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Vicki Norris
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Restoring Order to Your Home
Vicki's Corner


Getting Organized

My Favorite Household Organizing Tool

Vicki Norris
Restoring Order A long time before I became a professional organizer, I was frustrated—probably like most of you reading my column—by the frequently-referenced loose paper that didn’t seem to have a “home”. From take out menus, to event invitations, to my bunko calendar, I needed to find a way to corral this unrelated (but un-disposable) paper.

As I began working as an organizer, I found that my clients were struggling with the same issue. They had gathered their creeping paper and built teetering piles on their kitchen counters, stashed it in their junk drawers, taped it inside their cabinets, and stuck it to the refrigerator, all in the name of “easy reference”.

Their homes—and more specifically, their kitchens—began looking junky as they piled and plastered this paper within view so they wouldn’t forget about it.
So, what exactly should you do with paper that isn’t quite file-able or actionable? What can do you do with this distinct kind of “perpetual” paper—documents that each have their own shelf life and use?

In my own home, I created what I dubbed my Household Reference Binder to capture and catalog this nomadic paper. I gathered all of this type of paper and discovered several types:

  • Upcoming Events (like game/event tickets, invitations, and announcements)
  • Gift Certificates (and gift cards for stores, restaurants, spas, etc.)
  • Service Providers (flyers or business cards for the arborist, window washer, and others I wouldn’t remember even if I entered them in my electronic contacts)
  • Take Out Menus (pizza, subs, etc.)
  • Coupons (car maintenance, carpet cleaning, etc.)
  • Activities (restaurants, tea houses, attractions, shopping)

I then made a tab for each type of paper and filed my formerly nomadic paper into one easy, portable three ring binder.
Since its birth in my own home, I learned that every single client I worked with could use one, too. I experimented with types of tabs, binder size, and sleeve types. Eventually I standardized the Household Reference Binder™ (complete with instructions) so that it was easier to customize to each user and it quickly became my favorite organizing tool.

The tabs for my binder were reflective of me and my season of life. At the time, I didn’t have a child. The paper you have should reveal which tabs you will need; don’t prematurely determine what tabs you want…discover what your paper tells you first. Your tabs might include: the family calendar and individual schedules; school and sports schedules; travel information (like frequent flyer info. and destination ideas); directories and rosters; school reference (organized either by child or by school); membership information (the zoo, video rental, etc.); and emergency contacts.

I now firmly believe that every family needs this invaluable tool, whether you make your own or check out the one I created. The key is to personalize it for your household and family. All those nomadic papers can now live in one location that your family members can easily put their hands on. The information in the binder is useful when you are out of town, for the babysitter, in emergency situations, or just to order a pizza.
If you dedicate just a few hours you can corral all this paper together and rescue your junk drawer and surfaces! Just imagine, you’ll finally have ONE place to keep:

  • That wedding invitation and attached directions that’s on the kitchen counter
  • Store gift cards you’re lugging around in your wallet
  • Video rental cards that are stuck in your glove box
  • Your favorite pizza joint’s menu hidden in the junk drawer
  • All those business cards you haven’t gotten around to computerizing

Your return-on-investment for establishing a handy Household Reference Binder™ will be huge. You’ll not only declutter your surfaces, you’ll command key family and home information—never to be lost in the shuffle again!


Adapted from: Restoring Order™ copyright © 2006 by Vicki Norris (available now at and in July 2007as Reclaim Your Life™.  Copyright © 2007).  Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR. Used by permission.

About the Author: Vicki Norris is an expert organizer, business owner, speaker, television personality, and author who inspires people to live out their priorities. Norris is a regular on HGTV’s nationally syndicated
Mission: Organization, and is a recurrent source and contributor to national lifestyle publications including Quick & Simple magazine, Better Homes & Gardens, and Real Simple magazine. Norris is also author of Restoring Order™ to Your Home, a room-by-room household organizing guide.

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