Saturday, April 28, 2012

Home Management Filing System

Does your kitchen counter's hot spot look like this?

 My Kitchen hot spot - Clutter Fest!
Well, mine did and for a very long time too!

What is a hot spot?

It's that sneaky corner or drop zone somewhere in your house where the stuff piles on. Generally located near an entryway, the stuff piles on as you "enter and dump" whatever is in your hand on that very same spot. This is bill oblivion and where kids due assignments get lost. You may also find an old greeting cards containing a check, half a tube of hand lotion and a lot of  "maybe I'll buy that" catalogs.

 I have struggled with creating efficiency and healthy habits for the majority of my adult life, the only way to move on here is to come up clean with an honest and overdue acknowledgement... Yes, I confess, everything you see is 90% mine, 10 % the kids and 0% the result of my husband's own clutter! Because unlike me, Scott was blessed with established good habits (a leftover from his structured Navy days).

Over the years I have tried every system ever created to tackle the kind of mess you see in that picture. Bills were supposedly filed into a three ring binder, that lasted about two months. Junk mail was rerouted to an immediate trash receptacle, it quickly overflowed. Back in the days I had Scott charge me $1 each time he had to pick up after me...I ran out of funds while he enjoyed oodles of exotic desserts!
Even when I look at this picture I can see attempts at organized chaos: there is the red bowl meant for odds and ends, the basket for tissues and the bills stacked behind the cereal box. I have not a clue what's in the brown paper bag nor why my wallet, keys and makeup bag are not in my purse.

Fast forward to today, this is what that same corner looks like (for real):

This is my mini Home Management System

Problems to be resolved:

I realized that more than one issue needed to be tackled here.

1. The bills needed to be centralized into a working system. One that would  promote ongoing paying throughout the month rather than a huge stack of bills paid all at once. That old system often left us with not a dime on the joint account at the end of the billing ordeal, not to mention late/missed payments!

2. Centralize an Activity Calendar so that no child, or parent activity/appointment would be missed. In the past, the number of missed deadlines and other "Man, I forgot it was tonight!" moments was astounding.

3. Structure the Weekly Chore activity plan so that the house would be cleaned throughout the week, one zone at a time, rather than spending an entire Sunday or Saturday doing it.

4. Create a structured Drop Zone for receipts and other important documents (insurance cards, kids keepsake artwork etc.)


My Home Management System

Over the years I have spent a lot of time on the Internet looking for inspiration, I dare say that I continued to be led into one particular direction, that of the structure the homeschooling moms seem to have in common.
I am in no way saying that their system is the best and most effective way to keep a home, some may not even have any specific systems at all. Instead, what I did is compile a bunch of different systems into one big centralized method of keeping my home affairs organized, and most ideas, well, I hacked from some of the homeschooling and blogging moms on the Internet. I realize that this system takes time to set up, but I can honestly say that thus far, this is the only one that has been tried and proved to be working to fit our busy lifestyle.

This system is a modified crate filing system with hanging and manila folders to keep things organized and this is what you will need for set up:

Set Up:
  • 12 Green Hanging File folders
  • 52 Manila folders + some extra ones
  • File folder labels
  • Pocket organizers
  • Stick on Tabs
  • Weekly Calendar templates (Free templates are coming soon but you can easilycreate your own)
  • Stapler
  • Filing Crate (mine is the metal mesh kind, but the plastic ones will work just the same)
  • 2 Clipboards
  • Pre-Stamped Enveloped
  • Paper Clips
  • Sticky Notes

Templates are available for free download
at the end of this blog post



First, I placed 12 hanging folders in the crate. Each represents one month out of the year.
I then created 52 manila folders, one for each week out of the year. For example May 7 to May 14.
Each hanging folder would then contain either 4 or 5 manila folders, depending on how many weeks are in that month.

My weekly manila folders

I created this simple weekly Activity Calendar. And printed 52 of them, separated into 4 seasonal colors. Time has to be spent to fill in the dates throughout the year, but once it is set up you do not have to worry about it until next year! Each weekly planner is then stapled on to the front of the manila folder for that matching week.

Staple the activity calendar on the front of each respective manila folder

This is what all 4 seasons look like

Each calendar has a space reserved for bills to be sent that week:

Bill tracking
I include the amount to be paid as well as when it is due, which is 3 days prior to the actual due date. I also write the amount to keep track of our expenses.


When a bill comes in, I immediately open it, find out when it is due, write the check, insert it into the envelope, affix the stamp, write the address etc. and place the envelope to be mailed into that specific week's manila folder. I then write on that week's calendar when the bill is due. Once the date to mail the bill comes, it is ready to be mailed out, all we have to do is take it out of the folder and drop it at the local post office.

I write down when the bills are due - 3 days prior to their actual due date

Each activity calendar also provides a to-do-list as well as special duties or cleaning items that would not otherwise fall into the general chores chart.

I also write down whatever big item chores or special
 to-dos we have for the week.

Birthdays, anniversary, special dates etc. are entered onto their respective activity calendars ahead of time at the beginning of the year.

The crate stays on my office desk and we only deal with one folder at a time as the weekly folder is placed in the mini Home Management System on the kitchen's counter top.

Mini System in the Kitchen

Mini Home Management System and its contents

Our mini kitchen center is updated every Sunday night with the old week's calendar/folder being switched with the new one. In addition, we keep one memo pad and pen for quick notes to one another, post its and paperclips. In the box, we also have two clipboards, one with my chore charts, the other with the boys' individual chore charts (more on these charts in a later blog).


Tackling the Paper Mess

Any paper that is attached to a deadline (event or bill) is immediately filed into the manila folders for their respective week. So, whenever one of our boys comes home with a special assignment or event for their school, it is dropped into that specific week's folder and the event written on that specific week's calendar. No more papers hanging from the fridge = no more missed events!

With this system, we went from this:

Our fridge before my Home Management System

To this:

Our fridge after my Home Management System

Other items belonging to the weekly folders:

- Receipts from that week's purchases (every single one of them) - later to be used for accounting
- Coupons I may have received in the mail and need to be filed at a later time

The issue of tackling important documents was also resolved with this system:

I have created 4 additional pocket organizers (one for each family member). These are labeled by name with an adhesive tab and contain important documents for that year. So should I receive a new  medical insurance update, it goes into my pocket folder. At the end of the year, each document is then transferred to our master file cabinet and archived.

Important Documents are kept in separate folders per family member

There is a reason for my separating these documents. For the most part they are not attached to any significant deadline, they are also fresh in our memory since within the same year, and their proximity allows us to quickly retrieve any document we may need. This has allowed us to tackle the hoard of paperwork stacked on top our desks as well as the various hot spots throughout the house.

This is our system, this is what works for us. Our main issue was clutter and forgetting important deadlines as a result of never properly documenting anything we do.
This is not a complicated system, as mentioned above, it will take a few hours to set up, but other than that, it is a matter of routine and consistency (two qualities I did not have until I found this system).

We hope this works for you. leave a comment or question if you need more information about our Home Management System. Thank you.

Here is the link if you want to download the templates:

Thank you for sharing my blog and liking mygreatchallenge on facebook.

Sophia, NJ.


  1. I love this idea and want to download the templates, but I am unable to. Is there another way to do this?


  2. I would like the templates too, but can't get to the link.

  3. Hi, Sophia. I think your system is genius! I wish I'd been able to employ it when my kids were little, but it will still be extremely helpful even now that they're all grown up and on their own. Trouble is that I can't access the templates either which is strange because I have a Google/Blogger account. Is there another way we can get to them? Honestly, I think you can market them!!

  4. Heidi and Sandie, I found a different link to the templates in another post, here you go:

  5. I tried the other link, but I couldn't assess it there either.

  6. love this system, but couldn't download templates ... sad times :(

  7. Hi everyone, I am going to work on fixing the templates today. but just as an FYI the templates are under the tab "freebies" did you check that post? Either way, I am looking into a better system to attach downloadable documents. Standby and thank you all for your patience.

  8. Great news! The templates are now all updated for you! I had an issue with the way I had set up the page itself. You can now check all templates available for free under the tab "free stuff". There are two ways to get the templates, you can either click on the image and print from your computer (make sure you reorient your printer as either vertical or horizontal) or you can click on the link below each picture, it will forward you to MediaFire, a web hosting file sharing software (not crazy about it but for now that's what I have for PDF). Either way, it's fixed. Thank you all for your interest.

  9. Thank you for working it out for us to download the templates!

  10. I love this system!!!! I scrounged around the house and 'upcycled' some things to make mine work right now. Instead of 52 manilla folders, I have 6 folders (for the remaining months this year)salvaged from last years nursing classes (thank God that's over with!). I stapled all that months weeks to the front of it and the inside of it will hold the bills, etc. I mostly needed a place to catch everything as it comes in the door.

    It's all sitting in a large plastic bin, so mail can be put in there for me to go through. What I love about this is that it can evolve with me! Can't wait for this to start making my life easier!!

  11. hi there , i feel like an idiot but i am getting so frustrated. i want to print the templates for week at a glance. i go to the tab free stuff and all i see is products, nothing about templates. what am i doing wrong?? i was so excited about this and now im sad lol

  12. Hi, if you look on the side of the blog (right side) as you scroll up and down, you will see a series of pictures for most popular blog posts. one of them is the templates post. go to that post and click on the links under each template you want to download...let me know if it works. thank you. Sophia

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I welcome your feedback and comments. If you have a question or a specific request, do not hesitate, I am here to help! Thanks, S.

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