

Whew! 10 weeks to Organizing our Paper.

Did you miss a week?

I would love to hear your own progress with banishing paper clutter! Please share your paper organizing with us in the comments below.

Or if you have a blog, link up any of your own paper organizing process! Grab a button to show off all your hard work too!



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3 Steps to Organized Files

We are crazy about paper and creating a place for every piece of paper in our home!

Organize your Paper Party

Each week we’re following the chapters in the ebook 10 Steps to Organized Paper, by Lisa Woodruff, for our Organizing Your Paper Party!


There are only 2 weeks left! Give yourself a little pat on the back for following along and taking control of your paper!

*Since the Organizing your Paper party has already wrapped up; you can browse any week!

We are wrapping up today with reference files. It is any paper you need to refer to, but not on a daily basis like our actions files. For most of us, we’re talking about the main file cabinet in our home.

For me, it is where I keep most of my paperwork including:


Really, any paper still left after our 8 weeks organizing paper series can find a home in reference files.

Our 1st Step-

Contain in one Place

There are many options besides a traditional filing cabinet for files. The smaller, portable options make filing easy and convenient, well almost.


1.Amazon | 2.The Container Store| 3. Amazon | 4.Target

Whether you have a file drawer, cabinet, rolling cart, bin or box, be sure to create that one permanent place to store your files.



What papers do you really need to keep? Be honest with yourself as you go through your piles of paper, (especially lifestyle files). Of course we need to keep important records but for how long?

The No-brainer Toss List

  • Records for big purchases you not longer own
  • Bank statements and utility bills over 1 year old (after everything has been reconciled and unless needed for taxes)
  • Expired insurance
  • Monthly Investment account statement when you already have quarterly or yearly statements
  • Multiple copies of an outdated resume

Ask yourself as you sort, “What is the likelihood that you will need this paper again?”



What exactly do you keep in your reference files? I made a handy, dandy little reference sheet of sample file categories.  This is by no means a be all, end all to your filing; just to spark ideas.

Printable File Categories

Open a PDF  version | Download a Word Document


Now here comes the hard work- the actual filing! But it doesn’t have to be hard. Check out my 7 tips to make filing super easy!

My #1 tip today- it doesn’t have to be pretty, for now (You can always put it on your list of things to do later). The idea that your files have to be color coordinated with label-made tabs keeps many from organizing their papers altogether.

Well I am here to tell you that is not so! Here’s the proof.



No it is not a bloggy beauty aka pinterest worthy, but it is real life complete with stuffed animals in the background. I file my paper, grab a new file when I need one, scribble on the name, close the drawer and get on with life. Give yourself permission to do the same.

How do you keep all your reference file organized and easy to access? What is on your no-brainer toss list? Have you taken the time to make eye-pleasing files? Does it motivate you to file? Share your tips in the comments below.


e sure to join us next week for tips to maintain your newly organized paper for the long haul! If you are new to our party, catch up on what we have conquered so far.

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