7th House on the Left

File Organization 101

posted by Ashley  /  22 Comments

In honor of Tax Day, I’m going to delve into the most exciting thing ever… filing! I don’t know if you caught that, but that was supposed to come across as sarcastic. Though, I do actually think it’s kind of fun. I’m weird like that. My first “job” when I was about 14 was filing at my grandpa’s office. I say “job” because I’m pretty sure it only lasted a month or so and then I was off to summer camp for four weeks. But, nevertheless, I wanted something to do and even in that short period of time, I think the organization bug got a hold of me.

Home File Organization 101 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

January is normally the time of year where everyone breaks out the new office supplies, warms up the label maker and gets things organized. I’m the same way, but I always end up getting my office in gear around tax season. Going through all of our financial documents and organizing everything for our accountant makes me realize what we could have done better throughout the year (both organizationally and financially), which makes it the perfect time to refresh our filing system.

As of about 5 years ago, I had gobs and gobs of files. I filed ev-er-y-thing. Since then, I’ve learned what I do and don’t need to file, so I created a system to keep a majority of the important documents on my computer. As for what to file and what to throw away, that’s different for everyone, but I’ve boiled it down to the basics for us so when next tax season rolls around, I haven’t collected a lot of unnecessary stuff.

Home File Organization 101 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

Over the past year, I’ve switched a lot of my filing over to digital – especially in the work department. In light of that, this year, I set out to find a smaller, more streamlined storage and organizing solution. During a trip to Target a few weeks ago, I picked up two of these Threshold file holders (they aren’t listed online quite yet, or I’d share a link). Needless to say, I loved the wood and brass combo, but I also liked the fact that they were open on top and I could easily get a glimpse at the files without dealing with a cumbersome flap or lid. When I got them home, I attached a Martha Stewart bookplate label (from Staples) that I spray painted flat black to the end of each file holder. I labeled one box “Home” and the other “Business”.

Home File Organization 101 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

Before I got started on all of the actual organizing, I made a list of all of the different files I needed. (I’ll get to those specifics in a second.) Thinking all of this out on paper before diving in really helped me think through what categories and files I needed as well as what order they should go in – which probably ended up saving some time in the long run. Once all of that was squared away, I gathered my three boxes of multi-colored hanging folders (these from Office Max), scissors and label maker and got to work.

Home File Organization 101 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but whenever I make labels for things like files or lots of boxes at once, I type everything out (as much as the label maker allows at one time), then hit the “Print” button to print them all out in one fell swoop. You’ll have to cut between each word by hand rather than with the machine, but you end of saving a lot of label tape. Speaking of label makers, I’ve been using this one for a little over a year, and I love it. There are a bunch of fonts to choose from, and customization options galore – but not to the point where it gets confusing. If you’re looking for a super simple label maker that’s still great, but has less bells and whistles, I also highly recommend this one. Is it sad that I could seriously write a whole post about label makers? Anyway, back to filing! One more thing, because I always get this question, the small pair of scissors are from here.

Home File Organization 101 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

HOME // Every household is different, but here’s a rundown of what we keep in our “Home” filing box…

Blue. The blue files are for all things related to taxes. We have files for our taxes papers for the last five years (one for each year) and one called “Current” for important random papers we need to keep on hand for this year’s taxes come next April. We also have a file for income records.

Green. Green means money. We keep the majority of our finance information in our Home Finance Binder (which is a life saver when it comes to monthly budgeting and for fining info fast) but this is where we keep hard copies of the important things. The file names in this section include Bank Accounts, Donations, Investments, Mortgage, Greg’s School Loan, Paid Off (letters and account information for things that have been paid off) and Retirement.

Yellow. The yellow files are for house and auto. The file names include Home Insurance, Warranties (home warranty papers as well as large purchases like appliances), Auto Insurance and one for each vehicle. Obviously, there’s more home-related things you should keep on hand, like contractors names, serial numbers, maintenance and so on; but we keep all of that info tucked away in our Home Maintenance Binder. I know, I still haven’t blogged about that. Adding that to my list of things to blog about!

Red. The red files are for all things medical. We have a folder for each of us (including Bentley) as well as Insurance (for extra cards and the benefit summaries that come in the mail every year or whenever your plan changes), Paid Medical Bills, Dental, and Vision.

Purple. Finally, the purple files are for miscellaneous important papers and memberships. Our files include: Passports, Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificate, Diplomas, Alumni Info, AAA, Hotel Rewards and Frequent Flyer Miles. The passports, birth certificates and the marriage certificate are better off being kept in a fireproof box – these are just copies.

Home File Organization 101 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

BUSINESS // Eighty percent of my business-related files are kept on my computer. Everything from design client contracts to writing gig agreements are kept on my computer and backed up on a remote disk. That being the case, all I keep in the business file holder are incoming and outgoing expenses.

Green. This section differs for every type of business, but for this category, I have files for Design Projects, Writing Gigs, Advertising, Affiliates, Shop Sales and Awards & Misc.

Blue. This is for all of the outgoing receipts. The file names include Printing, Shipping, Packaging, Mailbox, Office Supplies, Hosting, Legal & Accounting, Donations and Equipment & Misc.

Purple. This section is dedicated to storing and sorting my favorite samples for future projects. Especially with graphic design projects and the store, I tend to collect a hefty amount of paper and printing samples. So, having a place to keep all of my favorite and frequently used ones together really proves to be handy. For this section, I have Paper, Printing, Collateral, Photography, Paint and Fabric.

Home File Organization 101 // 7thhouseontheleft.com

Lastly, I put a few extra files in the back of each box for when I need to add a file down the road. I also put a little pouch filled with extra labels and tabs. That way, next time I need to add a new file, everything is right there at my fingertips.

That about wraps up the rundown of our new, streamlined filing system. Like I mentioned earlier, every household and home-based business is different, so while this isn’t really a “guide” on what to file, hopefully it will be helpful in getting the organizational ball rolling.

Now that our filing system is all organized, it makes me even more excited to move on to other organizing projects around the house – like the neglected foyer closet. That’s what I love about organizing – it’s a beautiful, perfectly labeled vicious cycle.

Hold the Toast

posted by Ashley  /  21 Comments

Well, I was hoping to be posting about our new dining room light fixture today. Actually, I had hoped to post it yesterday, but some stuff came up and we had to postpone our electrician date with my dad until later today. So, fingers crossed, Greg will have that post ready for you guys tomorrow. But here’s a heads up, we unpackaged the fixture last night and… I’m in love with it and can’t stop looking at it.

Use a vintage toast holder to organize small things on your desk. // 7thhouseontheleft.com

Since we can’t chat about the dining room today, I thought it would be fun to share the story behind one of my favorite desk accessories in my office. Well, it’s not much of a “story” but more of an awesome fact, a super sweet gesture by my better half and a handy use for a random item.

Rewind back a few years, to my and Greg’s first Christmas as Mr and Mrs. I was on the hunt for the perfect Christmas gift for my Aunt Dee Dee. Now, something you need to know about my Aunt Dee Dee is that we share a kindred love for I Love Lucy. We know every word to every episode and not-so-secretly wish we lived in the 1950′s, had flaming red hair courtesy of Henna Rinse and lived in a brownstone apartment next-door to our BFFs in New York City. I searched high and low for the perfect Christmas gift and found a “prop dealer” selling this beauty…

Use a vintage toast holder to organize small things on your desk. // 7thhouseontheleft.com

“What is that?”, you ask? It’s a vintage toast holder that was used on the set of I Love Lucy. Yes, I freaked out. I went through all of the protocol to make sure the seller (and the prop) was legit and snatched that thing up faster than you could sing the chorus of Babalu. I was beyond excited to give it to her and couldn’t get over the fact that a piece of classic television history was in my possession. I even saved wrapping her present until last so I could look at it and fawn over it regularly. Lucille Ball touched that very prop. Some of my favorite lines of comedy were spoken in its presence. Yeah, that’s a little dramatic, I know. I’m normally not one to get all worked up or “in awe” over celebrities and things like that, but we’re talking about classic television right here, folks.

Greg quickly caught onto my infatuation for the vintage Lucy-adorned toast holder. Without me knowing, he contacted the seller and asked if he had anymore I Love Lucy prop pieces up his sleeve. Much to his surprise, the toast holder was actually a part of a set of two and the dealer was planning to list the second one that next day. Greg laid on the charm and convinced the man to sell it him prior to listing for the same amount I bought the first toast holder. A few days later, I received a package and was utterly confused as to why my Aunt Dee Dee’s toast holder that was tucked away waiting for Christmas wrapping was being mailed to me all over again. I called Greg at work and he told me what he did. Sweetest. Surprise. Ever. Okay, yeah, I cried.

Use a vintage toast holder to organize small things on your desk. // 7thhouseontheleft.com

It actually wasn’t until a few months ago when I finally found a good use for it. It’s the perfect size to hold and organize the little jotter notebooks I normally have floating around my desk. I use these three jotters for passwords to random sites I won’t remember later, a running list of Christmas gift ideas and lists of websites to remember (I hate using browser bookmarks for some reason). The vintage toast holder is perfect for keeping them from being scattered on my desk and getting lost in the shuffle. Being a fan of all things gold these days (who isn’t, right?), I also love the aged brass finish. A big bonus for me is the fact that every time I reach for a jotter, I instinctively think of Lucy’s skilled toast catching capabilities…

I Love Lucy Toast Catch // 7thhouseontheleft.com

From the set of your favorite TV show or not, I can highly recommend using a vintage toast holder to organize your desk. If jotters aren’t your thing, you can also use it to hold incoming and outgoing mail, pencils/pens or even your gadget chargers. It’s a fun way to bring in a bit of vintage to the workspace while keeping things organized and tidy. If you’re in the market for a vintage toast holder to organize your desk top, there’s a plethora of them available on Etsy starting at around $10.

Now I had an odd craving for toast… anyone else?

Do you ever have those days when you feel completely unorganized? The ones when you wish you could just stop time for a day, get your act together, then resume business as usual? It’s an awful feeling and one I like to nip in the bud as soon as it starts to creep up.

I specifically remember a day like this a few months ago. My to-do’s for the day included two projects to wrap up and send over to clients, a handful of very important emails to return and a bunch of print orders to package/ship. It’s a doable list for any given day, but everything I did felt like walking through quicksand to get it done. That’s when it dawned on me, the root of the problem was that everything felt unorganized and disheveled. I needed to regroup.

7 Things to Do (Right Now) to Make You Feel More Organized TODAY // 7thhouseontheleft.com

While I didn’t have the time to spend hours organizing/labeling/washi-taping everything in sight, I knew if I tackled just a few minor things, it would make me feel better, and I could accomplish what I needed to more efficiently. Over the past few months, I’ve found a “formula” of small tasks that instantly make me feel more organized. These tasks aren’t ultra-complicated or revolutionary, but when grouped together, it’s an instant solution to feeling more in charge, at peace with your surroundings and ultimately more productive.

7 Things to Do to Make You Feel More Organized TODAY // 7thhouseontheleft.com

01 // Clean out and organize your purse. This is a simple one, but you’d be surprised at how much this step helps you feel a bit more organized during your day-to-day activities. Go ahead and throw away (or file) old receipts, trash the gum wrappers, be sure to check all of the little zipper pockets and put the random dog toy back in the toy box. I actually did this earlier today and found one of our missing cordless house phones. I also like rearranging my wallet from time to time to make it more convenient (like moving the Starbucks gift card up towards the front so I’ll remember to use it, and throwing away used/expired gift cards, debit cards, coupons, etc). 98% of our readers are gals, but if any of you guys are out there, apply the same principle to your work bag, car glovebox or wallet.

7 Things to Do to Make You Feel More Organized TODAY // 7thhouseontheleft.com

02 // Tidy up your computer files and desktop. Especially when I have a lot of projects going on at one time, my computer desktop can get rather crazy. If I need to clean everything up in an instant, I make a folder called “Stuff” and throw everything in there and plan on going through and organizing things later. When this is done, it feels so good. Once you’re all finished, change your desktop image. This (along with the organizing action) will make your computer feel new and refreshed. At the moment, I’m sporting this lovely one. Obviously, if you’re a tablet- or phone-only user, you can apply the same idea there.

7 Things to Do to Make You Feel More Organized TODAY // 7thhouseontheleft.com

03 // Organize the junk drawer. Truth be told, every house probably has more than one junk drawer (we have two at the moment), but take about 10 minutes and tackle the most commonly used junk drawer. Throw away expired coupons, put the birthday candles back where they belong and divide the pens from the notepads. If you don’t have any dividers on hand, use a few small shallow dishes or Rubbermaid containers until you have time to get to the store and buy one. Check out my latest junk drawer makeover here.

7 Things to Do to Make You Feel More Organized TODAY // 7thhouseontheleft.com

04 // Update your phone contacts. Updating and organizing the contacts in your cell phone can make a day out running errands go so much smoother – especially if you use your phone often as I do. To start off, go through your phone and delete the contacts you don’t need/want anymore. This is basically the phone’s equivalent to throwing away gum wrappers in your purse. Next, organize the contacts. This is something I’ve been doing for a long time and I love the handiness of it. What I do is group numbers for take-out places, medical-related places/people, shops, florists, and such together in their respective categories. So, for our florists, I add “Flowers | ” before the name of the florist. So, when flipping through my phone, the contact would read “Flowers | Strange’s (West Broad)” and all of the florist-related numbers would be grouped together. If there are multiple locations (like our favorite florist), I add the location after the name in parentheses.

7 Things to Do to Make You Feel More Organized TODAY // 7thhouseontheleft.com

05 // Organize your social media pages. This can pertain to everything from Facebook to Tumblr, but I’m going to specifically mention Pinterest. For the longest time, I had a Pinterest board called “House Candy”, where I just stuck everything house-decorating-related. A few weeks ago, I went to my Pinterest board to find a photo of a specific bathroom I remember pinning a while back. It took forever to go through the entire “House Candy” board just to find that one photo. That’s when I made a note to set aside some time to organize my Pinterest boards. I decided to go through and re-categorize everything until there wasn’t anything left in the “House Candy” board. I think it took about a little under an hour total to organize all of my Pins, but it was totally worth it. Now, my boards are all categorized and it makes inspiration that much more easily accessible.

7 Things to Do to Make You Feel More Organized TODAY // 7thhouseontheleft.com

06 // Make a meal plan for the rest of the week. The question, “What are we having for dinner?” always seems to pop up around 3:30 or 4:00. Normally, that’s also the time of day where I’m trying to wrap things up, answer the last few emails, etc. Taking a few minutes to map out what you and your family are going to be eating over the next few days can smooth things out nicely. I don’t have a fancy meal planning calendar or anything. I just jot down “D:” on the last line of each day on my weekly planner page in my binder and write what’s for dinner. On the menu tonight, we’re having chicken and spaghetti squash and watching Frozen. When it comes time for the big question, “What’s for dinner?”, it’s right there at my fingertips.

7 Things to Do to Make You Feel More Organized TODAY // 7thhouseontheleft.com

07 // Start a “Thought Notebook”. I have what I call my “Get It Done Binder” that lives on my desk and I use everyday. I love it, like, a lot. I also have a small spiral notebook that I carry with me everywhere I go. I use it to jot down post/print/project ideas, websites to check out, grocery lists, notes I take while I’m on phone meetings, random doodles of dogs… yeah, pretty much everything. Since doing this, the sticky note collection on my desk has been cut down tremendously, so my desk looks and feels much tidier. Having a designated place to write any thought or idea that comes in my head is oh so nice and in a weird way, freeing. Basically, it just keeps me sane. For these “Thought Notebooks”, I love using Staples’ Sustainable Earth notebooks (photographed above and available in store) and Poppin’s medium spiral notebooks.

Hopefully this list helps you regroup and refresh on “those days”. Do you have any helpful tips to add to the list? Anything that makes you instantly feel more “together” and easier to be productive? Be sure to share them with us in the comments.

By the way… Check back tomorrow for my ramblings about our new dining room table!