Our paper problems - and attempted solutions - have been evolving over the years. It started out that mail would pile up on the entry table, but that was the first place visitors would see, so we had to nix that plan right away. Then I put a basket inside the entry table to corral papers that needed action or filing, but that didn’t work well either, because once the papers went into that bin they were out of sight, out of mind. And even then, because we typically enter the house through our kitchen door, a lot of paper ended up coming in to the kitchen and never leaving.
As a result, we decided to start bringing the mail straight into the kitchen - at least consolidating all of our papers that needed attention in one place. But who really wants to see an ever growing pile of papers on the kitchen counter?
Then I had the great idea to get a basket for the kitchen counter to hold all of the papers - so we had a slightly more contained pile of papers. The only way in which this really helped, however, was that it made it easier to tuck it out of sight when we had people over.
The problem remained that while all those papers needed some kind of attention, we had to dig through the pile to find anything, and papers still got overlooked at the bottom of the basket. While we have a good filing system in our home office, I just don’t have time to file items each day as they come in to the house. Plus, many of the papers required some kind of action before they could be filed. And other papers would never get filed away at all - just needing to be reviewed or acted upon before being recycled.
I finally came to the realization that what I needed was not just a place to contain the paper - but a system to actually ORGANIZE it. And I also decided that if that system were going to continue to be housed on my kitchen counter where I had to stare at it day in and day out - it had better be pretty!
Off I went to Office Depot in search of some paper organizing options. Low and behold - right inside the front door was their new collection from See Jane Work, including some gorgeous file folders that were a perfect match for my kitchen. (Now, you probably have to be a pretty big fan of organizing to think file folders can are gorgeous - but really, aren’t they?)
Next I started looking for a container to house the file folders - but I had three specific requirements
(1) It needed to be closed on the sides to ensure that no papers could fall out of the file folders - so the matching paper sorter from See Jane Work was out:
(2) It couldn’t have any excess spaces that might attract additional items to the kitchen counter (since I already have a good drawer system in the kitchen for pens, notepads, and the like, I didn’t want or need space for these items on the counter), so this option from the Container Store was out:
(3) It had to be pretty!
Finally after some internet searching, I found this acrylic paper sorter that fit all my requirements. I liked that it had five divided sections - enough to keep everything separated, and best of all, because it was clear, it would show off my pretty file folders! I found a good price on Amazon.
The next step was to sort my existing pile to identify the major categories of paper that live in our kitchen, and make myself a list.
Once I revised my list a couple of times, I was ready to label my file folders. But the folders are so pretty, and I was afraid to write directly on them in case I decide, after a month or two of living with the new system, that my categories need some revamping. So I decided to first place a clear address label on each folder, so that I didn't have to stick the handwritten file label directly to the folder. By doing this, I’ll have the option to easily peel off the handwritten label without damaging the folder, and replace it with a new label if I decide to change things up in the future. An easy solution to my fear of category commitment.
We’ve been living with this new system for a few weeks now, and it’s worked great so far. It’s much easier to see what we have and what we need to do with it. And when I have the time, I can just grab one folder and know which papers need to be filed away in our home office. I love how pretty it looks sitting on my counter, but also how easy it is to to tuck away in the pantry if I want it out of sight when guests are over.
Thanks for the challenge, Jen. My kitchen still has some hidden problem spots, but at least the most visible of my organizing challenges has been conquered - and is now quite a bit more stylish than a towering pile of paper!