My rotating file system

I once told a friend I would write a post about my rotating file system.  It took me a long time to get to it, partly because I simply forgot.  I’m sorry, and I hope you find this valuable.  I am horrible at keeping track of papers.  I have tons of papers to deal with.  Graded homework that has been sent home, homework to be completed, shopping receipts, appointment reminders, chore charts, school calendars, 3-week-old newspapers, notebooks, empty envelopes, bills, political mailings, books, charity solicitations, recipes I have printed out, etc.  All of these are on my desk right at this moment.  Most are poorly organized, meaning they have just been plopped down in a teetering stack waiting for the center of gravity to shift ever so slightly so they can all topple onto the floor.  

Tickler file

I do have a partial filing system that works great when I remember to use it.  I got the idea for it a few years ago when I was reading tons of personal development material.  It is called a Tickler File.  It is quite handy, and has saved my butt many times.  The struggle I have is simply remembering to check it every day.  I use it for bills, appointment reminders, filled chore charts (waiting until chore payday), field trip info sheets, and recipes for dinner.  Other things that have found their way into it include party planning papers, gingerbread house templates, holiday task lists, seasonal cleaning lists, permission slips, and order forms.

The idea behind a tickler file is that all those little bits of paper that you only plan to keep temporarily have a place to live.  Concert tickets, for example, are perfect for a tickler file.  You pop them in the system, and on the day you need them, they are right there ready for you to pop in your wallet.  This system requires 43 folders and something to store them in.  There are 12 folders for the months of the year and 31 folders for the days of the month.  Every piece of paper that I need to set aside for later goes into one of these folders.  If I need it within the next 30 days, then it goes into the numbered file that corresponds to that day of the month.  If I need it later than that, it goes into the appropriately labelled month folder.

rotating file system

How it works

So today is October 9.  I have a permission slip that needs to go to a meeting on Tuesday night, so it is sitting in the folder labelled 11.  On Tuesday, I will check the folder for that day and find the permission slip all ready to turn in.  My gingerbread house template is used at Christmastime, so it is in the folder labelled December.  When December comes along, I can choose which day of the month we will bake a gingerbread house and move it from the December folder to the appropriate day folder.

I have a paper with a list of things to do before Halloween, such as trim back the rose bush by the front door, buy candy, etc.  At the beginning of the month, I decided that October 15 would be a good day to trim the bush, so I put the list in the 15 folder.  Once I have done that, I will put the list into a later date folder (maybe 28) to buy candy and glowsticks.  Any bills that need my attention go into the folder for that day.  I keep recurring bills in the same folder and put them right back as soon as I finish with it for that month.


One extra thing that I have in my filer that isn’t properly part of the tickler file is a folder with charts I use on a regular basis.  My kids have weekly reading logs they need to do for school, so I have a bunch printed out so they can just grab one and do their homework.  I have empty copies of my chore chart, and my weekly planner sheets.  I use a little desktop file holder as you can see in the photo, and it sits on the corner of my desk (the end where it won’t fall off).

Your turn

Do you have a favorite filing system?  How do you keep papers organized?

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