Wordless Wednesday
File Folder Follow-Up

Fine-tuning the File Crate System

*Caution: big, rambly file crate/planner post ahead.*

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What do you do on a July afternoon when you have nowhere to be and nothing pressing to do, and it's over 90 degrees in the shade?

Well, if you're me, you turn on the AC, tell your kids to keep busy, and then start puttering around with your planning paraphernalia ...

June was a very busy month as I've mentioned. It was all good stuff we were busy with - and I'm glad we did what we did - but I'm SO glad to be in a quieter place right now. I'm not someone who craves busy-ness; I'm definitely not a go-go-go type of gal. I like lots of blank space on my calendar! Homeschooling three boys, keeping a home running, being a wife/mother/daughter/sister/friend keeps me plenty busy.

Sometimes too busy!

It's when things slow down I find myself feeling creative, domestic and energized. I guess that's why summer tends to be my high-time for planning. We've officially closed the books on our academic year, and we have some time to regroup and refocus before a new year begins in September. I'm working on year-end reports and brainstorming an ed. plan for each of my boys. I find myself very happily in "planning mode" these days and that means I'm looking at how my "system" is working overall, and I'm tweaking the various components one by one.

So ...

Several weeks ago I posted about a new "FCS" notebook I was making. (I should note, FCS = File Crate System.) It was going to serve as a companion guide to the file crate folders - containing a planning page for each week (and folder) of the year. The idea was good in theory, but tough in practice - mostly because the pages of the notebook were perforated and tended to tear as I flipped through. (It's nearly impossible to find non-perforated spiral bound notebooks anymore. This drives me nuts, lol!) More on the FCS notebook in a bit ...

So what I did first was to empty and wash out the file crate. (Last year's folders were placed in a sturdy tote bag, where they await my year-end scrutiny.) Then I neatly reinserted the hanging folders and all the weekly folders (separated by season). I also have extra-wide hanging folders for recipes, kids' health and school information, library sheets (books I want to request) and extra paper and folders.

(As you can see, the master binder fits perfectly in the file crate.)

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And here's the inside cover of the binder:

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(The apple pad is covering a tag with my personal information - address, phone, etc.)

The inside pockets to the left (not shown) hold a bright index card with all emergency contacts and info (cell #'s, medical #'s, insurance #'s, etc.) as well as a master to-do list.

Right behind the cover page is my current projects section, designated by the wide purple tab (which is nothing fancier than a post-it note) ...

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Behind the projects section are the monthly calendars and seasonal planning pages (narrow blue tabs). Next come the weekly planning sheets (behind the wide green tab).

The projects section begins with an index page - a list of projects currently in progress.

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The projects are sorted by narrow green tabs (seen above). Some projects have planning pages, but not a tab - only those projects I'm actively working on have a "quick-find" tab.

After the projects section comes my month-at-a-glance calendars:

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I currently have working calendars through December 2012.

I really love this particular brand (Day-Timer) and format (folio): the wide blocks offer lots of room, the lines keep my writing neat, and the paper itself has a nice feel under a pencil. (That sounds a little crazy I know, but my fellow office-supply geeks will understand. ;))

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And now we come to the weekly planning sheets section ...

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I had really intended to use the notebook separately from (though in correlation with) the master binder and file crate. But as I explained above, the design of the notebook drove me mad, and to be honest, and I really didn't need one more system "component" to juggle. My goal is to keep this system as streamlined as possible.

So what I did was to move the entire notebook (making use of that perforation after all) into my master binder. Fifty-two sheets, for 52 weeks.

Now ...

Dial back to the days before the proposed FCS notebook, when I kept my weekly planning section inside the binder itself (remember all that liturgically colored paper?). Yes, it's makes sense to keep it in here, but I really need to *see* my week at any given moment. Since I like to keep my binder open to the month-@-a-glance calendar, I had to flip back to the weekly planning sheet constantly to keep on track. Obviously this was not so convenient.

So what I did was I went back to an original design (from way back when I first started using - and posting about - the FCS). Instead of using the weekly planning sheet in the binder, I attach the current sheet to its corresponding file folder. One sheet at a time - as a new file folder gets pulled, so too does its sheet.

Now I have all the weekly planning sheets stored in one place - just behind the monthly calendars - and I can quickly open to a given week's sheet and jot down a reminder as needed. I also have a more productive file folder - it holds the information I need (on the inside) and it shows me the information I need (on the outside).

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Above and below is next week's file folder. I set up a new folder each Thursday, so I will start filling out the planning sections today.

Planning sections include: 

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Dinner menus

Of note (holidays, appts., events)

To-do/remember

Faith & nature learning notes

Random notes

Weekend errands

(I keep these lists on separate post-it notes as you can see. Ultimately I'd like to design a set of weekly planning sheets with sections all arranged in an orderly and eye-pleasing way. When I finalize a design, I'll make copies (and reuse/recycle the lined sheets I have now.) In the meantime the sticky-notes work well, and help me play around with the design.)

The back section of the master binder contains household and family information - routines, lists, budget, contacts, etc. I'm still working on this "domestic" section of the binder and will do a separate post another day about all that.

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Here's my little corner "office" sitting pretty in the sun ... 

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As you can see, I have the binder laying open to the month @ a glance calendar, and the file folder (with its planning sheet attached) resting directly beside/on top of it. (This is usually kept on the kitchen counter - because I'm standing most of the day - but sometimes I sit to work at the table and then I move things over here.) The file crate itself is just to the left of this picture, and the handy file bin which holds just the current week's folder (when not in use) hangs on the wall between the kitchen and this room: Fcsupdate16

Now, before I go, I'd like to address questions Sandra asked a while ago ...

"Hi Dawn ... my questions are: 1) I'm lost about how you the spiral notebook. Is it more a journal or a organizational tool or is it your month at a glance calendar? If not, do you keep it with the calendar also? 2) I don't have school aged kids, but i have a home office. how do you organize your bills? I'm thinking of having 2 crates. One for home and one for office."

Ok, the bills question I'll answer in that aforementioned upcoming post - briefly though, I use a basket (which you can see in the picture above) to hold incoming bills. (At one time I tried filing bills in the weekly file folders but I felt panicky not having them all in one place and plainly visible.) Many of our bills are now automated, but whether I receive a hard copy or an online notice, I jot down the due dates (and amounts as available) on my monthly calendar. 

Receipts and statements get filed in a bag that sits in my bookcase which stands directly to the left of my desk. (It can be seen behind the file bin above.) Family finances and monthly budgetkeeping will take up a portion of the household section in the back of my binder.

(That wasn't brief, was it, lol?)

Anyhoo - now for the first question regarding my spiral-bound notebook ...

Sandra, I'm not sure which spiral-bound notebook you mean, but if you're referring to the weekly FCS companion notebook, well, that situation I described above. I also frequently mention my spiral-bound journals, and if this is the notebook you're wondering about, well I basically use it as a visual journal. It has no real planning purpose - it's more a hobby I've had for years. I do sit down and go back over the journal pages I've created (occasionally, but ideally weekly), to see if there's anything I want to follow up on, but mostly it's just a log of thoughts/ideas/clippings, etc. Mostly visuals, but some written notes as well. It captures the time (of year, of life) and holds a lot of memories for my overworked brain.

Here are a few open pages to give you an idea how I use it.

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Above, l-r: a garden arbor I like, a homemade stationary idea, clipped recipes, a book review, a pretty ad I'd like to investigate.

Below, l-r: more book reviews, summery pictures, a living room design idea.

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Below, l-r: a recipe for strawberry tartlets and a list of local pick-you-own strawberry farms.

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Oh my goodness, this post was just ridiculously long, but I hope it's been helpful to someone. I also wanted to thank Michelle for pointing out that one of my older file crate posts was "pinned" on "Pinterest." I'm unfamiliar with how Pinterest works, but I am very flattered that my post was pin-worthy. :)  

And thanks to everyone who reads and keeps following my blog even when I'm not very active. Please feel free to hit me up with any questions you might have on the file crate system. As I have said before, it's (still!) a work in progress. I've started a little writing project centered around the FCS so I'll keep you all posted on that ... and I'll be back to talk more about the rest of the binder just as soon as I can ... AND I'm also working on a setting up a cleaning caddy with attached daily task cards ... So there's lots more to talk about!

For now though, I'm off - I have plants to water, laundry to fold, kiddoes to feed and apparently I'm expected to participate in some kind of "hobbit" movie this afternoon.

Lol, all in day's work.

Have a great day, my friends!

:D

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