Paper Dolls Live In Paper Households

Posted on: December 11th, 2007 by Julie Bestry | No Comments

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.

~John Howard Payne

Do you speak Japanese? Then why are there foreign-language instruction manuals for your toaster in the kitchen junk drawer? (And do you really need help making toast?)

If you were robbed, could you prove your losses to the insurance company?

Continuing our discussion of the family/personal filing and how everything can fit into one of five reference categories, we’ve reached:


HOUSEHOLD paperwork is the most straightforward cateogry – it encompasses anything that keeps your home (be it ever so humble) and all the stuff in it running smoothly. Create hanging folders for sub-categories like:

A. Household Services – Maintain individual folders for each ongoing service for which you’ve arranged regularly scheduled household care, like Terminex or lawncare. (Monthly or periodic invoices belong in the financial section, but the “terms of service” paperwork belong here.)

B. Home Maintenance Records:

  • Escape routes / plans in case of fire
  • Schedule of seasonal household maintenance
  • List/description of non-standard replacement light bulbs for ceiling, garage and outdoor lights.
  • Battery record – it helps to keep a running list of what size batteries (AA, AAA, C, D, 9-volt, etc.) each item in your home requires. When you buy something that requires batteries to operate it (or its remote control), jot down the battery size here.

C. Household Inventory
Include a written, photographic and/or audiovisual household maintenance of all of your rooms, including furniture, electronics, silver, crystal, jewelry and anything for which you might make an insurance claim if stolen or damaged. Note the item’s name (and brand name), date of purchase, where it was purchased and the price you paid.

Create written inventory files in the computer and just print a new one to replace the old when once you’ve acquired more goodies. Maintain a copy on disc for the written and audiovisual inventories in your safe deposit box and/or fire-proof safe, and keep an updatable copy in your home files. Also, keep inventories for:

  • Second homes
  • Time-share properties
  • Off-site storage facilities
  • College dormitory summer storage

D. Auto Maintenance Records
Even if your mechanic keeps computerized records of all maintenance to your car, keeping accurate records will help you financially. If your automaker issues a recall or technical service bulletin, you may be able to recoup money you’ve paid for repairs. If you sell your car privately, prospective owners may be more inclined to purchase a car with a carefully maintained service history. Keep a file folder for:

  • Service records — Each time you get an oil change or have a car repair, the mechanic should provide you with printout of what was done, on what date, at what mileage.
  • Purchases – Include records of all purchases for your car, such as tires, batteries and windshield wipers.
  • Mileage records – While not essential, if you do maintain mileage records for purposes other than tax deductions, keep these here.

Heavy-duty drivers may find it more convenient to keep auto maintenance records in reverse chronological order, in a flexible three-ring binder under the driver’s seat, rather than in the file systems.

Ease of access is an advantage, but Paper Doll worries about what happens to these records in case of a serious accident or car theft. Instead, keep a photocopy of major purchase records (tires and batteries) in your glove compartment in case you need to replace the warranteed item while traveling?

E. Gardening Records
If you have a black thumb (like Paper Doll) or own nothing larger than a window box, skip this category. However, if your property includes plants, shrubbery, or heirloom flowers or you have a vegetable garden for which you need to maintain adequate rotation records, create a sub-section for your garden journal.

F. Decorating/Remodeling Plans – Keep items such as:

  • Project notes and plans for decorating and/or remodeling jobs
  • Project budgets
  • Photos of projects as they progress
  • Receipts* related to the project – *Note: this is one of the few times I recommend keeping receipts outside of the Financial section. However, when you’ve had work done that improves the ongoing value of your home, keeping the receipts and photographic records will be helpful for personal planning and long-term tax planning.

G. Warranties — Divide these by category:

  • Major appliances
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Computers
  • Entertainment/electronics
  • Gadgets
  • Furniture/carpets
  • Miscellaneous items

H. Instruction/Maintainance Manuals
Only keep the manual as long as you own the item. Seriously! If you give something to charity or sell it in a yard sale, provide the instruction manual; if you throw the item away, toss the manual! As with warranties, this category breaks down into:

Major appliance warranties and manuals for large items like your furnace, refrigerator, washer/dryer, etc.

Small household or personal appliance manuals (for items like toasters and hair dryers) –before you save the manual, consider whether there’s any information you would actually need. It’s rare to find adults who don’t know how to make toast or dry their hair.

Electronic toys and gadgets, as well as computer hardware and software, often have complex and detailed manuals which require a PhD to understand. Unlike the investment prospectus material I advised you to toss when we discussed financial paperwork, keep the electronics manuals even if you can’t make heads or tails out of them. Qualified repair technicians and ridiculously adept 12-year-olds seem to have no trouble with these manuals.

Instruction manuals don’t have to live in your file system. Depending on the number and nature of the appliances in your home, it may make sense to keep a three-ring binder with all of the kitchen appliance manuals right in your kitchen. (Just don’t waste valuable counter space; instead, tuck the folder in a seldom-used drawer or cabinet, such as the rarely-used space above your oven fan bonnet.) You can keep hardware and software manuals in a few magazine holders on the bookshelf nearest your computer.

It’s easy to be tempted to keep any paper related to your home “just in case”, but remember, clutter comes from deferring decision-making. Ask yourself:

Why/when would I need this paper?
If you know how to use hair dryer or grown your mini-Chia Pet, there’s little sense in keeping the manual. If you aren’t fluent in the language in which the manual is written, say hasta la vista!

What’s the worst that could happen if I tossed it out?
With many items, you can call the manufacturer’s customer service line to get help. Plus, there are a variety of web sites offering online manuals:


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