My Weekend in Newport
Happy Father's Day!

Revamping the File Crate System


Well, it's the middle of June which means it's time for me to revamp my file crate for a new year - which in turn means it's time for me to write another file crate post! :)

Lol, I fear I'm saying the same thing over and over in these posts - albeit in subtly different ways - but honestly I'm hoping that each time I explain the system, I'll do so a little better than before. 

In a nutshell, my "system" is a variation on the tickler file - it addresses all areas of my life: personal, family, household and homeschooling matters. It is primarily a weekly system. And while it's not a perfect system by any stretch of the imagination, it does work pretty well for me, and has for several years.

First, a brief reminder of what makes up my file crate system:

a file crate

file folders (52+)

hanging folders (6+)

a month @ a glance calendar

8x11-inch lined notepad

a workspace/set location for these items

an everyday tote that can hold the calendar/current folder

a reasonable schedule for system maintenance

Note: I've highlighted in blue the parts of the system that need to be refreshed once a year. 

Also, the reason I say 52+ file folders and 6+ hanging folders, is I do add more sections in the back of the crate for storing other types of information: educational, menu planning, craft ideas, specific projects, etc.

Ok, first I'll give you the big picture, and then I'll get into the nitty gritty.:)

So once a year I take all 52 folders from my file crate, leaving just hanging folders behind, and set them aside. 


(More on those later.) 

I clean out the crate (inside and out with a damp cloth) and once it's dry, I insert 52 new file folders, divided into six hanging folders. 


Note: I change up the front panel of the crate to read 2009-2010. I just cut a pretty piece of scrapbook paper to fit this panel and attach it with double-sided tape.

 Also, a word on the folders themselves - I choose a new shade/theme every year. This year I went with recycled folders in earthy shades. I think they kind of match my dining room colors which is where I park my file folder crate. :)


Each folder represents one week of the year - so on the tab of the first folder I wrote: "June 1 - June 7, 2009." I also attached a piece of lined yellow paper to the folder, stapling it at the top edge of the front cover and snipping the upper right corner to fit; this will be my weekly planning sheet.


(More on these sheets later.) 


The June-July folders go in the first hanging folder and the August-September folders go in the one behind that - and so on. Once I'm done I have 6 hanging folders filled with 52 file folders, one for each week of the year. (Why six dividers? I separate the year into six seasons: high summer, early fall, late fall, deep winter, early spring, late spring.)

 And this is what I have now:


Now the file crate is ready to go. I also have my month @ a glance calendar and lined notepad.


As you can see below not only do I like to gussy up my calendar pages with seasonal stickers, but I stick the current weekly folders inside the back cover. They fit back there perfectly and tag along with me when I bring my calendar out and about.


So now that I've discussed all the "system components," I think at this point it's time to discuss how the system works in real time.

As I mentioned above, except for the yearly revamp, it is primarily a weekly system. So roundabouts the end of a week (Thursday, ideally) I start in on my planning.


I pull the folder for next week out of the file crate and bring it over to my workspace. I shuffle through the current week's folder (above, left) for materials to re-file in the next week's folder (above, right). I look over my calendar for next week's events/appointments/happenings etc. and start filling in the weekly planning sheet stapled to the front of the new folder:


This being Wednesday, I don't have much filled in yet. I have a space for a brief itinerary in the upper left hand corner, as well as dinner plans, to-do's for the week (phone calls to make, emails to send, things to remember to celebrate or notice) and random notes.

I then slip the folder inside the back cover of my calendar.

Here's a peek inside my current folders to give you an idea of what I put in there.

This week: 

a lemon cake recipe for Bookworm's birthday
 emails re our June Nature Club meeting
directions to a local Marine Science Center
flashcards to photocopy from Earlybird's speech therapist
an email re ~ lab classes next year
emails re ~ Bookworm's Teen Group
several library sheets for books to pick up
a mammogram schedule sheet from my doctor
torn catalog pages/Father's Day ideas
a recipe for rhubarb grunt
4th of July windsock craft sheet

Next week:

birthday cards for Bookworm
photocopied information on St. John's Day/Eve
a recipe for spiced St. John's wine

Over the weekend when I do further planning I move any materials that are still timely (i.e. didn't get done) into the new folder before retiring the old folder to the crate. 

I'm often asked if I keep the kids' work samples in the folders, and the answer is no, I do not. Not really. For example, back in February we attended an Owl Pellet class. The emails about the class stayed in the folder but the papers the kids did at class went in the work basket on the learning room floor. Maybe that distinction just makes sense in my own head, but I don't want these folders stuffed with every last bit of paper in the house - just those things that need action or are worth saving - either for posterity or future planning.

Now, let's go back to that big stack of last year's folders pictured at the top of this post. At the end of the year I go through them all to refresh my memory as I write up my end-of-year report. I also recycle materials for the following year. So, say I come across a wonderful recipe for a certain feast day or holiday, I'll re-file it in the appropriate folder for next year. If I come across information on a particular full moon or meteor shower or a seasonal craft idea (like sunflower head wreaths or homemade suet cakes), I re-file. I also re-file my holiday planning folders - Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

The stack of folders gets saved along with last year's calendar in a file box of work samples. So far I've kept a box for every year but I probably should start getting rid of things seeing as we are entering our 10th year of homeschooling!

Now, there is a tendency to fret that a file crate system will take things out of sight out and of mind all too easily. Believe me, I share the same concern. I'm so distracted most days it's a miracle I remember to tie my shoes, lol. 

The important thing to remember with this type of system is two-fold:
Make a PLACE for it and make TIME for it.

I keep my workspace (every mum needs a workspace!) smack dab in the center of the house - the kitchen/learning room area. It's easy enough to move the crate and pack up the materials when a holiday or company is coming. My files are literally at my elbow so it's very easy to add something or pull something out as needed. 

But even more important is remembering to USE the file system. There have been plenty of weeks when I didn't bother and let me tell you those are weeks I'd rather forget. I make a point on Thursday to start my new folder and spend time acquainting myself with the upcoming week. Between Thursday and Friday I make a list of errands to run over the weekend. On Saturday or Sunday or both (depending on when we're busy) I sit down at the table and strategize. Come Monday morning if all goes well, I have a clear idea what the new week is all about and a list of things to get done.

As I said before, this is NOT a perfect system but it does help a lot. Usually a bad week can be chalked up to user-error. ;)

You know if it helps, you could leave me a comment asking me where I'd put something in particular and I can tell you how I'd file it. I love talking "shop" so I'm happy to answer any questions. (In fact I sometimes toy with the idea of composing little file crate "kits" to sell online. Maybe someday.) In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns with the system please feel free to leave me a comment below. I will do a follow-up post and address them all. 

Thanks for stopping by today and thanks for your patience in waiting for this post. Things have been super crazy around here lately what with me going away and the "school" year coming to the close ...
Thank goodness for those file folders, I tell you! ;)