Today in the quest to organize paper clutter we are going to talk about setting up a “command center”. You can call it whatever you want, but basically it is a place to deal with papers that are coming in on a regular basis. This will help eliminate all those piles of papers around your home.
First you want to determine where is the best place to put your command center. It can be located on the counter in a small file box or sorter. You can also hang a file sorter on the wall to make use of your vertical space. Choose a central location that is easy to access for everyone that will be using it. Also, it helps to put it near where your paper piles are already piling up since it will remind you to file instead of pile!
First off, let me tell you what a command center is NOT: It is not a place to permantly file paperwork. Your command center is a place to store paperwork coming in that is temporary and urgent for the present time.
Our command center is a mixture of spaces all closely tied together. It includes my pull out desk that has a wall file sorter, a bulletin board, and a shelf on our bookshelves that is directly to the right of my desk.
It often helps to include some type of bulletin board or pin board in your command center. This way you can pin up important papers that need to be dealt with or remembered in the coming weeks. Often if we file something away, we will forget about it.
I also include a family monthly calendar that has all our upcoming events on it. This helps everyone to stay on the same page with what we have going on.
My file folders in my command center desk include:
Any time I open the mail and have bills that need to be paid, they go directly in to my bill paying file. I remove any extraneous envelopes and inserts and simply keep what I need to pay my bill. My husband gets paid bi-monthly, so on his pay days, I grab my folder, computer and checkbook and get all the bills paid that are in the folder.
My to-do file has anything that needs to be dealt with within the next week to month that I don’t have time for right now. Usually if something will take me less than 5 minutes to do, I try to finish it right away when it comes in. However, certain things need some follow-up that I don’t always have time for. Choose one day a week to go through your to-do folder and follow-up on all items.
My pending file holds papers that I am waiting on a response for. An example would be a mail-in-rebate I am waiting to receive back in the mail. I have already dealt with mailing in the rebate, but I haven’t yet received my money back. It is not something that needs to be worked on, but if I need to follow-up I can easily find the papers. Also go through this file once a week to be sure you are staying on top of things.
The last file is a to be filed folder. This is for more permanent paperwork that needs to be filed away. I go through this folder at least once a month, but preferably twice a month, and file everything in its appropriate place.
You cannot see it in the desk, but I also include a folder for holding onto 2015 receipts that are needed for personal taxes. At the end of the year I can easily locate all my receipts that I need for my accountant.
On my bookshelf, I have a small filing box that is used for files I refer to on a more regular basis. We have binders where we file our credit card statements and paper bill copies. I have my recipe binder, home management binders, and my blog planner on this shelf as well.
I have three baskets near my front entryway for coupons, mail and my incoming schoolwork.
Anytime my husband or I get the mail that we don’t plan to sort immediately, it goes right in the basket. About twice a week I go through the basket and recycle, shred and file all of the paperwork into my command center.
School papers my son and daughter bring home (that do not need to go back to school) go into the basket on the right. I go through them once a month to determine what we will keep and what will get tossed. Having a months time and seeing how much accumulates in that time frame allows me to be a little more ruthless in tossing papers. (I am very sentimental, and it can be hard for me to throw things out.)
Soon I will be sharing more detailed posts about how I have reorganized my home management binder into two binders, how I created a recipe binder and more about how I organize the kids school papers.