Using a family binder to stay organized

Please welcome my guest today, Michelle from Leaving Excess as she discusses how using a family binder helps her manage her household.  Thanks for stopping by Michelle!

guest post

The Family Binder is the sort of thing that you don’t notice is there, but without it you would waste a lot of time.  Trust me, once you have one, you will wonder how you lived without it!

family binder

The binder actually came about because I hate piles of stuff, especially paper laying around and getting things all cluttered.  After I wound up tossing some papers that I wished I had kept, I started the binder as a way to keep those informational flyers and such that you need to refer to sometime down the road but don’t want all over the refrigerator or on your counters.

I use a binder that I purchased at an office supply store.  On the front cover I put a title and then some quotes about family.  This is my favorite:  “Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories.” – John Wilmot.

On the inside cover is a pocket.  I put often called phone numbers in that pocket (our cell phones, kids’ friends (super handy when calling the kids to come home), emergency contacts, school info).  There are 9 sections to my binder, each one has a tab divider that is also a folder.

The first section is Household – this has things we need to refer to as a family or for the house. Things like graduation party invitations, reminder cards to call for a furnace service, etc.  I also print up a form for all the kids’ schools that I can check off if they are coming late, leaving early, someone extra is coming for lunch, etc. and just sign and give the kids before they head to school – this seems to save us time!  I do this each year and just print a bunch off to put in the binder to use as needed.

The next 6 sections are for each person in our house, by name.  For the kids, I keep their information for school (calendars, email addresses, coming events) and activities (contact lists, schedules) in these areas.  Each item has it’s own page protector, so I can sort through easily to find what I need.  When the event is coming in the next day or two, I post it on the fridge and then toss it when it is over.  I put invitations with the gifts (once I have them and they are wrapped), so we have the directions and phone number on our way to the party.   My husband and I keep whatever we need handy in our sections and clean out our own periodically.

There is a section for Church, which has our schedules, religious classes and related information.

The final section is Other.  It has take out menus (since we rarely use these, it is in the back) along with some owner’s manuals that are needed periodically (to reset alarm clocks, that kind of thing).  When we were getting bids for some remodeling, we would keep that information in this section, too.  Our recent ant extermination bids also went in this section.

Good times to go through and purge items are when a quarter ends at school, when the school year ends and when the school year begins.

We keep our binder in our kitchen on a bookshelf and that way everyone knows how to find what they are looking for when they need it.  It really works well for us.

Do you use a family binder or household notebook in your home?

Michelle Schahn is a CPA, turned SAHM, turned somewhere in between.  She blogs at Leaving Excess, where she shares her efforts to give up some of the things society tells us we must consume in order to be happy.  Her sometimes reluctant, but generally cooperative family of six includes a husband and four kids.


Filed under: Guest Bloggers, Household Notebook


43 Responses to Using a family binder to stay organized

  1. 1
    Marian says

    I think this is a wonderful idea. I dont know that I would ever get my organized. But I see how it would work. We are always losing forms that my daughter brings home from school.

    • 1.1
      sadie says

      hey… don’t know how to organize one? check…. and type in “command central binder”. it gives a step by step process including the items you need to put one together!! it is awesome!!!

      • Crystal says

        This site was so helpful! Thank you for posting it. The last thing on my quest for organization was what to do with all the paper. This solved that problem for me.

  2. 2
    Kim says

    I have had one for quite a while and couldn’t function without it. Between my dear momAgenda calendar and my binder, I feel like I keep things organized pretty well. I added the link to an old post from March 2007 that I did about my binder on my blog that I’ve been ignoring forever. :)

  3. 3
    Cindy says

    I use an accordian/expanding file folder, the pretty plastic ones you can find in Target, Walmart, or any Office store. I have two young children in school (preschool and 1st grade), so I have one accordian folder for each child (labeled with each subject, monthly newsletters, art work, etc.) and then one accordian folder for the house for receipts, coupons, etc. I leave these 3 folders in a decorative Pandan rectangle box (purchased at World Market) displayed on the floor under my desk, and find that it is easy to get to, and pretty too. It makes it really easy to grab and use. It works well for my family. I also have a 3 tier file folder holder on top of my desk (Target RealSimple) for the two kids and house hold items that will need to be used on a daily basis or during the week. When the school week is over, I then move those papers from the files on the desk, to the accordian files in the basket. That way I am not always rummaging through all of the folders looking for last minute items that are needed during the week (homework, etc). I use a label maker to mark EVERYTHING which makes it easy to read and find – much better than trying to decipher my handwriting ;)

  4. 5
    Micki says

    I’m putting this together…like TONIGHT! I have ideas in my head. Ohhh I’m excited! I can see this actually WORKING for us.

  5. 6
    Sarah says

    Love this post! I use a 3-ring binder based on FlyLady’s control journal:

    Among other things, I keep our phone numbers (home and cell) and directions to our house in case a guest or babysitter needs to give directions to an ambulance or something; numbers of family and neighbors (and their addresses); info in case our wallets are lost or stolen (contact info for our credit/debit cards, insurance,etc.), contact numbers for each of our utilities along with phone numbers (handy when there’s a power outage or if someone smells natural gas), and more.

  6. 7
    Kelly says

    I’m more of a file person, so I have a filing cabinet instead with all of that info in it. I use some of David Allen’s GTD stuff – so I file everything alphabetically – no categories like “household”, “financial”, etc., just an alphabetical label like “Car Loan” or “Take Out Menus” (yes, I actually have a file for Take Out Menus – that’s one of the things I got the most out of from GTD – that nothing is too small or unimportant to make a file for if it’s something you’ll be referring to frequently). That being said, I don’t have a child in school yet, so I can see needing a different system to deal with the onslaught of paper that will come along with that, espcially when so much of it (invitiations, field trip notices, etc.) is much more temporary, and not necessarily needing a file…. although, with that type of paperwork, I might actually get enough use out of a Tickler file to make it worthwhile to keep one.

  7. 8
    Rena says

    This is such a great idea! I have piles — coupons, insurance information, bills, etc. The piles drive my husband crazy. I will definitely put together a family binder. Thanks for sharing.

  8. 9
    Marcia Wilwerding says

    I used to have a large, three-ring binder (or three or four or more…), then I just had to scale back. I am now settled with a small, 6-ring binder which holds 3 3/4- X 6 3/4-inch refillable note paper. There are three sections: To Do Today, Phone Numbers, and 2-page Weekly Calendar. I also keep a two-zippered organizer in my purse which uses the same size paper. In the front section I have six tabs: current notes, ongoing notes, a spending record, important information, diet notes, and address book. I keep cash, cards, and coupons in the back section. These two binders are my brains. I couldn’t function without them.

  9. 10
    Lowbudget says

    I am interested in giving this a try. I already have a binder and divider tabs. I just need to get a cover page and start inserting my items. This is another step in my journey to organizing things around the house.
    Thanks :)

  10. 11
    franticmommy says

    I luv ring binders. I work in the office products industry and have access to all the fancy schmancy I could want…but I always go back to a ring binder system for organizing my projects and information. Good article!

  11. 12
    Sandy Watts says

    Wish I had known about this when my kids were at home, would have made life so much simpler!! I’m passing it on to my granddaughter!

  12. 13
    sarah says

    We have a family binder. I update once a week. The kids are starting to use it themselves. It is really nice to be able to find everything and not have to carry it all in my purse. I absolutely love it.

  13. 14
    More Than A Mom says

    I have a binder. I love to organize my binder. But if it isn’t in front of me, staring me in the face I don’t do the stuff that is inside the binder. Rough, heh?!

  14. 15
    Heather says

    I started using a family binder this year when my son started kindergarten. I couldn’t believe all the paperwork we get from the school every week. It seemed like a good way to keep the papers and information easily accessible, but organized and tidy enough to keep on the kitchen counter.

  15. 16
    Anna says

    This is a smart idea. Right now it is just my husband and me, and I have a simple spiral notebook that I write everything down in to keep myself organized. I do need to create a better paper filing system, though.

  16. 17
    Candy says

    I love this idea! I have five children from 2nd grade to high school senior. There’s always something misplaced…..this binder will be organized this weekend to begin use Monday! Thanks for all the ideas!

  17. 18
    Paulette says

    I use these too!
    We have an accordian style one that’s holds manuals and receipts, alphabetically.
    I have another display book (not sure what it’s called over there, has many clear pages in it) for my budget, organised month by month.
    And another household one that has emergency phone numbers, medication instructions (two boys with asthma, one who also has severe eczema and severe allergies) list of safe foods. Daily and weekly routines. Pantry list. Menu plan.

    If I have someone here babysitting (especially at short notice when one of the boys are in hospital) they can follow the routines, have all
    medication info there, know what to cook for dinner etc

  18. 19
    Jennifer says

    Thanks for the idea about the kids forms. Great Idea! I started putting together and using a binder about a year and a half ago. It is now grand central station! We love it! I have went from one binder to now three different organizers. I never thought I would be organized enough to use one. It is still actually a work in progress. There is always something to do in it.

  19. 20
    Lynette says

    I have used one about a year. Actually, I had one for financial things, bills, estimates, when I bought something to see how long it lasts me.
    AND I have a household one. It has stuff like a full list of friends/familyaddresses & phone numbers, if something happened to my husband or me, we have a list of people we would need to call. Directions to our house and phone numbers that I can hand the babysitter when we go out. My son’s ebay transactions. Where our credit card info, insurance info…in case we have to evacuate the house in case of fire, flood, tornado, I can grab this notebook and have all of our info. It is great and I’m always thinking of more stuff I can add!

  20. 21
    Susie's Homemade says

    I keep all this kind of information on my frig so, it is handy for everyone to read. I do have a binder for coupons and recipes and girl scouts and cleaning and vacation planning and ..I could go on and on and on:-)

  21. 22
    erica says

    i have a binder for all my recipes. divided by category. :) i love binders. then i don’t have a bunch of loose leaf papers floating everywhere. thanks for your website. it has been SO helpful for me (and many others, i’m sure!)

  22. 23
    Mindy says

    The husband and I use a binder for bills, exspenses, and such. Never really thought about using one for all the other little things. Our frig is almost completely covered with school related things so I’m deffinitely gonna start a new binder!

  23. 24
    Michelle says

    Hi, everyone! I am so excited to hear that people are going to put this in place! And I am impressed with how many of you already have a similar system or one that works for you!

  24. 25
    Courtney says

    I’ve been using a family notebook for about a year and it’s been really handy. I have sections for useful information (phone numbers, calendar, kids schedules etc), bill paying, holidays & event planning, and household projects. It took a lot of work to set up but its pretty easy to maintain and definitely saves me time in the long run!

  25. 26
    Bunny from CT says

    I love mine, I bought one in bright pink! I can’t lose it like my little black daytimer calendar, “your little calendar or the big one?” the kids used to ask when I was looking for that one, now I never lose a bit as long as I put the stuff in it as soon as it comes in the house.
    I have kids in 2 different school systems, so each has a section for school and one for activities. it’s a true life saver!
    For the coming year I’ve added a name brand monthly calendar and name and phone section to increase my effiency, making my own took too much time!
    Happy Holidays to all!

  26. 27
    Joyce says

    I need to finish my family binder. It’s just sitting on the shelf waiting for me. I know it will be a great help once I get it done.

    I was wondering if you will be doing the monthly round-ups next year. I participated a few times this year, although I really wanted to do them all, the kids only allowed me so much time. It was great seeing how others organized each month. Since the Nov and Dec ones were canceled, I went ahead and did my own thing. haha

  27. 28
    Dan says

    I would recommend checking out for an online GTD manager.

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A mobile version is available too.

  28. 29
    Amber says

    This is a great idea, thank you for sharing! Now I know what I am going to do with all the papers that come home from school!

  29. 30
    Nyky @thecrazycrabb says

    I have been using my address book (and going crazy) for a while trying to keep the important papers and stuff together. Organizing my life (including the clutter of paperwork) is really important to me right now. I am going to try this out…and I will post it on my blog (success or failure). What a great idea. Thanks so much!

  30. 31
    DebbieQ says

    I have used a series of binders for many years. They kept me organized and made sure that we didn’t lose those school papers that kept coming home. Even now, with all the kids out of the house I still use the binders. That way my hubbie always knows where he can find things like postage or the print outs for travel plans or whatever.

  31. 34
    Alyssa says

    Huge binder fanatic use several household, business, coupon.

  32. 35
    Creative Triplet Mom says

    I have a control journal mentioned above that I made when I too found fly lady. In it I have phone numbers and addresses which really came in handy when I lost all my files on my computer. As I receive Holiday Cards I quickly look through my binder to update addresses as people moved so I have the correct information for next year.

    As for incoming papers and I have many of them which they come home in triplet. I have file folders on my desk. One for School, one for MOMS Club, One for Girls Scout, Coupons, Receipts, I file them away in their particular folder and toss as new ones come in.

    I also have a composition notebook next to my computer that I added different tabs to so I can jot things down as I find them from the computer and blogs that I read. I used to have post it notes all over but not any more since I use my notebook. Certainly came in handy for shopping for kids games this year as I jotted down a list of the best games both board and DS ones.

    Just recently I made a TO Do/To Call/To Buy little book that I have on the side of the computer as well. It’s small like 4 x 6 in size. This is where I have been jotting down my to do’s so to get it off my mind and i remember to do it. I just made this in Dec and so far it has been working out nicely. Hopefully I will continue to use it in 2010.

  33. 36
    Maggie Todd says

    I am not organized at all so the Binder would maybe work for me, if I can remember to put it together and use it. I have 3 kids and I have a plastic multi pocket folder for each one. In each one there is an official birth certificate for the child (I also have a copy for my own files), and their social security card. I keep shot records, copies of physicals for school and scouts, report cards, state testing scores (in Texas it is the TAKS), and all special ed information for the child. It helps for teacher conferences, and once they are 18, you can just give the child his own folder.

  34. 37
    Document Binders says

    I think this is a great idea. Rather than keeping a planner or an organizer. Dedicate the binder towards each member of the family and file things that associate them, is a great idea. I mean this is more effective than you planning out our day. By keeping information related to that family member makes your life much easier and less chaotic.

  35. 38
    Kylie says

    I just started my own binder and I am trying to find what works for our little family.I like how each person has their own section!

  36. 39
    Mikell Nigro says

    With the beginning of the school year quickly approaching, I am very excited about getting this together so that we can all stay on top of all of the papers that come in for each child. Thanks for the fantastic tips!

  37. 40
    K&K Thomas says

    I put one of these together and once we get into a routine …. I think it will work wonders on our home. I have also included floor plans for each room of the house and pockets for before and after photos of rooms we transform. Another great idea is using the pockets for swatches of paint or fabric for each area. Love this book and I do utilize the calendar. We each have a highlighter color so I just high light on each day with the color that belongs to each person and write in what they are doing that day. Have fun making one.

  38. 41
    Olof says

    I see how this works great with older kids but with young stay at home children I don´t see how this would work. I have a folder I just never use it. It was started using the FlyLady method.


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