Getting organised: instructions, guarantees and receipts

It’s great getting new gadgets but what about all those instructions leaflets that come with them.  If your family is like ours, you will be awash with them from instructions on the very latest 3D TV, through how to set up your child’s pop-up house to the best way to wash your bathmat. And that’s before you start on the receipts to be kept for the 1 year guarantee, the 5 year guarantee extension etc.

Once we had children, we rapidly outgrew my box file of instructions so a few years ago, I created a new filing system so that we could find everything.  Here’s how.

1)            Equipment

You will need (depending on how you do this):

-   lever arch files (number depends on how many instructions and how you decide to organise them – see below)

-   see through punched pockets (or just hole punch the instructions)

-   labels (only if using punched pockets)

-   hole puncher

-   stapler

2)         First step

Get out ALL your instructions, receipts etc so that you can decide how best to organise them

3)         Decide how to organise

You can either organise alphabetically within categories or just have one alphabetical sequence.        

I decided to divide ours up into categories so I have Toys, House and Garage/Garden.  If you don’t have loads, you could just file alphabetically.

4)         Sort as required

Sort all your instructions into specific categories if you have decided on that. 

If you are going for the straight alpha sequence, you could split into two halves of the alphabet or just leave and see how it goes 

4a)      Categories

-    1) Subdivide your instructions into the relevant piles for each category

-    2) Then grab your first lever arch folder and your first category pile

-     3) Using the punch pockets, put each set of instructions in a pocket and label – I usually stick the label top right so that I can see it quickly when flicking through a folder

-     4) Choose your labelling system – I tend to go for the generic name of something, eg DVD Player rather than eg Panasonic DVD Player as that way I don’t have to relabel if we replace something

-      5) Arrange instructions alphabetically in your file

-      6) Simples!

4b)         Alphabetical sequence

If you decide to just file all your instructions as one, then only follow steps (3) to (5) in 4a above.

(I should mention that there are some instructions in our house that have never made it to a file – they tend to be for things like our camera which we keep in its original box with all the cables etc so the instruction booklet stays with the box and doesn’t get lost.  It’s whatever works for you really, rather than a rigid system)

4c)   If you don’t want to use punched pockets, then just hole punch (if poss, some of these instruction books are more like Lord of the Rings!) the instructions and write eg Fridge in the top right hand corner so that you can easily see how to file it. 

5)            Guarantees, receipts etc

5a)         Receipts 

Staple the receipt to the inside back cover of the instruction book.  That way you will always be able to find it in case an item goes wrong within the guarantee period.

5b)         Guarantees

Similarly, keep these with the instruction booklet.  Either slip inside the punched pocket or hole punch and file after the instructions.  I also keep any call out records all in the same pocket.

5c)          Spare parts

I am very keen on trying to repair before replacing – it’s usually cheaper.  So, with the instructions, I also keep details of any spare parts ordered as well as where I got it from in case I need to use that source again.  It’s really useful. 

6)            Maintenance

 Once you’ve set up your system, it should be really easy to maintain.  If you freecycle or give away anything, try and remember to include the instructions – helps keep the file from overflowing!  And whenever I either add a new instruction booklet or am searching for one that we need, I usually have a quick look through the file to see if there are any instructions for items we no longer have.  If I find any, I just fish them out and put in the recycling.

And, of course, don’t forget to add your new ones and any associated guarantees as soon as you get them to make sure they don’t get lost in the paper pile we all seem to have!

 Hope that all makes sense – we would love to hear from anyone as to how you have organised your instructions booklets.

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