Organizing: Family Paperwork

kitchen desk

The paperwork we deal with on a daily basis can be overwhelming. Bills. Notes to call people. Kids progress reports. Kids sports, youth, and school schedules. Well, I could keep listing things, but that would be boring, wouldn’t it? Let’s just agree to say there’s a lot. Over the years I’ve tried various ways for organizing paperwork. I’ve used piles, drawers, more piles, files in drawers, binders and, well…piles. Pretty much every system reverts to piles if it’s not the easiest thing in the world to me.

I should insert here that by “paperwork” I mean things we want or need to keep, even if just for awhile. Of course the first course of action is to recycle anything we don’t need right away.

organizing paperwork

Today I’m sharing with you the system I’ve used successfully for the last five years, since just before moving to this house. It’s a wooden box file that sits on our kitchen desk. I paid $17.00 for this (way back then) which I thought was a lot of money. I bit the bullet though, because I wanted something that wouldn’t look too messy. I use decorative file folders in each slot which are divided the following ways:

  • House/Garden & Activities (adults and family)
  • Computer, Library, Blog
  • Child #1 : ______’s Activities & ____’s Report Cards
  • Child #2: “______’s Activities & _____’s Report Cards
  • General School Info.

There are a few others thrown in there and it’s easily changeable to make work for your life. In fact, when the kids were in elementary school, there was a lot more paperwork from the school, so they had a school folder then as well as report card folder. In the upper grades I’ve found one general school file folder is enough. So I’ve adapted and changed through the years.

Here are a few ideas of what to keep these folders:
  • House/Garden: plans for yard (my crudely sketched drawings), articles I want to keep within easy reach, natural weed killer recipe, research for a new appliance.
  • Activities: reservations, directions, itineraries, etc.
  • Computer: passwords, printouts on how to do something, sites I want to visit (usually torn from magazines).
  • Library: Passwords and info to use the online library and books I find in magazines, catalogs, etc. that I want to check out. I just collect the little scraps of paper in this folder and dump them once I have put them on hold.
  • Blog: Just info on a lot of different things I’d like to learn and remember. I also use a spiral notebook next to my computer, so this doesn’t get used that much.
  • Kid’s folders: school notes, homework in progress, announcements, report cards, notes home, etc.

calendar on desk

The box can sit two ways: with the file openings up, or with them on the side, like I have it on the desk. It works on it’s side for us because it perfectly holds our family calendar and a pen next to it. See what I mean about me needing easy? I don’t even want to have to get a pen out of the drawer.

Of course, we’re limited in the size of calendar we can have and we don’t get to look at the pictures, but since I always get a free one they’re usually smaller and I definitely don’t want to look at the pictures.

Rose pattern file folders

And my patterned file folders? You can find them lots of places, but these I got from the Dollar Tree. There were three in a package for a dollar, I think. Because these are visible to anyone who comes to visit I like how they look nicer than plain manila ones.

And of course we still get piles once in awhile, but it usually only takes a few minutes to file or recycle things once I decide to do it. (That’s key, isn’t it?) This has really worked well for me and though I wish it weren’t so visible, one benefit is the other members of my family can easily find and file things as well. It’s kinda nice to be able to say, “Look in your file slot,” or “Put that in your folder.” It gives them some responsibility and let’s me off the hook…for a little while, at least. And since we always know where to look for these things, so they don’t get “lost” as often as they did before I started using this file box.

What system have you found to work for you – or have you?


This is linked to:
Works For Me Wednesday
Strut Your Stuff Thursday
It’s a Hodgepodge Friday
Show and Tell Friday


  1. says

    I really seriously like this idea. Would it have every occurred to me to put the file box on its side?

    I don’t think so.

    I use a binder and the calendar is online (it used to be on the fridge).

    And my kitchen is woefully short on horizontal space…unlike most normal kitchens that often have a desk for which your idea is PERFECT.

    I like that you don’t have to open anything (which I do — the cupboard and then the binder– yes, I’m pretty lazy!).

    I think I have to keep my way but if I ever get some desk space, it’s going to be this way all the way!

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Dee says

    I love your pretty file folders! I am in desperate need of a system. My daughter starts kindergarten this year, so I’m trying to get ahead of the game. Do you have any suggestions for handling mail? I seem to have a HUGE pile of stuff and it’s become overwhelming.
    I’m so glad I subscribed to your blog…it’s been such a treat for me!

  3. says

    I have had my oak rolltop desk for probably 25 years now and love using the file drawers in it. I have used a paper calendar to record everything on since 1977 when our sons were babies. I have saved them all and it has become my diary of our lives. I love that I can pull out a calendar from years ago and remember events of our lives!

  4. says

    right now I just use a storage box where EVERYTHING gets dumped into. It’s not very effective. It’s in one location, but hard to find things :) :) I like your system. I’ll have to try that out for myself :)
    I was especially impressed with the pretty file folders. The patterns were nice to look at…and you’re right, it’s much prettier than plain manilla ones..
    Have a great weekend :) :) :),
    Heather H. :)

  5. diXymiss says

    Cool wooden boX and pretty file folders. Our calendar is hanging on the wall with a single basket on the desktop underneath to collect incoming papers. It’s in a perpetual state of overflow (which drives me batty)! I like your method much better ~ thanX for the tips!

  6. One Red Daisy says

    I too am a “piler”. I don’t have a dirty house, or messy, in any areas except desks really. This is very inspirational!

  7. says

    thanks for this post. I need help in this area, I have so many papers and most of them are from my son’s school work. I am going to impliment this, this month . Thanks again!

  8. Sel says

    all the info is nice, do you have any info how you keep your monthly and
    yearly records for the end of the year time? i mean right down to the nitty
    gritty. i always love to see the ideas of others in this area. thx, Sel

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