Counter Clutter Be Gone!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I took four Bites in November:

(9) Streamline your receipt system
(10) Take an annual vacation (or staycation)
(11) Clean as you go
(12) Clean your kitchen as you cook

and I'm still chewing.

Actually, Numbers 11 and 12 are done simply because I already do them. Numbers 9 and 10, however, will take longer for me to implement. An annual vacation sometimes seems out of reach, but we just took our first "only the four of us" vacation in October (to Disney, no less) and it was fantastic. Yes, the destination was great, but what really made it was the distraction-free, just the four of us, time together. I'm motivated now to make sure it happens every year, but in case it cannot, I appreciate Tsh's practical tips on taking a staycation: meal plan and parents take turns sleeping in. Nice!

As for Number Nine, I don't keep very many receipts, but that doesn't mean my house is paper-clutter free. No. My to-be-shredded basket is literally overflowing, along with the to-be-filed tray and the actual files hanging in the cabinets. Ugh. I need to do a better job of household filing in general, which leads me to one small change around here:

The Tickler File

This relates back to Bite #8, Steamline Your Mail. Maybe you also read April Perry's post for Simple Mom on this subject? Such a neat little system. Allow me to demonstrate:

First, label twelve folders January - December. If you have a housemate who gets mail you can open but cannot answer (like, from his alma mater requesting donations, or from this club or that political candidate, and he doesn't like you to throw his stuff away . . . ahem!) then you might include a Folder 13.

I keep the folders in a slotted holder right on the kitchen counter. Not exactly pretty, but definitely practical, because that is where I sort the mail and that is where the piles used to accumulate. Also, it is easy to move should we go crazy and actually have people over this holiday season. Imagine, moving The Piles without fear that something important will get lost - it is possible!

Second, sort paper you need to keep into the appropriate month's folder and label it with a "T" on your calendar. This works for mail, school papers, invitations - any paper that you know you will need to reference in the future and/or you may need to save for a short period of time.

For example, my November file is still holding the order forms from the boys' school pictures, where I jotted down who will get what photo. I ordered the photos and paid for them last month. Now, when they arrive, I'll be able to consult the forms because I know where they are. Wow! Bonus: the forms have not been haven't been cluttering the counter. Genius!

Want a better example?

I've gotten at least three different notes and/or emails from Big Guy's teacher about his upcoming Christmas party. Instead of saving all these papers, I've just added the relevant information to the Notes section of my calendar - part of my initial effort to clear off the counter. But the Tickler file allows me to take it one step further. See, there are some papers related to this party that I need to save: I'm supposed to bring the sandwiches, and I found a cute recipe online for making roll-ups that look like a Christmas tree. That tutorial is just the sort of thing I would have lost before. Now, I put it in the December Tickler file and made a note of it on my calendar:

The December Tickler file is full of holiday party invitations, which are noted on the calendar with a "December T File" next to them - no more searching for the correct start time or directions! Our January Tickler file is holding information for a conference registration and other things that I don't want to forget to deal with in the New Year.

If you battle counter clutter, then try this. I still don't know why it is called The Tickler File, but I'm tickled that it works.

P.S. I've dorked out in an extra-special way for this extra-special time of year:

It holds my gift giving list, the CD with the photos I need to print for gifts, the catalog with the Christmas pajamas I want to order, and the local gift-giving guide I intend to read before December 24th.

Linking with:
WFMW at We Are That Family

life rearranged

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