Saturday, January 23, 2010

Organizing The Paper Mountain (Part 2)

So how is the organizing going so far?  Are you feeling like your moving in the right direction?  In this post I will continue to give you step-by-step directions to conquering the overwhelming paper mountain.  If you want a refresher, read part 1 of this series here.

Step Four
Now that you have your divided piles, you need to consider how you will further sub-divide those files.  To assist you in figuring out how to do this, I have given you more questions to answer that are similar to the questions I asked you in step two.

  • Think of how you divided up your papers.  In your mind, picture how you think about the details of your ancestors.  Do you think about them by the types of records you have?   Do you think about them by individuals or couples?  Your answer to this question will determine how you will further subdivide your piles.
Step Five
It is time to sub-divide all of those piles you have.  I know - it is a huge pain.  I bet you're completely tired of this boring, mundane task of sorting all of your papers.  Trust me, this is the least fun part of the process.  But it is the most important and is the backbone of your organizational system.

Keep your eyes on the prize: A clean, organized space with every piece of paper in it's place.  You can find any piece of paper in a matter of seconds.  No matter how big or how small your space is, you enjoy researching in it.

Step Six
The next step is to assess what organizational supplies you will need to store your papers.  Remember the decision you made about using a filing cabinet and file folders or binders and dividers? 

But there are some very important things to consider before you go shopping:
  • Do you want to color code?  This is by far not a requirement, but some people really find it beneficial.  For the most part, I've only ever heard of people using color coding when they divide their papers by surname.  Most people will divide their surnames into four or eight categories; these categories correspond with your four grandparents or eight great grandparents.  The four or eight colors that you choose are really up to you - just be sure that these are colors that you can always find at a store.  You don't want to try to expand your organizational system someday only to find out that the colored supplies you need are no longer being made.
  • Do you want your organizational system to be archival?  This is not a cheap option but rather an investment  in your papers so that they will last into the future.  The archival safe organizational supplies that you use will keep your papers from yellowing and fading over the years (although, eventually the papers will yellow and fade - the point is to extend your paper's lifetime).
Step Seven
With your list of needed organizational supplies in hand, it is time to get shopping.  Go to your favorite store, online or in person, and buy the supplies on your list.

Here are some of my personal suggestions of supplies you will want to consider.  I am currently using or have used each of these products:
  • My aunt used to have this three drawer black filing cabinet.  The two bottom drawers are made for holding your files, while the smaller top drawer can be used to store the box of extra file folders.  The only reason she got rid of this cabinet is because she needed a bigger one.
  • If you don't have too many files yet, then I would recommend getting this stackable filing drawer.  I like these because they are lightweight and easy to store out of the way.  
  • Archival file folders are the way to go if you want to try and prolong the life of your files.
  • If color coding is your thing, then these colorful file folders are for you.
  • I love binders and I use them for just about everything from school, calendars, bills, and organizing my paper files.  I really like this heavy duty one inch binder, although you could always get a two inch or three inch binder.  However, if you use a binder that is more than three inches wide then it will be bee too heavy and the pages will be hard to turn.
  • If you get binders, you'll also need dividers.  I highly recommend getting over sized dividers so that you can see the divider even if you are using sheet protectors.  You also might want to consider getting archival quality sheet protectors to prolong the life of your files.

Note: I want to apologize for the delay in releasing this post.  I was planning on having all three released by today. However, life got in the way and my mom is in the hospital again.  But don't worry, I'll get part three released by Tuesday.


Family Curator said...

Great series, Elyse. You are doing a Great Public Service with this topic.

Here's a suggestion that works for me to preserve heirloom papers archaically and economically -- all sources go into 3-ring binders. If a doc is old/fragile/original I put a photocopy in the binder and store the original in the appropriate archival container (box, folder, etc). Saves $ on the archival supplies.

I am looking forward to your next installment!

Alice Dilts said...

I have been enjoying your series. I like three ring binders myself.

Gini said...

I am loving your organizational series Elyse, I look forward to the next post. I too LOVE binders. I use them for just about everything along with archival sheet protectors. Having our research in binders makes it so much easier to look at and refer to. To me, if things are in drawers, it's like they are hidden, like photos in boxes in the closet!! There are certain things that belong in drawers, I have those too, but my favorite is binders. Thanks so much for this series, it's so helpful to so many of us.

Sheryl said...

Try using boxes made for mailing 8 1/2 by 11 papers. Walmart sells them in office supplies. Divide the family's papers up by time period in a couple's life or a box per child. Then work on studying or scanning just one box at a time. It seems less overwhelming.

TALON said...

Elyse, I really like your little series here on getting organized. However, I would like to request another such series....How YOU organize your research. I have read many books and they all pretty much say the same thing "you can use binders or can organize by surname, location, couple, person, can color code or not" Anyway, none of them actually show a true to life example. I think it would benefit a lot of the less experienced folks to see exactly how someone experienced files their findings both physically and paperlessly.