Getting Organized at Home
Posted on September 1, 2021 by CHS
Keeping schedules, school documents, health information, and household accounts organized can reduce stress for the entire family and help you meet obligations in a timely manner. There are many different ways to organize important information. The following are ideas that can help you get organized at home. You can use these ideas to create your own unique system for getting organized at home.
Create a Home Command Center
A command center is a space you set aside in your home to organize the family schedules and items that need attention. Make sure everyone in the household understands the purpose of the command center and encourage everyone to use it for keeping track of things that need to get done. The command center can be as simple as securing items to the front of the refrigerator with magnets, or as elaborate as a small office or entry area.
Use a bulletin board, magnet board, white board, or a combination of these to post school announcements, party invitations, event tickets, or “to-do” reminders. Hang a calendar that includes all family appointments, using a specific ink color for each family member. Include a general daily schedule for young children, a chart of assigned chores, a basket for mail that needs immediate attention, and a separate basket of “things to file” with your records.
Place the command center in a frequently used area such as the kitchen, near the door, or under a clock so that it is easy to check each morning and evening. Place a recycle container near the command center to quickly dispose of junk mail. Baskets, bulletin boards, magnetic white boards, and other supplies can usually be found at office supply or craft stores. Check store websites or newspapers in advance for coupons or sale dates to save money. Discover ideas for creating a command center from The Turquoise Home.
Include a space for backpacks, briefcases, or purses and unpack lunches and homework upon arrival. Before going to bed, pack everything needed for the next day, such as completed homework or signed forms. Pack lunches ahead of time and place them in the refrigerator. Include your children in preparing for the next day to support them in learning to be responsible and organized. Ask them to choose the clothes they plan to wear the next day, and leave the tops of the backpacks unzipped. Instruct children to place their lunch inside in the morning. Let them know that if the backpack is unzipped, it means they need to put in their lunch. This will help everyone start the day feeling organized and prepared.
Set aside one day each week, or at least twice a month, to sort through the basket of “things to file” such as paid bills, letters from a child’s teacher, children’s art work, etc. Organize the items into categories, and use one of the techniques below to store them. Mark the day on the calendar and stick to it! It can feel overwhelming to see papers grow into stacks of work. Filing paperwork each week will keep things organized and ensure that the only items in the command center are those that require attention.
Filing Household Records
Documents can be stored in a file cabinet, plastic file tote, expandable file, fire box, three-ring binder, or scanned onto a computer or cloud-based storage. Keep in mind that even if you prefer to store items on a computer you will still need a place to keep original documents for items such as passports, birth certificates, property titles, etc. Make sure that your spouse or another family member is aware of your storage system in case of an emergency.
Hanging files or file folders can be used to organize documents stored in a file cabinet or plastic file tote. This makes it easy to quickly access any document you may need. Use hanging files to indicate the type of document inside, and place file folders inside the hanging files to separate items. You can also separate items by placing colored sheets of paper in between them. For example, one hanging file folder could be labeled as “Health Records,” and then each family member would have a file folder inside with their birth certificate, immunization card, and other health records.
A fire box offers added security for original documents that can be difficult to replace such as birth certificates, social security cards, passports, and deeds or land titles. Fire boxes lock with a key and are designed to withstand fire and water. They are available in various sizes at most stores that carry office supplies or home goods. Items stored in fire boxes or drawers can be placed in envelopes to protect and organize them.
Expandable files or three-ring binders can be easily stored on a shelf or in a drawer. A hole punch and binder dividers can help organize papers and plastic document sheets can be used for items that need to stay intact. These two methods are ideal for people who do not have a large amount of records, or for records that need to be transported frequently. For example, families of children with special needs may have frequent meetings with school and support staff and it is helpful to bring schoolwork, developmental assessments, and other documentation to those meetings.
There are many software programs that can be used to organize records into computer files. You can also use programs such as Microsoft Office or Google to create your own documents for tracking and organizing your records. Make sure that files stored on the computer are protected with a strong password that contains a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols.
Some records can be disposed of after a certain amount of time has passed, but other records such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, wills, adoption papers, retirement pension papers, deeds, and land titles need to be kept permanently. Suze Orman, an expert on personal finance, offers guidance for how long records need to be kept on her website. When it comes time to dispose of personal records, be sure to protect your personal identity by shredding documents, or cutting them up into pieces with scissors.
Mark due dates for recurring payments on the calendar, and choose a time twice a month to take care of paying bills, filing records, and reviewing past records for any that can be shredded. Below are additional resources for getting organized at home.
References and Additional Resources:
- Backpack Checklist by Understood
- Disposing of Records Containing Personal Information by Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
- Fiscal Femme Blog with tips for how to budget, save, invest, and other finance information
- Five Tips on Organizing Your Child’s Records in a Three-Ring Binder by Understood
- Household Record Keeping Tips by Texas A&M Agrilife Extension
- How to Set Up a Home Filing System by the Spruce
- Organize Your Important Household Records by Personal Finance
- Organizing School Records video by Military OneSource
- Personal Information Organizer (Printable Document) by Cigna
- Record Keeping (documents and length of time) by Suze Orman
- Reviews of Record-Keeping Software by Software Advice
- Seven Color-Coding Tips to Get Your Child Organized by Understood
- Ten Handy Ways to Organize Your Personal Papers by A Cultivated Nest
- The Best System for Organizing and Storing School Papers by VeryWell Family
- Top 10 Family Command Centers to Get Organized by The Turquoise Home