Friday, July 29, 2011

The closet shuffle: All filed away

Earlier this month I showed off phase one of the two-phase closet switch-a-roo, which involves emptying the contents of the office closet into the guest room closet to make way for baby. After my brief blogging hiatus (excused by the fact that I was in New York and then Buenos Aires....yep, more on that later) I am back to show you what I got done before I started jet-setting.

The main project I had to tackle during the closet shift process was to develop a new filing system. The old accordion filing system had gotten out of hand, and with a baby on the way I figured we could use a little more filing space anyway for our growing family. So when I left off the whole project looked like this. Now the office closet is empty except for one or two lingering small items, and the guest room closet is well fitted. Here's the guest room closet today:
I went through most of its contents in the previous post, so I won't bore you with those details again, but I will say that I went through all my crafting items (does it make me sound lame when I say all my crafting items? Yes, most likely) that I've been using/collecting since my early childhood. I threw out items like the dried up paint from when I was 10 years old and some busted pens that have been lingering since early high school. I separated out items that are great for kids to use for crafts -- googly eyes, pipe cleaners, sequins -- from those items that I use on a semi-regular basis -- craft glue, ribbon, stamps, paper punches...mostly items for making cards -- and stowed the kid-friendly craft items in a plastic bin in the office closet. The other plastic craft bin you can see on the middle shelf of the guest room closet. So, I consolidated, and I planned ahead for toddler years when some kid crafting supplies will be handy, which I realize is all quite far away but at least I know what I've got on hand and it's not taking up much space.

But back to the bigger issue: filing. You may have spied my filing solution at the bottom of the closet. Yup, a plastic two-drawer filing cabinet. I had mentioned how Craigslist would be the best place for the two-drawer wooden filing cabinet I was seeking, and that would have been true if I had been glued to Craigslist every second of every day. The reality, though, is that I was looking to spend $50 or less, I had very specific file cabinet dimensions I was seeking, and every time I found an ideal file cabinet and I'd email the seller, they'd reply that it had just been sold and they needed to take down the ad.

So, after a few weeks of that, I decided while at Target to give the cheap plastic bin a try. I was shocked when I whipped out my mini-measuring tape, which I now keep in my purse-within-a-purse in my bag, and I discovered that this little Target item fit my odd dimensions exactly. And it cost $24. I'll take it. Then I hopped over to Office Depot where I spent $25 for hanging file folders. Then I got cranking with the label maker.
If you have super vision and excellent screen resolution, you might be able to tell that the filing system is divided into Family Files and Receipts and Manuals, which is not too far off from the original system in the accordion folders.

Let's start with the Family Files. I get red folders, Matt gets blue folders, and green folders are designated for those items that we share. Here's what I came up with:

One red and one blue folder for each:
  • Identity -- crucial documents (maybe we'll transfer these to a fire-safe? Anyone do this?)
  • Education -- this was by far the most fun to sort out. Yes, we have our college transcripts, which are at times comforting and at times troubling, but a few years ago my mother gave me a stack of items she'd saved from my childhood, including every single elementary school 4th quarter report card (my teachers like me!) and even my kindergarten entrance form, which indicates that at almost exactly five years old I weighed 38 pounds.
  • Employment --track our raises, or lack thereof. Also keep up with important items for teachers, like having an up-to-date teaching license (details, details).
  • Retirement -- If I keep going, I can retire in 2033 (though this will likely change). Booyah.
  • Medical
  • Dental
  • Pregnancy -- I discovered that with so many doctor's appointments, I already have a lot of paperwork, and I know it will only expand. So I decided to separate out these documents from my regular medical files. Plus it gives me a place to house things like ultrasound pics (or the ultrasound DVD we got last month -- insane!) until I have a baby book or something or other that will house them more permanently. I guess there's only one red folder in this category.
Dogs -- all their medical records, county dog license registrations, obedience school certificates, etc. These guys wound up in a blue folder because that's what I had left, but it might also be fitting after Matt's recent comment that he hopes he can love our future child as much as he loves the dogs.

Green folders:
  • Banking
  • Taxes -- one folder each for this year's taxes, last year's taxes, and archived taxes. For some reason I hadn't been keeping a separate filing space for this year's taxes, and it was getting more complicated at tax time. This new system allows me to easily file away receipts and those little W2s and mortgage insurance statements when they arrive in the winter. This is one my "Duh" moments.
  • Investments
  • Current credit cards
  • Old credit cards -- After a little snag five years back when we were getting credit reports in preparation for buying our house and I discovered that my name was affiliated with a card I didn't have, I've been keeping paperwork for the credit cards we close so that when the next big purchase comes up I'll have all the evidence easily accessible.
  • Car/home insurance
  • Car titles
  • Car maintenance records

Now, on to the Receipts and Manuals section. This one was easier to arrange, thanks to the work I did a year and a half ago during a tremendous amount of snow. Using the leftover red and blue folders, here's what I came up with:

I arranged these folders based on frequency of use. The categories are as follows:
  • Home services -- All the receipts for home repairs and routine maintenance.
  • Home improvement -- Because some of this we've done ourselves, like the kitchen backsplash, and some of this we've relied on professionals to do the job, this is a mixture of materials receipts, design booklets, building plans and the like. I don't think this is something you hand over to the new home's owners, but it is a nice record of all the work we've done ourselves or had done by others.
  • Kitchen large appliances
  • Kitchen small appliances
  • Appliances -- other -- I've noticed that most appliances are in the kitchen, but there are a few, like the Dyson and the washer and dryer, that needed to fit into a separate category. And thank goodness for that Dyson info we saved, since we were able to cash in on the most fortuitous and generous Craigslist warranty repair in history. Thank you, sweet man!
  • Electronics
  • Furniture and home accessories
  • Clothes -- I only save receipts for big-ticket purchases, but after returning a pair of designer jeans to Nordstrom and getting a full refund I can assure you I will always save my Nordstrom receipts.
  • Outdoor
  • Tools
So the closet switch and new filing system are complete in one fell swoop! But let's chat for a second about safes. Should we have one? (Probably.) Do you have one? Anyone have an inexpensive, small one they'd recommend to save a few precious items in case of a fire or other disaster?

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