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Organizing Chaos Series: Paperwork & Books


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Paperwork

Introduction

Welcome to this part of the series. I used to see Papa organising his paperwork properly. He kept record of all aspects of his life: work, career, family, house, contracts and bills. He maintained his diary and wrote very neatly. He used organisation softwares to keep his data sorted and maintained backup of it periodically. Although we had domestic help all our lives, he didn’t let anyone clean his cupboards as he himself liked keeping them in proper shape. He has been my role model in so many ways.

When I moved back with my family, we suddenly ran short of rooms in the house. Mama came up with an ingenious idea. She decided to convert the basement store and veranda into a bedroom, dressing room, closet and bathroom for me. I intend to write a post on how it was made some time soon. Since, the store had to be emptied, I took up the responsibility to screen all Papa’s paperwork that was lying in some boxes in the store and I was amazed. I have never seen a more methodical and organised person in my life. I am really very proud to be his daughter. Now I know where I got my organising genes from. Luckily I did learn a thing or two from him.

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In most of my adult life, I have been in charge of managing all paperwork, files, budgets, expenses and records (personal and household). I believe it is vital to keep documents in order as it saves time and money which are the two biggest blessings from Allah.

A really close Finnish friend of mine, Inka was once over at my place for a slumber party. When I was getting up to make her tea. She told me that she will help herself in my kitchen as every thing is labeled and that she won’t have any trouble looking for anything. Literally sugar, teabags and green teabags were also labeled in there. On a humorous note, she also commented that if a robber comes to your apartment, he won’t have any trouble looking for things. I laughed and replied: “At least I won’t have to worry about him making a mess at my place”.

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Tips for organising paperwork

1. Material I use for organising paperwork

In order to organise paperwork, I use A4 sized punch folders with hard cover & soft cover, poppet folders (plastic folders with a button to close them on one side), zipper pencil cases for receipts and cards,  marker and stencils. I normally use stencils to make labels for folders as they are easy to make. I have been eyeinga fancy label maker for myself but I thought I should leave some things for the wish list also.

2. Current folder

Life is really busy especially with strenuous working hours or with kids. Understandably, one can’t possibly put sorting on priority at all times. As you can see in the above picture, I have made a poppet folder named ‘Current’ where I just dump everything important as soon as I receive it for about two weeks. Then on a weekend while I have the liberty to watch TV, I punch all these and put them in their correct folders. It doesn’t take much time as the system is already in place. One can always ask the better half or kids to do this duty as they should also be responsible for some of the house chores especially if you work. The trick is never to let any lose sheets of paper hang around. That’s how important documents get lost.

3. Trash in time

Just make sure that only important documents are kept in the house. Whenever you receive letters by post, evaluate them straight away and anything that you will not need in future, needs to be shredded there and then (ads, useless brochures and envelopes).

4. Sub-Categorise using separators

Within each file, you can sub-categorise and have a separator with each section. Just a little example of my Recipe Book. It has separators for Starters, Breakfast, Sauces, Snacks, Beverages, Vegetarian Dishes, Meat Dishes, Rice Dishes and Desserts. This is so I can easily find the Recipe I want to make, with in seconds. I prefer punched file as a recipe book so I can print out recipes and add photocopied pages rather than having to write every single recipe in a notebook.

Books

Introduction

Born in a family that is crazy about books, I have literally grown up with them. I make fun of Mama that whenever I fall asleep in her bed, I invariably land on top of a pile of books while I’m turning around at night. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night as I take out a hard-cover book poking me under my back. She always falls asleep while reading books. She has been a writer ever since I can remember and when we are having our usual conversations in the lounge, she suddenly gets up and says “Oh! I’ve got just the right book for you”. Last year when I was going through a hard patch, she got me a full sequence of books to lift up my spirits and get me back on track. She is able to find just the book at the right time for every occasion as she has them sorted topic wise.

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e-Books

There has been a transformation in recent years by the introduction of e-book readers in the market. A 4 GB Kindle can store up to 3500 books. An average Kindle is lighter and smaller in dimension than most books that are available in the market.  It has actually changed the whole idea of book reading. Now one can easily effortlessly carry 8000 books (8 GB) in their purse anywhere anytime.

For all those who worry about how expensive it is. It doesn’t cost that much. There is alot of competition in the market and one can try other recommended brands if Kindle sounds too much to afford. Also, tons of free e-books are available on the internet so you do not need to buy each book. Some of my friends argue that they love the whole idea of a traditional book and wouldn’t change that for anything. I really don’t agree with that. In my opinion, we should give technology a chance and let us explore what it has to offer.

More than a decade ago, so many people were completely against mobile phones and now it has surely won their hearts over as they all seem to be holding one dearly. I think my Kindle gives me all the convenience I could ever imagine. In fact, I never used to read books much as I used to be out and about, so keeping a book in my hang bag meant I had to be holding all that weight all day long. E-book readers have changed all that now. Now I’m sometimes addicted to my Kindle. I can easily Highlight, Bookmark, Share, or Save passages I like without looking for pens. I don’t have to be confused about what a word means as it has a built in dictionary and I can easily search for a particular location or word in the books. Imagine all the shelf space that you would save up in your house if you started using e-books

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Tips on organising books

If you also have a lot of books in your house, its important to have them properly displayed. During my weekend job at ‘Ryman’ in Windsor, I learned how to organize books and stationary, quickly yet efficiently.  Following are just a few tricks to make your self feel, and your book shelves look good with in minutes:

1. Organise them either by topic or by author
2. Now we need to make them all face one direction. I prefer them facing downward
3. The tallest book goes on extreme left and the shortest one on the right
4. Adjust all the books in the middle in the order of decreasing height
5. Bring all the books right in the front, in line with the edge of the shelf
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A lot of people that I know do not like to go into the details and say that as long as books are in a bookshelf, and CDs are in a CD rack, it really doesn’t matter. Well I wouldn’t agree with that as I am pretty particular about such details in my house. I believe that our aesthetic sense should reflect in our decor.  If we beautify our surroundings, we will feel happier and we would have the clarity of mind needed to to cope with bigger issues in life.

Let me know if this article helped you get organised just a little bit more.

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Nadiya Najib

Nadiya Najib