Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Papers to HOLD

Discovering the idea of the "To Hold" file might have been the single most important discovery I have made in my quest to really accomplish dejunking and organizing in my home.  As we have talked about before, papers are a BIG problem when it comes to keeping homes looking neat, clutter-free and organized. There are just so many of them. And one of the mistakes a lot of people make when it comes to papers, is not having any kind of system to deal with papers. Another mistake people make is they might have a "system" for where to put bills to pay or things that need to be filed but what about papers you need to keep on a short-term basis?  They don't require action at this time and you don't need to keep it long term--they just need to be held on to for a bit. 
That is where the beauty of the "To Hold" file comes in.
In my previous post I talked about how, at my house anyway, the top file is for supplies, next is the "to file" tray, 3rd down is the "Action" tray and the bottom is the "To Hold." 

Most everyone knows what "to file" and "action" would be for 
but you might be asking 
"What kind of papers are your talking about that just need to be held?" 

So here are just a few real-life examples from our home:

Recently I found an offer for carpet cleaning that was too good to pass up. The offer required pre-payment and then when the services were rendered, this paper was to be presented to the company that came to clean the carpets. I printed out the paper, called and made the appointment for a couple of weeks out and then needed a place to put the paper where I knew it would be safe and I would be able to find it again.
Ta-dah....the "to hold" file. This is a perfect example of a paper that needs the "to hold" file. The other option is for this paper to be just sitting out on your kitchen counter or desk, floating around and getting wet, dirty, lost or ripped. PLUS, it's in your way and making your spaces look cluttered! Right?  The "to hold" file is the best way I have found to keep papers out of your prime spaces. It gives you a place to keep things that need to be kept short term but don't require any action at this point.

Here's another example...

In our house, we trade the kids' chores or household jobs around every six months to help give variety and make it so everyone learns different skills and doesn't get too bored or feel too picked on (bathroom jobs are everyone's least favorite). When we trade jobs, we have found it to be imperative that we write them down so that everyone is clear and in agreement on what their responsibility is. Otherwise serious arguing ensues and we are going off of people's memories (never a good idea). This paper is kept in the "to hold" and can be referred to any time its necessary. Then back in the "to hold" file it goes until it gets replaced in 6 months with a new list.

And here is yet another example:
Medical bills are a pain in the neck and a lot of it is because we are dealing with three different entities--the medical provider, the insurance company and our flexible reimbursement company (they keep and disperse pre-taxed money that is set aside for medical expenses). Often, but not always, a bill is being disputed and all of the paperwork involved needs to be kept out until the dispute is resolved. Or the situation might be that when I use the flexible reimbursement card to pay a bill, chances are the flexible reimbursement company will want to see a copy of the bill to okay the expenditures. Both of these kinds of things belong in the "to hold" file. They are in limbo....not needing action but not ready to be filed away. Make sense?

Several years ago I was teaching a class on Household Papers and Organization and was talking about this concept of the "to hold" file. One of the students (Pam) in my class was a little older than me and had teenage and even college-aged children while mine were quite young. She shared that she kept a "to hold" file for each of her children so that when papers came in and couldn't be given to them right away (i.e for the college-kids) or if papers came in for any of her kids that needed to be kept for a while, she had a specific place for each person to put them in. I was really excited about this idea and started thinking about it. A couple of years later my children were old enough to start implementing this same concept in our home and now I am constantly praising Pam's name!
Here is our "to hold" file for each family member.  It sits right out in prime space on the kitchen counter. Why? Because it deserves to be there!
 It is used just about every day, usually multiple times a day!

You can see that each person in our family has a file...even my children that are grown and gone and married. Why? Because just like Pam told me would happen, there are occasional papers that come into my home for my older children. And to have a place for those to go until I see them next is really handy.

Just so you get the idea of what kinds of papers go in these "to hold" files, here are some examples from our files.
My youngest daughter is a huge fan of "The Cupcake Diaries" book series and as she started buying and reading each book she printed out a list of the books available and started checking off which ones she owned as she awaited buying the next one. This list will eventually not be needed, right? As in it doesn't need to go into long term files. And it doesn't require any action right now, right? It just needs to be "held" in a specific place where it can be found again when birthdays, Christmas, or other special reward opportunities come around for her. So this list is in the "Carly" file for when we need to refer to it.

Need some more examples?  Well, due to the personal nature of some of the info on the paper I can't include a picture of every one but here are a few:

* A copy of my child's class schedule that he receives at the beginning of the year goes into their individual file so that if I need to know which class they have during which class period, I can know.

* A print out of the ticket my son needs to take the ACT test in a few weeks. When you register to take this standardized college readiness test, they have you print out a paper that HAS to be taken with you on the day you take the test. You register several weeks to months in advance and where do you put the paper? In that child's "to hold" file? Exactly.

And just in case you need a few more examples, how about these:
The list of possible date ideas my then 16 year old son and his siblings and friends came up with to help with the always-present problem of "what should we do on our date this weekend?" 

A gift certificate my son received for his birthday to go sky diving that needs to be kept until he redeems it.

A copy of the receipt for the graduation tassel I bought my Class of 17 graduating senior. (Did you know that you have to order these in the fall and they aren't delivered until April of the next year?!  Well, it's true. And in the meantime, where are you supposed to keep it so you can find it in April?) 

Last but not least....
This new debit card and pin number came in the mail for my married daughter last week. I knew she was coming home for Thanksgiving and would be able to pick it up then. As I mentioned, even though some of my kids have flown the nest, it is nice to have a place to put their papers that need to be held onto for just a little while. Another example for another daughter was the recent Proof of Insurance card that came in the mail for her car. She will be here too, in a few days, and that card is safely tucked away in her file as we speak.

Remember your goal? To have EMPTY and CLUTTER-FREE spaces?!  My counters don't always look like this but, for me, this is the goal. And I have found that the best way to keep papers out of my prime spaces PLUS be easy to find when I need them is a "to hold" file.  It helps you give a home to those papers that are in limbo. Give it a try! It will change your life for the better!

Next post:  Creating a filing system that can really work