How to Organize Home Manuals

20 Aug

You buy something new, get it home and frantically unpackage it like a child at Christmas. There are pieces of cardboard and plastic wrapping strewn about with the remaining bits and bolts. Maybe there are only a few or maybe there are alot left depending how well you read the instructions. Then there is the dreaded manual. What the heck do you do with that thing? You may or may not read it…or you casually flip through it and decide to push all of the buttons because you are pretty sure that you can figure it out without the manual (or is that just me)?

You toss the manual in a drawer or in the bottom of the filing cabinet and it is never ever to be found again…especially when you need it so that you can figure out how to set the clock to the proper time, unless of course you’re ok with 12:00 flashing for all of eternity.

I have a pretty good solution for this and it really is just a quick project that you can complete within a couple of hours. You could even spread the task out over a couple of days if you wanted.

The supplies you will need are simple and you may even have them in your house somewhere already. The supplies are probably with your manuals stuffed in the dreaded junk drawer or cupboard.

Supplies I used:
• Large binder(s) – I used a 3” binder that I happened to have left over from some school supplies (2 or 3 binders if you want to split your manuals into 3 categories, more on that later)

• Dividers – these don’t have to be fancy and I just used some that I had on hand
• Clear heavy duty sheet protectors – the heavy duty ones may cost more but I find that they do not tear easily so they can be reused over and over

• Labels – 1-3/4” x ½” mailing labels

Scour the house for manuals. Check the garage, shed, drawers, bedrooms, dresser drawers, filing cabinets, etc etc. Pile them on your kitchen table or large comfortable workspace. I like the kitchen table because, I can alternate between standing and sitting. This step is just about gathering up all of the manuals; don’t worry about sorting them at this point.

Now it is time to sort the manuals. This is where you need to decide if you want 2 or 3 separate binders. I have chosen 3 because I have a lot of manuals.

1. Major household appliances
2. Everyday household items
3. Power tools

The reason why I split them into 3 binders is because if I ever move, I can leave the major household appliances binder behind for the new homeowners and the other ones I can take with me.

Make a few different sorting piles (I am going to go on the basis that you are choosing to do 3 binders) I know I am being presumptuous but I am ok with it.

The four piles I made are:
1. Major household
2. Everyday household
3. Power tools
4. Recycle / No longer need

Go through each manual and make sure that you still need it. If you no longer have the appliance or item, get rid of the manual (recycle if you can).

When you have gone through all of your manuals, now it is time to organize them. This is where the fun part starts.

I put each manual in a page protector and if I have the receipt, I staple it to the inside of the first page of the manual. This way I always know the date it was purchased, where it was purchased, price, and the model number (if it is printed on the receipt). I also put any warranty information in the page protector for that particular appliance.

I take a label or labels and write the make/model number and the serial number on the label(s) and attach the label(s) to the top right of the outside of the page protector. If there is a filter size, I write that one there as well. Hint: I also put that filter size in the notes on my phone so that when I am out shopping, I don’t have to remember the size of filter that I need, I can just look it up on my phone.

When you have gone through all of your manuals and put them into the page protectors, I then group them into the binder with dividers. I currently have mine divided into:
1. Kitchen – stove, fridge, dishwasher, microwave, etc.
2. Utility – hot water tank, air conditioner, etc.
3. Heating – furnace, gas fireplace, thermostat, etc.
4. Millwork – The layout of the kitchen that the cabinet installers left behind, type of wood, countertop sample, etc.
5. House plans and roof truss drawings
6. I recently had the exterior of my house repainted so I have the contract as well as the paint colors
7. I also redid my landscaping and I kept one of each of the plant stakes so that future homeowners would know what was planted or if I need to replace any plants that don’t survive
8. Other – garage door opener, etc.

When the binder is complete, you can do the same steps with your everyday household binder and power tool binder. If you have a small amount of manuals you can simply combine everything into one manual. You can also type out the labels and print them out if you want, if that is easier for you. I keep the major and everyday household binders in my office and the power tool binder in the garage so it is available for quick reference.

I came up with the idea of a house manual because, when I purchased my home, there was really nothing left by the builder. For example, I had no idea what colors were used for the paint so it became a nightmare when I needed to match up the paint colors. I thought that it would have been so much handier if they would have left all of this information behind. How nice would it be as a homeowner to walk into the home that you just purchased and boom, sitting on the counter is a book with all the pertinent information about your house all in one organized binder.

The trick is to keep this up to date. I find that when you have a dedicated place for something, it is more likely to stay organized. The next time you purchase something new or replace an existing appliance, you can simply add it into a new page protector, or you can recycle the old manual and replace it with the new one. Update the serial and model numbers on the label and it becomes a very quick process. You will always know where the manuals are and you don’t have to look at 12:00 flashing for all of eternity.

What are some of your ideas for organizing your household manuals?