My sister shared an article with me awhile back about “How to Organize the Family Command Center” from Real Simple. It had a beautiful space with a desk and plenty of shelf space for organizing items. I know people have spaces like that, but that is not our reality. Here is a picture of our unfancy family command center:
This little corner, a family calendar on the refrigerator, and a small space of countertop where my paper planner sits make up our family command center. There used to be a larger bureau type piece in that corner but I switched it out for a smaller piece of furniture a long time ago since it became a dumping ground for anything any member of our family was holding in their hands when they walked in the door.
The piece of furniture we have there now is my nightstand from our bedroom. It has been working well. It is the right size for a key bowl and mail sorting on top, while the shelves and drawer underneath contain craft materials and basic school supplies.
The plastic unit beside it holds our copious art supplies from back to school years of yore. I went through the drawers on a recent cleaning and decluttering frenzy late at night recently. We have way more markers, crayons, and colored pencils than several families could use in a year. I was relieved to see a request from my youngest son’s teacher requesting crayons. I sent in about 100 almost new crayons to both of our relief.
Vertical File System
There are several good points in the article and the main one that I had already implemented this past year was a vertical file system for mail and paper sorting. I originally heard about it from Vanessa Hayes who is a professional organizer. She and her husband Dan have a great podcast called Simple Life Together. I’ve listened to them all as I have decluttered. She has a video about how to handle papers. I had the perfect file folder sitting in my closet that wasn’t being used. I was so excited about this system that I even bought this label maker! (this is an affiliate link, which means that at no additional cost to you I may get a small percentage of the sale if you buy through these links. Thanks for your support!)
Here are the slots that I labeled for our system:
- To Do
- To Shred
- To Pay
- To Read
- To File
- Tax Docs
- Future Projects
- and each one of our family members has a slot
Using the System
This system has really helped prevent papers from being lost and scattered around our first floor. It has centralized and contained the papers that are constantly entering our home.
Now when I get papers from the three different schools that my children attend, I mark any important dates on our family calendar, and then either recycle it right away or put it in the child’s slot in the file.
My son had an event this past weekend and I couldn’t remember where I put the invitation with the address. After panicking for a minute, I remembered I had put it in his slot in the vertical file folder! I pulled it out, used it for the information, then recycled the invitation immediately afterwards. It’s also very easy to pick up the file box and move it upstairs if I want it out of sight.
in process: Making it a Habit
I’m still developing the habit of going through the slots weekly to toss or take care of things, but it is much more organized than ever before. I also don’t quite have the habit down yet of dealing with all the papers right away. Ideally the surface would look like this:
…but it frequently looks like this:
I’m going to start adding “go through the file box” on my To Do list for Mondays to develop the habit.
How do you keep paper from overwhelming your home? What systems do you have in place?