Thrifty Organization; Buying Time by Organizing Affordably:

Written by Amy Hannold, of

My kids carry a 3-ring binder or folder to school and back each day. Attending their back to school orientation, I was relieved to hear how much emphasis their schools are placing on organization. This is great news, as many adults I know, including myself, find organization to be a challenge. Sometimes, we feel that we’re “just too busy” to get organized. The positive reality of getting organized is that once you’ve started new habits, your life gets easier. You have the time to get the most from your time and money; less is wasted.

As with any other value we want our children to possess, organization is best modeled. If we take seriously our own efforts to be organized, our whole family will benefit.

Even with the advances in technology, there seems to be a never-ending amount of paper in a mom’s life. I’m “old-school”, and prefer to take the tangible approach to organization. I realize there are Blackberries, I-Phones, and handheld PDA’ which can make life easier. (You can adapt these ideas to those electronic formats perhaps, or consider creating some tangible tools in your home to encourage your children’s organizational habits.)

Given the amount of paper that comes into my house, and my own thinking style, I have achieved the best of organizational success when I use notebooks. Using notebooks and files also allows me extra “modeling” opportunities when the kids can see me filing (and finding) our papers appropriately.

Online, you can buy many ready-made versions of home organization notebooks. More affordable and more personally customized versions can be created. Here are two of my favorites.

“My Home, Organized Notebook”


Sturdy 3-ring binder (2” is preferable, 1 to 1 ½ inch is good for individual notebooks for the kids)

Notebook Index Dividers with 5-8 tabbed dividers. Some are made with pockets, those are great!

3-Ring, double sided pockets (heavy-paper or the new “plastic” ones) for stashing papers inside your categories.

Notebook Paper – I like wide-ruled for making notes and lists.

3-Ring, zippered pocket

Glossy 3-ring page protector sleeves (photos, magazine pages, and anything you don’t want to 3-hole punch)

3-hole punch tool


The “My Home, Organized Notebook” is designed to be a “Yellow Pages” for your home and daily routine. What do you need to refer to everyday (or what takes up your counter or drawer space)?

Possible Categories: Meal Plans, Budget, Gift Closet Inventories, Online Passwords, School Calendars, Rosters/Phone Lists, Personal and Family Goals, Family Meeting Minutes, “Ideas”, “Honey-Do” Lists, “My To-Do Lists”, Shopping Lists, Babysitter Information Forms, Medical Information Sheets, Chores/Kids’ Lists, Templates for other organizational forms you use, Travel Plans, Home Projects, Recipes (though you may file them in a separate notebook), Long & Short Term Planning, PTA/Scouts/Extra Curricular activities etc. I also like to include an “Inspiration” category, where I clip and keep quotes, short stories, letter or cards I’ve received, and other things that will evoke a smile at just the right moment.

The goal is to clear counters and find you the “lost” time

that you’d otherwise spend looking for this information.

Create a space in the notebook for each category. Keep your “My Home, Organized Notebook” handy, in one consistent place in your home. Refer to it and cherish the easier routine your life moves in, when you’re not searching for or replacing vital information. Re-create and design as your needs or ideas change.

Free, downloadable forms to help you create your Home Organized Notebook can be found at and

For remodeling/home projects, warranties and user manuals, recipes, each child’s school papers, or other individual need, you may use a separate 1 to 1 ½ inch 3-ring binder.

The “Car to Home Keeper”: Carries important papers to and from your car. Possible contents include incoming/outgoing mail, kids school notes, a notebook for your lists and thoughts, quick “To-Do Tasks” (for those waiting times), copies of phone lists, mailing supplies, “To-Reads” such as a magazine or newsletter, grocery/retail ads, restaurant coupons/menus, etc.

This “Car to Home Keeper” alleviates car clutter and transports securely what comes in and out of our lives every day. Carrying your mailing supplies, “to-do tasks”, and “to-reads” buys you a little bit of free time later when you get things done, in-route.


One Accordion Style, Expandable File. These can be found in many styles. Find one that meets your needs (based on number of files, etc.) You can find these at nearly any retail or second hand store.

Also include: stamps, stationary, note cards, and anything else you might need.


Label each tab, according to your determined categories. Supply your “Car to Home Keeper “with the materials you’ll need for to-do tasks, mailing, etc. Each morning, carry it with you to the car. Place incoming papers in the labeled files. Enjoy the “to-reads” and skip the post office line; you’re ready! When you arrive home, take your “Car to Home Keeper” inside with you and refresh it for the next day.

247MOMS: It’s Your Turn!

How do you get organized? What are your best time saving, clutter-cutting tips?

What types of categories have you found to help you get organized in these tools we’ve illustrated for you?

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