This is the post for which you have all been waiting. I’m going to give you a clutter-free way to save your entire favorite magazine articles, recipes printed from the Internet, and helpful seminar notes.
First things first: do not read any further until you have sorted through all of the papers already in your house (see the first article in this series, “Do I Really Need to Keep It?”). Next, set up your filing system. If you’ve been reading the whole series, you should have already chosen to set up either a filing cabinet/drawer/box system, or a binder system.
After you get your have-to-save papers under control, it’s time to sit down with a cup of tea and sort through your want-to-save papers. Go through every piece of paper and re-evaluate it. Are you really going to make that recipe, or is it wishful thinking that your picky eaters would actually eat the exotic vegetable recipes you’ve been hoarding? Are you going to re-read those notes and articles? Are they still relevant and helpful? If you can answer a truthful yes to these questions, then put those papers off to one side in stacks, i.e., recipes in one stack, home decorating articles in another pile, organization tips in yet another spot, etc.
Next, pull out all the back issues of the magazines you can’t seem to resist at the grocery checkout line or to which you subscribe. This is a good activity for when you’re watching TV or waiting for soccer practice to finish. Go through each magazine (quickly—it will take much longer if you re-read everything!). Try to remember why you saved the magazine in the first place. Did it have some great recipes you wanted to save? A new look you wanted to try for your living room? A great article on working from home? If you can’t remember why you saved the magazine, or if you can’t find any articles that you, in retrospect, really want to keep, then throw out the magazine (or put it in the recycling bin). Yes, I’m serious. Do I need to come over and pry it out of your fingers? It won’t hurt; I promise!
Go through all the articles you pulled out from the magazines and sort them into piles with your other want-to-save articles and papers. Now comes the fun part: organizing them in such a way that you’ll be able to reference them easily, which is the point of saving them.
Look at your (neat) piles. Do you have a lot of piles? Is each pile a mile high? Or, do you just have a few piles with a few papers each? For just a moment, set the recipes aside. We’re going to do something different with them soon.
Binder Queens: Decide whether one binder will be sufficient for your want-to-save papers. If not, figure out which categories can be combined and how many binders you will need. Make labeled dividers for each topic. File the papers from each pile. Either punch holes or put the pages into sheet protectors. That’s it!
File Foxes: Set up a new hanging file or files, depending on how many papers and subjects you have. If some themes can be combined, form a broader category for them. Then make labeled file folders for each topic. Put the papers from each pile in the proper file folder, put them in alphabetical order in your filing cabinet/drawer/box, and you’re done!
Let’s talk about the recipes now. Let’s face it, not all of the recipes will be as picture perfect on your table as they are in the magazine or online. Or, maybe you’ve tried certain recipes that didn’t go over too well with your family, yet you kept the recipe. Go through all of the recipes and trash the ones that you know you won’t be using again. Get another binder; a one-inch binder should be large enough, unless you have a ton of recipes. Yes, even if you’re a File Fox, this is an instance in which a binder is the best tool for the job. Get dividers and label them for each type of recipe you have: meats, vegetables, soup, desserts, salads, etc. Punch holes or put the recipes in clear page protectors.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’m going to reiterate that in order for the system to work, you’ve got to keep up with it after you start it. I am the last person to tell you not to buy any more magazines or not to print off cool recipes from the Internet. But, while you read your magazines, turn down the pages of the articles or recipes that you think you absolutely have to save. When you’re done with the whole magazine, go back and review the turned-down pages. If you think you still have to save the articles/recipes/ideas, then rip them out and toss the rest of the magazine away. Either file the papers right away, which is obviously preferable, or put them into your to-be-filed bin to take care of later in the week.
There, you can have your cake and eat it, too!