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My File Folder System

Such as it is. :)

Although I've used this file system for the past four or five years, it's still very much a Files_6_2 work in progress. I'm forever tweaking it, trying to make it simpler to manage. Basically, this system is my attempt to gain some control over our home, our learning, our life - and most importantly, that ever elusive paper tiger.

Now brace yourselves, I'm about to delve into some serious nitty gritty file folder talk - probably far more than you need or even want to know about my organizing methods, LOL! But please bear with me; wordy though I tend to be, I will try to be as concise as possible. :)

In spite of my first disclaimer, I do think this system has potential and it's that potential that keeps me coming back to it every September, hoping that this year I'll tweak it just right. I will say I believe most of the fault lies with - well, me - but in particular my serious lack of proper time management. Any organizing system needs attention and regular maintenance or else there will be no miracles wrought. A system is just an idea and a hope until you put it into consistent action. And that I believe is where I've fallen short in the past. THIS year I am planning out regularly scheduled times for working the system so that, hopefully, the system will end up working for me. :)

OK so I'm getting wordy again. Enough of the disclaimers, here's what I do.

Supplies:

  • file crate
  • hanging folders (7)
  • file folders (52)
  • month-at-a-glance calendar
  • daily journal
  • in-box
  • master to do list

Set up:

I use a simple plastic crate as my base and inside it I place seven hanging folders, labeled:

  • Autumn 2006: September - October
  • Holidays 2006: November - December
  • Winter 2007: January - February
  • Early spring 2007: March - April
  • Late spring 2007: May - June
  • Summer 2007: July - August
  • 2006-2007 General Information

Inside the 2006-2007 General Information folder I store our official school reporting correspondence - the end of year report/educational plan package, approval letter, HSLDA membership letter and brochure and support group membership letters. I place this folder at the back of the crate as I don't often need access to it. Up front is the current season, followed by the rest of the seasons. Sticking up in the back is a liturgical calendar for easy reference.

Each one of the seasonal folders holds two months worth of materials - and by materials I mean paper, for the most part: print outs, e-mails, brochures, bulletins, appointment cards, clipped articles, photocopies, invitations etc. I am a famous one for throwing stuff into the in-box to look at later - things that are, needless to say, never seen again - or at least not until well after their timeliness has expired. Although I do use my in-box I am way too apt to disregard that ever growing pile of stuff, so the files give me a quick place to put something and then it will be available when the time comes.

For example, today we had Earlybird's speech evaluation. Way back when I scheduled the appointment I was asked to bring in copies of any previous evaluations and progress reports. I had written this request into my daily journal; when I looked back over my journal that weekend, I remembered to make the photocopies which I then filed in this week's file folder. The end result - today, when I got ready to leave, I had those copies at my fingertips.

This is what's in the Autumn folder now:

A file folder for each week in the two-month period, from 9/4-9/10 through 10/24-10/30 (8 in all). It is more convenient for me to run my weeks from Monday through Sunday, so that is how I date them.

Also within the Autumn folder are materials that are timely to the current season, but not necessarily to any specific week like:

Another example ~ I printed out my homeschool support group's September newsletter. That goes inside the Autumn folder, but not in any one week's folder. I also printed out an e-mail regarding the group's annual planning meeting to be held on September 30. This went into the folder labeled September 25 - October 1.

Another example, today in the mail I received a condolence letter from my vet for the passing of our beloved cat, Patty, last week. I will eventually do something more meaningful with that, but after sharing it with my family and perhaps displaying it for a few days on the shelf, I will store it in the Autumn folder. I also recieved an invitation to a baby shower for September 24th, so it went right into the folder for the week of September 18 - September 24. (But first, the baby registry information card went into my clear plastic shopping pouch.)

I'm getting carried away with examples, but here's a couple more. :)

Recently I decided I'd like to do a Christmastime unit on the animals of the nativity. I found some information online, printed it out, and placed it inside the Holidays folder. I don't know which week we''ll work on it, but I know it will be sometime in November or December; when I go to do my month-ahead planning (mid October) I will see that information, remember my intent and plan which weeks to begin.

This is also a handy system for organizing library sheets. Our library system has a wonderful online catalog. If I find a book I'd like to take out (or request as the case may be) I print out the info. sheet for reference. Inside this current week's folder I have the library sheet for Demi's Mother Teresa, whose feast day was yesterday and whose story is part of our Catholic Mosaic study. Because my local library had a copy on shelf, I placed the sheet in this week's folder. If it had needed to be requested (brought in from another town's library), I would have placed it in the previous week's folder so there would have been enough transit time.

OK, do I still have you with me? :) (I could go on and on about this - oh wait, that's what I'm doing, LOL!) Anyhoo - inside each week's folder I put any materials I will need, including photocopes, reminders, emails, printouts etc. By the end of the week, the folder also holds work samples and mementos from the week, including a week's end report.

So far this week's folder has in it:

  • Bookworm's oral surgeon appointment card
  • the reports and information for EB's evaluation
  • my grandmother's recipe for picalilli (it's family tradition to make it on Labor Day)
  • Steve Irwin's obituary from the Globe
  • this week's menu plan and marketing list
  • coloring book pages of this week's birds (American Crow + Eastern Screech Owl)
  • information on, and activities for, the Nativity of Mary
  • this Sunday's Magnifikid

Now here's how it works, and this is the tricky part (for me) - making and taking the time to work at maintaining the system ...

This Friday I will pull out next week's folder along Files_2with a few other resources.

  • month at-a-glance calendar
  • master to do list
  • grocery flyers (they arrive in Friday's paper)
  • menu plan for next week
  • Saturday's marketing list

Over the weekend, I'll look through the in-box and file what needs to be filed. I will look back through the past week's folder as well as my journal (where I keep my day-by-day notes and clippings). I'll file any work samples or items from the bulletin board and then write up a few comments about the week that was. Then, I'll place a rubber band around the completed folder and slip it into the back of the Autumn folder. When the next season comes around, I move Autumn to the back of the crate.

Friday through Sunday, I work on next week's to do list and add that to the new folder. (I like to staple it to the inside cover of the folder otherwise it gets lost in the shuffle of papers.)

So here is a brief re-cap:

  1. plastic crate + 7 hanging folders + 52 weekly file foldersFiles_5_1
  2. label each hanging folder with a season; assign each file folder with a week. File away.
  3. As materials generate or arrive, they are filed in their proper folder.
  4. At week's end, the current week is organized, noted and stored.
  5. Over the weekend, the next week's folder is brought out and looked over, organized, made ready.
  6. Over the weekend, check: next week's folder, the in-box, daily journal, calendar, master to do list. Make up week's end report and next week's plan.
  7. Keep the current week's folder out and available throughout the week (usually at my desk alongside my calendar and journal).

So that's the general plan, such as it is. I'm afraid I probably made it sound a lot more complicated than it is. Really for me it's just making the time to attend to it. I know in the long run these folders end up saving me time ...

Like I said, I'm still working out the kinks, but every year seems to work a little better than the last. At some point I'll get it right! :)

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