I have been asked by a reader to write more about how to organize all the paper stuff that accumulates in our homes. While I feel, like many people, that I am always having to "manage" papers (and sometimes drown in them), I do have a few things that have worked pretty well that I'll share here.
First, I will address mail. One habit I have put into practice is to immediately go through the mail when I bring it in from the mailbox. I can very quickly sort the junk mail out and shred or toss it. I am a big advocate of recycling, so the paper junk mail gets ripped and placed in our paper recycling bin (a small white trash can in our pantry closet) as does any other newspaper type junk mail. Slick paper things I don't plan to read (and there are many of those) go in a separate recycling bin. I can't believe how many catalogs I receive from companies I don't ever order from. They get promptly recycled. THEN, the mail we are keeping to go through (i.e. bills to pay) goes into a flat sorter that I've placed in one of our kitchen cabinets. There is one "shelf" for me and one for my husband. See the photo below.
You can see it is pretty full on both shelves. What I love about this is that it isn't sitting all over the counter and I can just close the cupboard door and not have to look at it. This system pretty much takes care of our mail.
The reader who requested organization tips was also asking about how to manage all those other papers such as school field trip forms, recipes, ideas from magazines, etc. Well, my solution to all those things is the three-ring binder with page protectors. I will try to describe my system here. I have three white 3-ring binders that are stored in my kitchen on an antique hutch. One is for recipes, one is for calendars, school information, etc., and the third is reserved for housing the ideas I find in magazines that I want to use someday. See the photos and descriptions below.
Here is my "ideas" binder. I have made tabs (stick-on tabs attached to the actual page protector) for each season of the year as well as each holiday. I also have a tab for birthday ideas and one for gift ideas. You can really customize this however you want. You could also have one for recipes. When I come across an idea in a magazine that I like, I just rip out the pages and place them in the appropriate page protector. (NOTE: I just use one page protector for each category, however. They hold quite a few pages.) Then I recycle the magazine.
This photo shows the Easter file in my ideas binder. You can see that I've just pulled the magazine articles out and put them in.
The above two photos show the inside of my "household" binder. In the top photo you can see that I keep larger envelopes in the front pouch and I have placed a little zippered pouch with stamps and pens in the front. The bottom photo shows one of several pocket pages I have placed inside. I have used these pockets to hold school information, calendars, etc.
This is a photo of the inside of my recipe binder. I took the time a few summers ago to type out all our favorite recipes and place them in page protectors in this binder. I like being able to pull this out instead of leafing through cookbooks to find the recipe I want. It is also great because I can just take out the page I need and place it on the counter. It is waterproof in the page protectors and lies flat. Of course, I still use my cookbooks as well, but this has simplified things quite a bit. I also have empty page protectors where I can slip the recipes friends give me or ones I find in magazines.
I think the binders are a great way to organize information and papers. They take up very little space on a shelf or counter and can be customized any way you need. For more information about how I use the binder system in the Montessori classroom, read this post. Now go out and get a binder and a package of page protectors and get to work!! :0)