(I started this post yesterday, but typepad apparently ate it. Let's try this again.)
I've always found the ideas of file crates too overwhelming, being a visual person I can't quite get it but you've made me think a little more. Can you explain two things? 1: What are you putting in the files for the week? 2: Why does a file crate work better than a filing cabinet?
First, let me provide the links to a few of Dawn's file crate posts which lay out the basics of her system:
- File Folder System (This post explains the system, with photos.)
- Refreshing the Files (This post explains how Dawn uses the file crate to wrap up the year.)
I, too, was overwhelmed with the idea of a file crate when I first read about it. Actually, what I thought was, "Wow, that's neat! But it would never work if I tried it." At the time I was trying to file my kids' work in the file drawer of my computer desk -- where any curious toddler could drop socks, wooden trains, toy food, or, dependent on his mood, rip all the files out instead. It wasn't a very good system, not only because of the toddler factor, but also because I forgot all about the files inside most of the time. Work was piled in all sorts of places, and I never had much hope of anticipating events or seasons. Those papers were piled everywhere, too, or never even gathered; the only hope I ever had of containing the mess was not to create it in the first place. But that basically meant very little planning.
Anyway, when I saw Dawn's file crate idea I basically figured that I would spend a long time setting it up and then never remember to use it, the way I usually did with filing cabinets.
Now fast forward a year, to last spring. I picked up the book ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life(which I mentioned here and cannot recommend highly enough), and suddenly realized that there was a reason putting anything in a filing cabinet was the kiss of death for me.
Like many adults with ADD, Edgar is an "OosOom" -- an out of sight out of mind person. Edgar does what he can see, and does not do what he cannot see. So if Edgar wants to be certain that the books get returned to the library and that the greeting cards go out on time, he must have them out in front of him. The things to return to the stores, the framing projects, and even bill-paying chores must be in full view as daily visual reminders of tasks to perform. Without his things as prompts and cues, Edgar would simply not remember to do what he needs to do.... Edgar does not prefer that his home look this way... But he's afraid, and rightly so, that he'll simply forget to pay his bills or fix his lamp if the visual cues are gone. "The thought of putting things in the closet or storage shed fills me with fear," he admits.
Reading this book was like having an epiphany. I'm Edgar.
The authors go on to talk about why many people with ADD are OosOoms, linking it to trouble with prospective memory -- "memory for tasks that must be completed at a future time". Unlike people who do not have problems with prospective memory, without a visual cue people whose prospective memory is not good will basically forget to remember.
In another chapter entitled "Fear of Filing", the authors deal with this "Out of sight Out of mind" problem as it specifically applies to organizing paper. Their recommendations include:
- Keeping papers "in view" by organizing them vertically using files, instead of stacking them horizontally in piles all over the place
- Using color to code files instead of using plain manila, or using something transparent (file folders, plastic bags, whatever) so that you can see what is in your files
- Using file crates instead of filing cabinets, which tend to become black holes for OosOoms, since they keep files out of sight, and therefore out of mind.
Which is a very roundabout way of answering the question, "Why is a file crate better than a filing cabinet."
Basically, the file crate system works better for me than a filing cabinet because I can:
- Keep it out in the open, in plain sight, where I will notice it often... and where it is out of the way of little prying fingers. I keep mine on a counter in the kitchen, next to the phone. I pass this way dozens of times a day, and whenever I see the file crate, it jogs my memory about using it.
- Organize my papers vertically in simple categories. Everything associated with a week gets dumped in with that week, no matter what it's about. (Categorizing is also hard for people like me, who can think of dozens of potential categories for most pieces of paper.)
- Use color as a further jog to the brain and aid to memory. As I mentioned previously, I color-coded my files according to season: yellow for summer, red for fall, blue for winter, and green for spring. I even found some hanging files in purple, which I use to demarcate Advent and Lent, but I wasn't able to find purple file folders to match. I would love to find purple file folders. ;-) The color really does help me distinguish the passage of time; it makes the file crate stand out that much more; and it just makes me happy. :-)
Really, I need two file crates: one for weekly folders, and one for subject folders (which I use to hold things like articles and 3-part cards that aren't tied to the seasons and that I haven't decided to parse out on a weekly basis.) In other words; it's a holding area, whereas the weekly folders are for planning. It makes the crate too cluttered, but I don't have space for a second crate right now. I'm working on that.
So, in true non-sequential fashion, I've answered question #2 without dealing with question #1. I'll try to get to question #1 in my next post. I'm still trying to get everything set up, and I'd like to take some photos to show you how I hope to use my file folders this year. :-)