Hello my friends, and Happy Weekend! If you've read my blog for any length of time then you know I frequently post about my file crate system - a kind of "tickler file" arrangement I've been using for many years. Actually, I have an entire archive devoted to this topic, and in the past I've spoken about it at a conference, in a webinar as well as during an interview for a podcast. So clearly I have a lot to say about my file crate! I can pretty much find any old excuse to talk "file crate," but I especially like to hash it out at the turn of the academic year when I reboot the whole thing with fresh folders. :)
So first, for those new to the concept, I'll give you a quick lengthy overview of the basic system along with a look at my file crate's new digs, and then we'll take a peek inside my current folders, as I get ready to switch them up at the end of the week.
THE FILE CRATE SYSTEM
The file crate system is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a crate filled with files, which I use as part of my overall planning system. The "files" are simply weekly folders that help me organize various areas of my life - home, family, finances, health, homeschooling, faith traditions and seasonal awareness. ETC. As a mom homeschooling three of her four boys - one with special needs - there's a lot on my plate! And I am grateful for all of it but it does take a lot of thought and energy to keep things running somewhat smoothly around here!
So the "crate" itself is a rather plain plastic bin inside which I place six hanging folders. Each of those six folders represent two months, or one season of the year:
May-June (Late Spring)
July-August (High Summer)
September-October (Early Autumn)
November-December (Late Autumn)
January-February (Deep Winter)
March-April (Early Spring)
Stored inside those six hanging "seasonal" folders, are file folders for each week of the year - 52 folders in all! I tend to use fresh supplies when I reboot the crate, since each year's folders get pretty roughed up. (I reuse and/or recycle the old ones.) This year I decided to go with a whole new color scheme, in order to match my pretty new Day Designer planner ...
Who says office supplies can't be fun?
Next I write the dates for each week on every folder and place them all in the crate - divided by season. (So, the current May-June season holds nine weeks' worth of folders. The first folder reads "May 1-May 7" and the last reads "June 26-July 2." The folder after that, "July 3-July 9" can be found in the High Summer hanging folder. (And so on.)
(That's erasable ink so technically I could reuse those folders - if I can keep them in better shape!)
So now I have my crate full of weekly folders, divided by season. That's the basic set up, but I like to find multiple uses for my crate if I can. So this year I decided to utilize the front of the crate itself for a little more planning space ...
It's hard to see in this picture, (and I forgot to take a "before" picture), but this is an adhesive plastic pocket stuck to the front of the crate. Bill trimmed it for me so it fits flush against the sloped lines of the crate and I added a little washi tape to cover up the sheared opening. (He did a neater job than I would have, but it still left a little jaggedness to the pocket.)
I'll be using this front pocket to hold the "active" folder of the week ...
I am also tucking a monthly calendar in here ...
This calendar - as you can see - has yet to be filled in. I just bought it recently, on a bit of a whim, because it was pretty and ahem matched the rest of my supplies. Plus, the boxes are lined and I LOVE a lined calendar. I have another monthly calendar I'm using in my homekeeping binder, but that's not one my family can easily reference. I've tried a few other "family calendar" ideas that have fallen flat ... so maybe this one will click. We shall see!
There is also space for my Day Designer here, as well as my Homekeeping Journal, and the whole kit and kaboodle is set in the top tier of a rolling cart (one of the four I bought in March and blogged about here) so I can keep it handy to my command central. At the end of the day (in theory) I can take all my planning stuff off the kitchen counter and move it to the cart. I can even roll the cart out of the kitchen if needs be.
Here's how it looks:
Note the pretty silk flowers I added to the front of my crate! I bought those at the craft store a while ago and had been waiting to find a use for them when it struck me ... they kind of match all my new planning paraphernalia! So, with a touch of hot glue, they've dressed up my crate in a rather fun and funky way! :)
No one will doubt this is MAMA's cart! ;)
Ok, back to the folders ... because some of you might be wondering what all the fuss is about!
THE WEEKLY FOLDERS
So in each week's folder I keep papers that pertain to that specific week: reminders, ideas, resources, photocopies - pretty much anything that corresponds with the theme, activities, events and special days coming up in the week ahead. The folders are kept in the crate until they are "active" - meaning their time (as marked on their label) has come!
Active folders are kept at my command center and/or displayed in that crate pocket I showed you above. By week's end I am ready to start planning for next week so this is when I actually have two folders "in play" ...
On Thursdays I pull the file folder for next week and see what's inside. I use this folder (along with my weekly planning sheet) to get a handle on what next week looks like and then start planning out my weekend prep:
- What do I need to pick up (ingredients or craft supplies)?
- What can I do to prepare for next week?
- What things do I need to print out?
- Do I need to make any requests from the library?
- Are there emails to send or people to check in with?
Then I go through the current week's folder to check the status of those items:
- What items can be left behind for year-end review?
- What items can be saved for next year?
- What items should be filed somewhere else? (Another weekly folder or perhaps a household file?)
- What items can be moved along to the next week's folder?
Here's what's in my two active folders right now:
Note: If you want really detailed notes on my folder contents, please read on ... but if not, to summarize, my current folders hold packing slips for recent deliveries, subscription renewals marked paid, library request forms (current and future), printouts and photocopies pertaining to the current week's lessons/seasonal theme, current project info and recipes to try, and information re ~ timely town events. You can now skip down past the pink text to continue with the post. :)
Inside the purple folder (5/1-5/7):
- receipts for items that were shipped this week
- subscription renewals marked paid (I wrote the renewal dates on a subscriptions list I keep in my homekeeping binder)
- library record sheets for books and a video we used this week in our homeschooling (helpful reminders for year-end reports)
- craft project instructions: color changing pinecones (this was "spring fire" week)
- a page about salamander folklore (this was also "salamander" week)
- photocopy of "amphibians in the night" page from a favorite naturalist resource
- extra Mexican flag coloring page (the boys did these for Cinco de Mayo; I saved one for next year)
^ the above items I will leave in the folder when I file it back in the crate on Sunday ...
v the ones below I am moving into next week's folder ...
- a new recipe for crockpot chicken taco meat (was going to be Cinco de Mayo dinner - will keep it "active" until we try it)
- information packet re ~ homeschool prom (need to read over it then will file in the week it's being held)
- a recipe for lactose-free "ricotta" (will keep it "active" until we try it)
- directions for making a homemade multipurpose cleaner (haven't made it yet, will keep it active until I do)
- a photo project I'm working on for a new frame (still haven't gotten around to it - need Bill's help!)
- a "family favorites" recipe chart - a work in progress
- library record sheets for resources I'd like to request in the near future
- info. sheet re town's large metal pick-up day (need to read over, write dates in calendar, file in town/parish binder)
- political information from our town with lots of dates and upcoming events (need to read over, write dates in calendar, file in town/parish binder)
Inside the pink folder (5/8-5/14):
- Mother's Day cards (when I bought them I slipped them right in this folder)
- printouts about a couple of town meetings this week
- a printout with information re ~ Crackerjack's service project
- Our Lady of Fatima coloring pages (her feast day is 5/13)
- a recipe for "Fiori di Scilia Spritz Cookies" (to be made for this week's Full Flower Moon)
- a few photocopies for the learning line this week re ~ woodland flowers
- lily of the valley coloring pages (we'll be observing them in our own woodland garden this week)
- printout: "May Flower Lore" (from The Farmer's Almanac)
- photocopy from Mary's Flowers re ~ Lily of the Valley (aka Mary's Tears)
- photocopy from a favorite naturalist resource: "Woodland Flowers" (will be colored in using field guides, personal observation)
- photocopied pages from Handbook of Nature re "Jack-in-the-Pulpit" (another woodland plant I spied flowering in our woods - we'll investigate!)
- photocopy of "The Lords-and-Ladies Fairy" (aka Jack-in-the-Pulpit) a poem by Cicely Mary Barker
- library request sheet for Jack-in-the-Pulpit by John Greenleaf Whittier
- printout of vintage artwork from above title (the plant drawn as a minister speaking to a choir of flower children)
- photocopy from favorite book of moon poems: "The May Flower Moon"
- photocopies of state coloring pages/illustrated maps for the western states (we're wrapping up our US study soon!)
Now, yesterday (Friday) I looked through these folders and started filling out my planning sheet for next week. (I'll work on it more over the weekend.) In our P.o.W. notebook (a family weekend "agenda" described in this post) I listed a few things I could do to set our week up (ex. scout out woodland walk for next week, refresh book displays and learning line), and I also updated my weekend shopping/errands list, noting items I'll need to pick up.
On Sunday, during "office hours," I will put last week's (purple) folder back in the crate (filed in the back of the "Late Spring" hanging folder) and keep next week's (pink) folder out for the week ahead. All those pink items listed above will be referenced/used throughout the week in one way or another.
Now, a quick note about the pale pink planning pad you see above stapled to the front of the folders ...
I go back and forth on the concept of using the front of my file folders for planning space - to serve as a reminder of what is happening through the week, and a record when looking back later. I don't always do this because I've had mixed results with this idea, but I couldn't resist the pretty "weekly planning pad" I spied at Staples last week. It is made by "Ashley for Blue Sky" and is a thick pad of tear-off sheets. (I have other methods for tracking our weekly agenda, but have yet to nail down a platform that really works well.)
So as you can probably tell, a lot of what I include in my folders is tied to our seasonal living and homeschooling. Generally speaking, I rotate the same weekly themes every year, revisiting that familiar and beloved rhythm of the seasons, while exploring new resources and experiences to keep it fresh. So, for example, the theme of "blueberries" always falls in mid-August around Assumption Day (the crop is at its peak, blueberries are traditional Marian feast fare) ... and during the week of the Full Sap Moon in March, we always explore "maple sugaring" (a time honored, New England tradition and harbinger of warmer days as winter nears its end).
My love for the the seasons is something for a whole 'nother post, but suffice it to say, I take such joy in their timeless cycle as they return from year to year. There's a comforting familiarity in every nuance, but it all seems new at the same time. Life is beautiful that way. :)
Well, I know this was a lot to throw at you, lol - but I hope if you are into planning and organization this was interesting to you! And I know this system wouldn't work for everyone, but maybe there's one or two things in this post that you might find helpful. For me, with the paper load I work with each week (especially re ~ our seasonal homeschooing) this has been a good way to keep organized and somewhat "on top of things."
I'd love to hear about your own file system, if you have one, and how it's working for you. What are your challenges? I've heard from a few friends that they find it hard to keep the file crate somewhere handy enough to be useful but not just another piece of planning clutter in the way. And I struggle with that, too! I've tried to keep the crate somewhere else - at my desk, say, or in a slide out file drawer - but I really do use it most efficiently when it's in the open, kept within easy reach. This is why I hope the cart will be a good remedy for that challenge. I can keep the crate close by, but tuck it away when I need my kitchen to look clean and simplified. It sounds great in theory, doesn't it? :)
Ideally I'd like to do a video about this file crate system because I think it is easiest to explain in person! I'd love to walk through each step of my basic set up and perhaps a weekly folder switch up to show how it works for me. Because the moral of the story is - it does work for me. It's one of the few planning tools I've actually consistently kept up with since I began using it - oh, maybe 17 years ago now? (Around the time I started homeschooling - I liked having papers, lessons, and craft ideas, etc. all lined up weeks in advance.) So if I can get myself organized (and brave!) enough, I will ask my older sons to help me "film" a file crate how-to video - and I'll keep you all posted on that project!
So for now I will (finally!) wrap up. I do thank you all for stopping by and taking the time to read (or peruse as the case might have been), and I wish you all a very pleasant weekend! I hope it is filled with the rest and refreshment you need ...
Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... see you here again sometime soon!