Paper Doll

Posted on: October 23rd, 2017 by Julie Bestry | No Comments

Got instruction manuals? Organize them! Have too many paper manuals? Can’t find the manuals you need at all? Go digital!

As I detailed in the first post of this series, Manual Override – Part 1: Declutter and Organize Your Owner’s Manuals, if you’re missing a manual, your best bet is always to start with the manufacturer of your product. However, if your item is old, or the company no longer exists, hope is not lost. Any of a variety of online manual databases can come to your rescue.


Some of these databases link directly to manufacturers’ sites, while others depend on members of an online community for scanning and uploading household, electronic, and other device manuals. You may be wondering about copyright – after all, don’t most manuals have copyright notices on them? That’s true, but manufacturers generally make manuals available at no charge to their consumers. In many nations outside of North America, it’s even a legally protected consumer right to have access to such manuals. So, with the exception of automobile repair manuals (a for-profit industry), most manufacturers allow the free uploading, downloading, and sharing of manuals for personal use. The next time you need help with an appliance, gadget, or doodad, check out these databases.


ManualsOnline provides free access to more than 700,000 product manuals in more than two dozen categories (only some of which are displayed below).

Click through individual categories or use the search box to find your specific product manual, and then print or open it as a PDF, and save to your hard drive or personal cloud. Seek troubleshooting and product support from the ManualsOnline community or browse previous answers to figure out why your thingamajig is doing that weird thing. It’s free to join and share your own expertise – you can sign in with your Facebook account or create your own login with your email address and a password. Share any manual directly from the site via email, Facebook, Twitter, or (yes, sigh) Google Plus, with one click.

ManualsOnline is ad-supported, so you will see sponsored listings to the right of, and below, your search areas.

ManualsLiblogo has a collection of more than 2.7 million PDF-formatted manuals for 1.8 million products in 2000+ categories. Enter keywords in the search field to find your product, and the search results yield the manual name, description, size, and the number of pages. Opt to read the manual online, print one page or any/all of them, download it to your computer or save it to Dropbox or a similar cloud option. Share on social networks directly from a manual’s page, or add a comment for other readers to see.

ManualsLib is free to use, and there’s no registration required unless you want to bookmark a manual to your account. Just search, find, and download. And the site makes an interesting suggestion – in addition to accessing the installation, service, and owner’s manuals for the products you have, compare the manuals of similar products to help you decide which you want to purchase!

ManualsLib has targeted advertising, and rather than cluttering the web page, ads are embedded as a pre-cover page of each manual.

The Archive.Org’s Manual Library is yet another genius project from The Internet Archive, an international non-profit that seeks to digitize and provide “universal access to all knowledge.” If you’ve ever bookmarked a website only to find it no longer exists, you’ll appreciate how the Archive’s Wayback Machine has preserved more than 150 billion web pages. One of their lesser-known projects is the Manual Library, “a collection of manuals, instructions, walkthroughs and datasheets for a massive spectrum of items. Manuals covering electronic and mechanical products, instructions on mixing or blending items, and instruction sets for software and computer items are all included.” 

Use the search box to find any of more than 90,000 manuals, or get lost for the better part of an afternoon in the sortable displays of 17,000+ hardware and software manuals, 500+ vending machine manuals, guides to making that John Deere tractor purr, and more. The true delight of the Archive.Org’s Manual Library, however, isn’t the useful manual options for what you own, but the quirky and unexpected manual collections, ranging from beekeeper supplies to Howitzer light tanks. has a selection of more than 200,000 manuals. Start with a brand (from Acer to Krups, Apple to Sunbeam, and many in between) and then narrow your selection, or use the search box to enter keywords about your product.

There are on-screen previews for most products to keep you from clicking through to a similar, but inexact, description match.
Once you have the manual you want, click through and select the language option you prefer. For some products, you may find up to a dozen language versions, giving you the chance to practice your Czech while you learn about your new binkie’s features.

The database is free, requires no registration, and you can upload your own manuals to help further the pro-environmental cause of going digital. ManualsMania also has ads and a little less of a professional feel. is a collaborative site. Access any of the PDF manuals in the database by typing keywords or model numbers into the search box. View any page of a given manual, or download the entire manual with a click. The file sizes are sometimes wonky – I was quoted 0 MB for a 196-page iPhone 6S manual, but the pages are all visible. You can also participate by uploading and sharing PDFs of any manuals you possess.

Strangely, manual pages are watermarked with the site’s URL, and ads sometimes appear on the bottom of the online version of the manuals, but not on the downloaded PDFs.

SafeManuals is an Estonian company accessible in English, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. The ads are run through the AdChoices network, so you’re more likely to see ads for sites you’ve visited recently (due to your computer’s cookies) than related products.


Retrevo is a shopping and review portal with a searchable database of more than a million product manuals. You can search by product category, like for cameras, video recorders, computers and peripherals, mobile phones, televisions, and a huge variety of consumer electronics and appliances.

Although most major brands, including Sony, Panasonic, Canon, General Electric, Dell, LG, Maytag, KitchenAid, and Nikon are represented, there are some glaringly absent brands, like Apple. However, there are some equally fun surprises, like manuals for LEGO.

Once you locate the product you want, the download buttons for manuals are embedded in the product sales and review pages, which are full of ads, making the aesthetics of the site somewhat to be desired, and you have to enter a CAPTCHA to access the download. Still, it’s a good stop if you’ve exhausted other sites and are still seeking the right manual.

The has a real bare-bones approach to finding the manuals you need. There’s no membership, no forum, and no personalized home page. There’s no easy way to even find out more about who put the site together, but there’s a charm to the gruff simplicity. (The site is available in English, French, German, and Romanian, an unusual combination of options.)

The list of manufacturers ranges from AEG to Zanussi (with plenty from Panasonic, Motorola, Samsung, Kenwood, Sharp, Casio, Yamaha, Philips, and Sanyo). However, once you click through, you will need to know your model number to search directly. Otherwise, you get a Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time search box and there are no product photo previews to help you along. has a bounty of on-screen ads, and the products available can be hit-or-miss. I couldn’t locate a manual for my ancient Sony Dream Machine (even knowing it was model ICF-C5W).


ReplacementDocs bills itself as “the original web archive of game manuals” but looks more like a circa-1996 web forum. If you’ve decided to dust off that Atari 5250 you haven’t used in eons, or you’ve found a mint condition Apple ][ game collection at a garage sale but can’t figure out the settings sans manual, this site has what you need. (Don’t worry, there’s plenty of Nintendo manuals of all varieties, plus Wii, XBox and more.) Staff editors hand-edit all uploaded submissions to ensure quality. There’s a teeny bit of advertising, but it doesn’t interfere with readability or search functions.

Vimm’s Lair’s Manual Project offers a collection of more than 400 NES and SNES game manuals, as well as guides for other games, all available for viewing online or downloading in .vml or PDF format.

The Video Game Archaeologist also has a large collection of classic and newer video game manuals, designed to be viewable in your browser (rather than downloaded).


There are two types of automobile manuals. First, there are the owner’s manuals you find in your glove compartment when you buy a new car (or hope to find there when you purchase a used car). Manufacturers provide these for guidance so you will take good care of your car and be a satisfied owner.

The second type of automobile manual is more extensive and filled with in-depth maintenance and repair advice. The companies that produce these guides hire mechanical experts and technical writers to create robust, high-quality manuals, covering everything from standard maintenance to popular repairs to in-depth servicing. Understandably, such companies charge for those products. Consequently, you will not find these manuals available for free, online or elsewhere.

If you’re planning to do any kind of DIY car repair beyond replacing your windshield wipers, consult manuals from two of the best-known companies: Haynes and Chilton. You’ll find that these manuals, once available only in print, are now also available for purchase in digital form. (Bear that in mind when you get to our next post in this series, so you can keep track of all the major manuals for your household’s automobiles.)

But, back to the first type of manual. If you’ve spilled coffee on your owner’s manual, your toddler crushed wet Cheerios into the binding, or your new-to-you vehicle arrived without a manual, go to the ultimate car source.

Edmund’, best known for helping consumers identify the right used or new car for their needs, has a nifty chart with links to each auto manufacturer’s site for downloading digital car manuals. Although the page hasn’t been updated in a few years, the links to individual automobile company sites yield the pages you’ll need to find the official manual for your car. In most cases, the digital versions of the manuals are free; acquiring a paper copy will generally cost $25-$45.

The Project is a collaborative site run by car enthusiasts seeking to overcome the challenges related to the “difficulty, stress and complications we encountered when looking for documentation relating to our vehicles.” The team seeks to collect and make available “workshop manuals” for a wide variety of cars. From Alfa Romeo to Vauxhall, they have an impressive variety of manuals, though none for my 20-year-old (let’s say vintage) Saturn SL1. Select the make and model of the car you’re seeking, then click to find the PDF for the year of your vehicle. View or download it for free. No registration is necessary, and you can also upload manuals you’ve scanned to help expand the database.


The big question is, what do you do with all of these digital manuals you acquire? Sure, sometimes it’s good enough to look up a manual online, read how to reset your whatchamacallit, and move on. But if you’d prefer to have a neatly organized digital archive, Paper Doll has you covered. Watch this space for the final post in this Manual Override series to final post in this Manual Override series to learn how to create your own organized digital manual library with an easily searchable database.





Posted on: October 20th, 2017 by Julie Bestry | 2 Comments

A manual override is a mechanism where control is taken from an automated system and given to the user. Our new three-post Manual Override series takes control from the entropy (which seems like an automated system) that develops from mountains of disorganized owner’s manuals and gives that power back to you in the guise of organized, streamlined systems.

I recently helped a client re-organize her kitchen. She and her husband have a gorgeous, newly renovated kitchen with many modern conveniences, like roll-out shelving, but they also had a lot of excess mugs, plasticware, and far more frying pans than burners. As we moved from cabinet-to-cabinet and drawer-to-drawer, we identified what didn’t belong in the kitchen, reduced the duplicates and triplicates, and relocated most items to be closer to where they are used or to the items with which they are used. But one drawer – one I find in most kitchens (but some dens, offices, bedrooms, and occasionally bathrooms) – was filled to the brim with paper. Not recipes. Not mail. But manuals!

In almost every home, there’s a drawer or cabinet or bin filled with installation instructions, operational manuals, repair manuals, and similar booklets – they pile up but are rarely addressed. Too often, the piles are populated with manuals for items that clients have long-since discarded, donated, lost or sold. But the manuals, they live on, like ghosts of prior purchase decisions.

If you want to reduce the manual clutter, you have three main options: keep and organize the paper manuals you have, use online manuals, or develop your own personalized digital system. Today, we’re going to cover how to organize your traditional paper manuals.


Gather all of the manuals in your home. Go room-to-room, checking under, behind, and on top of appliances, and in drawers and cabinets. If you’ve previously had a drawer, bag, or filing cabinet where manuals were supposed to go, you still may find that members of your household have borrowed manuals and then left them near where they were used, far from their “homes.”

Identify the manuals for appliances, electronics, and other items you are selling, donating, or no longer own. If the manuals are leaving your home, consider scanning and uploading them to the digital manual archives we’ll be discussing in Part 2 of this series.

Match useful manuals to whatever items you are selling or donating to make things easier for the new owners.

Recycle the manuals for items you no longer own or for anything you already know how to use. If you need written instructions for your toaster or hair dryer, you’re either buying products that are far too fancy for your busy lifestyle or you’ve got bigger problems than organizing.

(And seriously, no mention of PopTarts? Toaster Strudel? Paper Doll does not approve.)

Recycle the manuals in languages you don’t read. If you’ve got a collection of foreign language manuals from items you purchased abroad, consider asking your local middle school or high school language department staff if they’d like the manuals for translation projects.

Sort manuals by category or location. For example:

  • major kitchen appliances (refrigerator, oven, stove, dishwasher, microwaves)
  • small kitchen appliances and gadgets (food processors, blenders, crockpots)
  • laundry room/mud room appliances (washers, dryers, steamers, vacuums)
  • major household appliances (furnace, air conditioning, water heater, air cleaner)
  • entertainment electronics (TV, home audio system, DVR, streaming devices)
  • computer/electronics (computers, peripherals, tablets, phones)
  • Internet of Things (IoT)/Smart Home devices
  • automotive

Create a physical system. There are multiple methods for filing user’s and owner’s manuals, installation instructions, and similar materials. The key factor is developing a system for quick, easy retrieval of a manual when something has gone kablooie! (Please note, this is the technical term for household malfunctions.)

1) Traditional Files

Most of my clients prefer incorporating their manuals into the “household” section of their Family Filing System. You might want to check out two classic posts, Family Filing – As Easy As Pie and Paper Dolls Live in Paper Households for insight, but in general, this means using traditional left/middle/right-tabbed folders and grouping them together, by category, within hanging folders.

Filing drawers, milk crate-style filing boxes and desktop file boxes, just as you’d use for the rest of your household files, all work well.

The main advantage of the file folder system is that you can flip through a relatively small set of manuals in the narrowed, categorized file folders to find what you need. You can color code categories to add some pizzazz but still maintain your files in a way that matches the rest of your filing system. The main disadvantage is that other household members may tend to grab the entire electronics folder, plop down in the living room to fiddle with the audio system, and leave the whole folder, with piles of papers, splayed across the floor or nearest horizontal surfaces. It’s a tidy system until someone chooses to make it less tidy. Maintenance is key.

2) Three-Ring Binders

Some clients prefer to create (multiple) three-ring binders and insert their manuals in plastic sheet protectors. To use this system, you’ll want:

  • multiple 2″ or 3″ three-ring binders, preferably with D-rings, with sturdy (rather than flexible) covers
  • 8 1/2″ x 11″ standard top-loading sheet protectors with three-hole punched left margins (Consider heavy-duty or extra-capacity protectors if you’ve got manuals that are particularly hefty.)
  • Binder dividers to label sub-sections and/or create a table of contents (This is optional.)

The advantage of the three-ring binder is that you can store all manuals upright on any bookshelf and return the binder to its place with ease. You have to bear in mind that some manuals (such as those for computers) are going to be so thick as to take up most of the space in the binder. It’s also slightly less convenient to remove (and later replace) a manual from a sheet protector vs. a file folder.

3) Magazine Files

Some households need or want a less structured system for maintaining manuals. For these clients, I recommend some attractive magazine files, locating them close to the items the manuals address rather than in a centralized location. So, one magazine file for the kitchen, perhaps bookending cookbooks or on the kitchen desk or in a cabinet; one magazine file for the laundry room; one for the major HV/AC appliances stored on a basement bookshelf, and so on.

The physical aspect of the system you choose is less important than picking one method and committing to it so everyone in the household knows where to find a manual when the water heater is whistling, the DVR is blinking, or Siri and Alexa join forces to lock you out of your house.

The water heater is whistling! The DVR is blinking! Siri and Alexa joined forces to lock you out of the house.… Click To Tweet

Create a behavioral system so that at least once a year, you go through your folders, binders or files and let out-of-date manuals go. (Consider adding it as a task reminder in your phone for the cold, boring days of January.) Alternatively, develop a habit so that every time you acquire a new item, put the manual in place and review the folder/binder/file into which that manual goes.

Having a system for your operational, owner, and repair manuals means that you (and anyone else in your home) can find a manual easily. However, the more manuals you have, the more overburdened you may feel by having so many paper documents. Also, there may be items you’ve owned so long that the manuals have gotten lost, or you might be the second (or third) owner and the manual never made its way to you. If either having too many manuals or lacking the manuals you need sounds a bit familiar, there are some great alternatives.


It’s not unusual for manuals to go missing. They might have been accidentally thrown out with the packing materials, tucked away with the board games, or tossed in the trash. If you were re-gifted an item or bought it second-hand, the manual may never have made it to you in the first place. You could just call the manufacturer, get put on hold until you’ve memorized The Girl from Ipanema, and find out that the company has no more tangible manuals. That’s OK. That’s where digital manuals come in.

Digital manuals, accessible online, provide two huge advantages:

  • You can decrease or eliminate household storage given over to owner and repair manuals.
  • You can access a manual for an item from anywhere. This means that if your grandma calls you to complain that her soap opera is suddenly in Spanish (she probably hit the remote’s SAP button, by the way), you can look up the manual for her on your computer from work, your iPad from vacation, and seriously, your phone from anywhere.

But first, you have to find the manuals you want. You would think that this far into the 21st Century, it would be as easy as finding the manufacturer and entering your product’s name or model number. This is certainly the case with some of the big guys. For example, with GE Appliances, you just type in your model number to get your installation instructions and owner’s manual.

Similarly, Sears has a Find A Manual page where categories of popular products and brands can be searched to find manuals listed at their associated Shop Your Way site, as well as a series of clickable troubleshooting guides linking to Sears Parts Direct.

Sadly, many manufacturers do not make finding their manuals that easy to locate. In a perfect world, upon Googling your product, manufacturer, and model number, you’d be directed to the appropriate place on an official site. And, in many cases, it is that easy. But not always.

To find manuals you are missing, or to access digital versions of manuals so that you can replace the paper versions, there are a variety of online sources. Watch this space for the second part of this series and find a robust offering of online manual resources.SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave






Posted on: July 7th, 2017 by Julie Bestry | 3 Comments

Wait, it was just Independence Day! Why are we talking about back-to-school organizing? In ye olden days, when I grew up in Buffalo, New York, where kids still don’t go back to school until after Labor Day, talking about back-to-school so soon after the 4th of July would be like stores putting up Christmas decorations right after Halloween. (Oh…right.)

But there’s a method to the madness. In many parts of the country, students go back to school in the middle of the summer. In my county in Tennessee, the public schools start on August 3rd, and mere miles from me in Georgia, students go back on the first of August. But even for kids going back to school in September, that’s only about eight weeks from now. Instead of rushing to get everything done, here’s a roundup of ways to organize your approach to the back-to-school season.


Paper Doll‘s colleagues (and longtime friends), Michelle Cooper and Michelle Grey of Student Organizers of Atlanta will be presenting a free, live webinar entitled Practical Organization and Time Management Strategies for Middle and High Schoolers with ADHD on July 20, 2017, at 1 p.m. ET.

Presented as part of ADDitude Magazine‘s ongoing webinar series, the webinar will provide strategies for:

  • Managing the day-to-day organizational challenges facing students both inside and outside of the classroom
  • Understanding your child’s “thinking style” and finding organizing methods and tools that fit his or her style
  • Using organizational systems that will improve his or her chances of academic success
  • Collaborating with your child and the teachers to support his or her efforts at organization
  • Using products, books, and websites to ease the process of organization for your student

Register for the webinar and take it live, or you can use the replay link to watch (or rewatch) the webinar for free, any time up through next January 20, 2018.

Learn more about ADDitude and check out the other webinars in the series. If your child is heading to college, both of you might want to watch the webinar on July 11, 2017, entitled The College Transition Guide for Teens with ADHD.


Over the four weekends from July 21 through August 13, sixteen states will be having tax-free holiday weekends. In general, these states allow retailers to sell clothing and footwear, school supplies, computers, and sometimes backpacks, books, and other “tangible personal property” without charging sales tax. In my state, that’s a savings of 9.25%. Combine that with various 10%-25%-off sales, and that’s a great opportunity to stock up on necessities.

Note: Some states, such as Georgia, have discontinued their tax-free holidays, so be sure to check out states adjacent to yours.

Click on the name of your nearest state to be directed to that state’s official tax-free holiday page.

Alabama (July 21-23, 2017)
Tax-free: Clothing (up to $100), Computers (up to $750), School supplies (up to $50), Books (up to $30)

Arkansas (August 5-6, 2017)
Tax-free: Clothing and footwear (up to $100), Clothing accessories and equipment (up to $50), School and academic art supplies (no dollar limit)

Connecticut (August 20-26, 2017)
Tax-free: Clothing and footwear (up to $100)

Florida (August 4-6, 2017)
Tax-free: Clothing, footwear, wallets, and bags (up to $60), School supplies (up to $15/item), Computers (up to $750)

Iowa (August 4-5, 2017)
Tax-free: Clothing and footwear (up to $100)

Louisiana (August 4-5, 2017)
Tax-free: Tangible Personal Property (3% tax rate up to $2,500; a 2% state sales tax exemption applies, so qualified purchases are subject to only 3% state sales tax)

Maryland (August 13-19, 2017)
Tax-free: Clothing & footwear (up to $100)

Mississippi (July 28-29, 2017)
Tax-free: Clothing & footwear (up to $100)

Missouri (August 4-6, 2017)
Tax-free: Clothing (up to $100), Computers/peripherals (up to $1,500), Software (up to $350), Graphing calculators (up to $150), School supplies (up to $50)

New Mexico (August 4-6, 2017)
Tax-free: Clothing and footwear (up to $100), Computers, tablets, and e-readers (up to $1,000), Computer equipment (up to $500), Book bags and backpacks (up to $100 per item), maps and globes (up to $100 per item), Calculators (up to $200), School supplies (up to $30)

Ohio (August 4-6, 2017)
Tax-free: Clothing (up to $75), School supplies (up to $20)

Oklahoma  (August 4-6, 2017)
Tax-free: Clothing and footwear (up to $100)

South Carolina (August 4-6, 2017)
Tax-free: Clothing (no limit) School supplies (no limit), Computers, printers, peripherals, and software (no limit)

Tennessee (July 28-30, 2017)
Tax-free: Clothing (up to $100), School and art supplies (up to $100), Computers (up to $1,500)

Texas (August 11-13, 2017)
Tax-free: Clothing, backpacks and school supplies (up to $100)

Virginia (August 4-6, 2017)
Tax-free: Clothing (up to $100), School supplies (up to $20), Energy Star products (up to $2,500) and a variety of hurricane-preparedness items.

Tax-free holiday tips:

  • The price limits generally refer to the price-per-item cost, not your entire purchase. However, if a store is placing limits on entire purchases and you have a large family, you might want to have your older, more responsible children stand in line and pay with cash.
  • Make a list of what each child needs before you get to the store. (Check with your school to see if a grade-appropriate list has been posted online.) It’s tempting to buy anything that seems like a bargain, but acquiring what you don’t need just because it’s a “deal” is the fast track to clutter.
  • Set a budget for each shopping category.
  • Shopping with smaller children will stress you (and your kids) out, so consider trading shopping and babysitting time with a friend or split babysitter costs while you and your friend hunt for bargains together. Let older children participate – use it as an opportunity to practice math skills (“How much is this shirt if it’s marked as 15% off?”) and encourage them in finding good deals on high-quality products. The more responsible they are, consider rewarding them with the amount by which they came in under budget to apply toward something fun.
  • Remember to keep your receipts in case you find that you need to return something; note each retailer’s return policy.


As mentioned a few weeks back when I was talking about Time Timer, many people, especially students, can have trouble mastering the concept of the passing of time, which makes it difficult to properly plan academic and life tasks. When I was in middle and high school, almost nobody used a planner or a calendar. These were the days when Trapper Keepers were the height of organizational technology and pocket-sized assignment notebooks yielded the best option for academic time management. Somewhere during the <mumble mumble> intervening decades, schools started providing and/or requiring student planners to help keep up with homework assignments, projects, and tests.

These planners give students the opportunity to mark down what they must do. It’s not clear, however, that students get the time management skills and system-training they need to master the intricacies of juggling academics, extracurriculars, part-time jobs, and familial obligations, or learn when to complete it all. That’s where Leslie Josel comes in.

Professional organizer Leslie Josel of Order Out of Chaos, is not just a colleague and friend; she’s also a fellow Cornell University alum, so when I first heard about her product line for students, I paid particular attention.

Paper Doll with Leslie Josel, © 2017 Best Results Organizing

At first, Leslie’s organizing practice concentrated on working with chronically disorganized clients, people with ADHD, students with learning challenges, and clients with hoarding behaviors. Eventually, (like Michelle and Michelle, above), she expanded her offerings to include coaching services for both students and parents. In 2016, Leslie expanded her company’s product division and officially launched Products Designed With Students in Mind.

Leslie’s big idea was the Academic Planner: A Tool for Time Management®. The 2017-2018 Academic Planner comes in two sizes: letter-sized (8 1/2″ x 11″) and personal-sized (8 1/4″ x 8 1/2″), both for $18.99. Based on an academic year calendar, the planners run July through June. They’re spiral bound, but also three-hole punched to allow students to pop them right into their binders.

Each size is available in four styles of planners: Jamie (black), Riley (orange/blue), Taylor (white) and Paper Doll‘s personal favorite, Violet (pink/purple). The interior pages measure 7” x 11”, offering up more than the typical space for writing down assignments and activities.

Introductory Pages

The front pages, measuring the same size as the front and rear cover of the planner, include:

  • a contact information section so a lost planner can be easily returned
  • a class schedule (subject, period, instructor, room #, days) to quickly acclimate students for the new year (and give a fellow student, armed with the contact info, an easy way to find the owner at the right classroom and return a lost planner)
  • a Welcome Letter from Leslie to parents
  • a detailed set of Planner Pointers, providing excellent guiding tips for making smart use of the planner. (My favorite? Writing “No Homework” if none was assigned so the student never has to wonder if he or she just forgot to write something down.)
  • a two-page Planner Use Guide, showing the planner in action — noting assignments, reminders (“Get permission slips signed!”), after-school activities and previews for the next week
  • Homework Helpers, tips that could only come from a professional organizer experienced with helping students gain control of their work.
  • a sample Project Planning Guide to help plan long-term assignments (Students can download more guides for future projects.)
  • a two-page School Year at a Glance

Planner Pages

On the last (extra-sturdy) full-sized front page, the Academic Planner has a vertical index page that peeks out from behind (and to the left) of the actual planner pages. This index page means that students record their class subjects (in up to 7 subject boxes) only once. Then everything on the upper calendar sections of the planner pages lines up with the appropriate class subjects, course by course, horizontally (with days of the week arrayed, vertically) across a two-page layout. (You can download a sample planner page.)

The next row (in the personal-sized planner, only) is for To Do items.

Below that, there’s an hour-by-hour schedule from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Typical student planners only cover the academic day and don’t take into account post-school activities, like doctor’s appointments, tutoring, clubs, rehearsals, sports, and jobs. This planner provides oodles of space for all of those activities and recognizing conflicts (just like in the best calendar planners for adults). This really helps students see the forest and the trees of weekly time management.

Other Features

  • At the start of each month, there’s a left-side full-page monthly calendar with space to note major events, holidays, and vacations, and adequately plan longer-term projects.
  • The right-side Notes page facing the calendar offers up ample room for planning, notes, and the kinds of serious thoughts only people between 12 and 18 can understand.
  • There’s a clear poly pocket at the rear of the planner for safely keeping notes, permission slips, and other documents too small for a student’s binder.
  • A bonus Academic Planner Accessories Pack (sold separately, for $8.97) includes a plastic page marker that clips into the spiral binding, so it’s easy to find the current week in the planner, a set of monthly tabs, and a really bright, sunny set of useful stickers.

But of course, measurements, styles, and features don’t give credit to what the 2017-2018 Academic Planner: A Tool for Time Management® can actually do to help students. For that, let’s go to the video!

Enjoy your summer, but remember that a little organizing now can make back-to-school the most wonderful time of the year!

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, and I may get a small remuneration (at no additional cost to you) if you make a purchase after clicking through to the resulting pages. The opinions, as always, are my own. (Seriously, who else would claim them?)

Posted on: June 23rd, 2017 by Julie Bestry | 6 Comments

Did you just do a double-take? Laundry? In a Paper Doll post? While we rarely talk about organizing non-paper aspects of domestic life, a recent interview presented an interesting way to use laundry to consider how we procrastinate on other tasks, like paper management.

A writer for Real Simple Magazine contacted my colleague, the fabulous Dr. Melissa Gratias, about the psychology behind why people fail to finish their laundry. Being interviewed by Real Simple is a plumb opportunity, but Melissa – a psychologist by training – focuses on corporate organizing and professional productivity. Melissa honored me by suggesting Real Simple should get my take on the topic.

In the end, in Real Simple‘s June issue about “getting it done,” laundry ended up being just one small section. (See my quotes on page 128!) But you, dear readers, have the opportunity to learn it all!

The reporter asked:

Why [do] we have trouble finishing the laundry (wet clothes left in the machine, clean clothes not folded, folded clothes not put away) – and how we can change our habit to get it done in one swoop so it’s off our plate?

The key word in the inquiry was “finishing” but for many people, even starting laundry is the bigger obstacle. It’s funny to think about why we put off laundry as this huge, scary thing, because our great-grandmothers used finger-peeling washboards and our great-greats had to take the washing down to the river to beat the clothing against the rocks.

Meanwhile, we drop our laundry in metal boxes and push a few buttons! It’s not particularly onerous, so there must be more to it than the labor — and, as you may have suspected, much of it is psychological. However, small tweaks can dramatically improve our ability to get our laundry done and get us on our way — fully clothed, unstained, and possibly in a fashionable mode of dress.

First, laundry is not a task, but a project. Tasks are singular, but the ongoing saga of the laundry project involves multiple sequential tasks:

  • collecting our laundry from the various places we (and our children, and our spouses who sometimes act like children) drop or toss them
  • remembering what special tasks (pre-treating stains, removing accessories, securing drawstrings) must be performed
  • sorting laundry by color and/or temperature
  • washing (but the actual labor is done by the machine)
  • transferring the laundry to the dryer, making sure to remove any items that must be line-dried or hung over sweater racks or otherwise given extra attention
  • drying (again, done by the machine)
  • removing laundry from the dryer in a timely manner so that wrinkles don’t set in
  • folding laundry (clothing, bedding, towels, etc.) and hanging clothing
  • putting it all away

Wow. These discrete tasks should naturally flow from one to the next, just as the various steps in cooking a meal, but we’re much more inclined to wander away, mid-task, with laundry.

Consider the following obstacles and solutions:

1) PROBLEM: We lack timely triggers to start laundry.

At least, we don’t have them in the same way we do as for preparing a meal. (What? Do you starve for fluff & fold?) Other than in college, when students tend to put off laundry until they run out of clean underwear, most adults don’t have a natural trigger to get started on laundry.

SOLUTION: Create your own triggers.

Pick days and times when you’ll do laundry, like during your children’s piano lessons and scouting meetings on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, or on weekend evenings after dinner, because the bulk of the work can be done quickly before TV time and the folding can be done during commercials. Set alerts on your phone or computer and let them serve as your valet or butler — albeit one unwilling to do laundry, but happy to remind you that it must be done.

This concept works just as well for paper-oriented tasks. Instead of waiting for your bills to be due (or overdue) — the equivalent of running out of clean laundry — schedule a time to work on your tasks. Bill-paying is a kind of correspondence (though you’re sending money, rather than cheery news), so you might schedule other tasks, like writing thank-you notes at the same time. In your professional life, group tasks like responding to emails or drafting your business newsletter at set times on certain days, like after your staff meeting on Wednesday mornings.

The key is to identify your trigger, set an auditory or visual alert to help you focus on the trigger, and create a time block to complete the task. Maybe the new Time Timer we recently reviewed can help?

2) PROBLEM: We anticipate that laundry will be more of a pain than it actually is.

Although laundry requires multiple steps, most of them are easy and each can be completed in a matter of minutes (except for what the machines do). But many of us recall when laundry was difficult (requiring amassing adequate stashes of quarters, dragging heavy laundry bags from our dorm rooms to basement laundry rooms only to find all the washers were in use), and that sense memory makes us subconsciously rebel against even the idea of doing laundry.

SOLUTION: Find ways to make doing laundry less unpleasant.

  • Install better lighting in your laundry room, and clear the space of clutter.
  • If your laundry room is also used for other purposes, create a separate laundry zone. Corral your bottles of stain remover, boxes of fabric softener, lint remover, and everything except your heavy detergent bottles, in rubber dishpans or tubs you can easily slide off cabinet shelves.
  • Install a valet hook, a rolling clothes rack, and/or a retractable clothes line in your laundry area to make buttoning, zipping, and hanging clothes easy.
  • Get rid of (or fix) anything about your laundry area that makes you avoid it.

These tips work for paperwork, too. Do you put off filing, remembering that one time it took you all weekend to deal with six months’ worth of paper backlog? You have almost ten years of Paper Doll advice on how to create a filing system so that everything is logical and easy to find. Join the Clean Desk Club, and learn what papers you need to keep and what you can toss by getting Do I Have To Keep This Piece of Paper? Instead of filing months of papers in drudgery, do short bursts every week, and put on your favorite music to liven the mood.

3) PROBLEM: We lack systems and don’t set aside time to complete the project.

Work isn’t completed until it’s done, and laundry isn’t done until it’s put away. But that injects another problem. Because we procrastinate about doing laundry, we then feel that we have to do ALL THE LAUNDRY all at once, at which we either will fail (making us resentful of that sense of failure) or succeed (making us resentful that we’re expected to ever do it again).

SOLUTION: Create physical and behavioral systems to make the work easy to complete.

  • Only start laundry when you’re going to be around to complete a load from start to finish.
  • Don’t start a load of laundry late at night – you’ll be tempted to go to bed and leave the items in the washer or dryer.
  • Sort laundry sessions by type. Do bedding and towels when it’s more likely you’ll be interrupted. (Nobody minds wrinkled towels).
  • Do more smaller loads of clothing. It’ll wash better and dry faster.
  • Know how long your washer and dryer cycles take; if they don’t have musical alerts that you can hear from elsewhere in the house, set your kitchen timer or phone alarm to remind you to move the process along.

With papers, conquer your ingrained avoidance by making sure you have systems that make it easy. Create homes for what is to-be-paid and to-be-filed, and a filing system that is aesthetically pleasing (if that’s what gets you going) and ergonomic (with good lighting and a comfortable place to sit so you don’t hurt your back while working).

Behaviorally, you can complete small tasks in whatever time you have available, but if you’re working on a larger project, like developing a family budget, writing your graduate thesis, or putting together your start-up’s marketing plan, you need to see the big picture and make sure you’ve blocked time to take your project from start to completion.

4) PROBLEM: We resent that we’re doing all the work!

While some of us find the folding of laundry to be almost Zen-like, for most people it’s not exactly
Disney World. That doesn’t mean laundry must mean misery.

SOLUTION: Don’t feel obligated to do it all by yourself.

Delegate: If your kids are old enough, teach them how to do laundry, starting with hard-to-destroy items like towels, and help them to understand laundry instruction tags, temperature settings, etc. Start by working together, and once they’re good to go, include the least destructible types of laundry on their chore charts.

Share: Nobody says laundry has to be a solo adventure. Just as with kitchen tasks (I’ll wash, you dry), split up the effort so it seems like less work. If you get the clothes sorted, pre-treated, and into the washer, make it a tag-team event and let your partner get it from the dryer to the bedrooms and linen closets.

Trade tasks: If you really hate doing laundry, even with these tips, see if your spouse has a much-detested task of similar effort and value, and trade-off, even if only for a few weeks at a time, to give you both a respite.

Entertain yourself: If nobody else can or will help, make laundry time delightful. Listen to podcasts or favorite songs while you do the bulk of the work, and let yourself focus on fun rather than work during the washer and dryer cycles.

This advice is applicable in your non-laundry areas, too. Whatever you have to do, if it’s not something at which you’re skilled (or willing to get skilled), find a way to get it off your plate. If you don’t have a committee member, colleague, employee, neighbor kid, or pal to whom you can delegate or with whom you can share, hire someone affordably:


5) PROBLEM: Our closets and drawers are bulging. 

Here’s where the Pareto Principle really comes into play. 80% of the time, we wear the same 20% of our wardrobe; we wear, we wash, we dress out of the laundry basket. Our clothes don’t make it back to our closets and drawers because we often know that trying to squish hangers into tightly jammed spaces or folded clothing into overstuffed drawers will be futile. It reminds us that we must purge our excesses, and to avoid that discomfort, we subconsciously avoid even taking clothing back to where it belongs.

SOLUTION: Declutter!

  • Pair up with a spouse, teen, or friend, or enlist the aid of a professional organizer so that you can reduce the number of items that no longer fit (your body or your lifestyle) or flatter.
  • Arrange by clothing type (to make it easier to know where to return any just-laundered item.
  • Move empty hangers to one area, so you’ll be able to grab them for laundry use instead of fighting to untangle them amid the chaos. Move anything that isn’t clothing, shoes, or
    accessories elsewhere.
  • Pare down linen closets to what you actually use; jettison threadbare towels; donate sheets that don’t fit any size beds you currently own.

To get from to-do to halfway-done to finished with paperwork, eliminate the distracting clutter. Get the kids toys off your bill-paying desk and back to the playroom, pull and shred the household bills from 1987, and get the dust-covered knickknacks out of your workspace.

Finish the laundry. Finish the paperwork. Get on with your life!

Posted on: June 8th, 2017 by Julie Bestry | No Comments

Remember the first time you ever saw someone rub a balloon on his head and then stick the balloon to the wall? You were perhaps four or five years old, and it probably seemed like magic. At some point you learned it was static electricity, but if you’re being honest, doesn’t it still seem like magic?

Well, Smead’s newest answer to solving paper clutter with vertical storage pretty much runs on balloon magic.


Last year, at the NAPO2016 conference in Atlanta, we got a sneak preview of the Justick by Smead collection, but this year in Pittsburgh, we got our official introduction to their new display boards. We viewed a desktop copyholder, the kind of item you’d usually use for displaying documents to give you easy access while typing at your computer. But look more closely at the Justick — and take a moment to appreciate the adorable tot on the left, the daughter of Smead’s Associate Marketing Manager Leiann Thompson. (Paper Doll is sending a shout-out to Leiann, soon to welcome tot #2 into the world!)

Can you tell that there’s nothing holding the photos to the copyholder? The photos and doodads adhere to the Justick as if by magic. Rather than needing push-pins, glue, magnets, tape, or that sticky roly-poly stuff used to hang posters, Smead has developed an advanced type of bulletin board that allows you to organize things vertically — using nothing but the power of static electricity!

OK, officially, it’s electro-adhesion surface technology.

Justick’s technology keeps in place whatever you put on the board: photos, memorabilia, reminder notices, business cards, phone lists, illustrations, training material, etc., and does so vertically. And no, you don’t have to rub anything on your head to get it to stick.

The electrical energy behind the Justick boards is powered by four AA batteries, or you can use an optional AC adapter if you’d rather keep it plugged in. Justick products have modern aluminum frames and frameless styles, and there are a variety of display solutions within three main categories:

  • Electro Bulletin Boards
  • Dry-Erase Boards with Clear Overlays
  • Commercial Communication Solutions

Justick Frameless Wall Strip Display

Start by hanging this simple, black, unobtrusive, 48″ W x 8″ H strip on your wall.

Next, grab anything you’d like to keep in front of your face, but off of your desk. Your toddler’s newest artwork? Up it goes. The business cards for the people you need to call this week? Display them in columns or rows. Birthday cards? Motivational photos of yoga positions? Whatever you’d like to see on your wall, without having to find studs, poke holes, or make anything sticky.

The Justick Frameless Wall Strip Display retails for $79.99 on Amazon, and Office Depot.

Justick Frameless Desktop Organizer/Copyholder

Ever since the days of the typing pool, there has been a need to stand papers vertically while doing your typing. Invariably someone gives you a printout or handwritten document when you’d prefer an email or link to Evernote, and it’s up to you to get the information into digital form. Arraying a document vertically makes it easier to move your eye from the paper to the screen and back again vs. having to keep looking down at your desk.

The neato-keen thing about the Justick version is that you can stick multiple items on at once — so you can keep multiple ad hoc (documents, contracts, to-do lists, etc.) items and more permanent ones (cheat sheets, department codes, etc.) on the same page. Paper Doll tested this out — things really do stick where you put them and, unlike balloon-style static electric power, they do not start sliding down to the floor or desk as time goes on.

The Frameless Desktop Organizer/Copyholder is black, measures 8″ W x 11″ H and is priced at $34.99 at Amazon,, and Office Depot.

Justick Frameless Mini Electro Bulletin Board

The “mini” bulletin board measures 16″ W x 24″ H, so it isn’t all that small except in comparison to its siblings, but it’s perfect for vertically displaying essential papers in homes and small offices.

The mini runs $69.99 at and Amazon.

Justick also has three versions of their framed full-sized electro bulletin boards. The boards for all have modern black styling, and both the standard and premium framed versions are three feet wide by two feet high, suitable for larger home offices and small businesses. The larger premium version, four feet wide by three feet high, is more suitable for larger businesses with ample display space.


As discussed above, Justick provides an innovative alternative to a fussy French board in your home or corkboard in your office. But what about when you want a dry-erase board? Do you have wall space enough for both? Happily, you don’t need it, as Justick has also developed a combination electro-board with a clear dry-erase overlay, to serve both purposes.

As with the electro boards above, just install four AA batteries into the board, and the Justick electro surface technology transforms the surface from “zero adhesion” (that is, like any old “dumb wall”) into a powerful force field able to attract photos, papers, business cards, calendars, and memorabilia.

Use either dry-erase or wet-erase markers on your board to “write, display, and interact” with three times the benefit of a traditional board. The durable plastic overlay provides a clear, brilliant surface that Smead says won’t ghost or stain, creating a dynamic whiteboard experience with the utility of a bulletin board. However, as they say on the infomercials…


Smead has also developed Justick overlay board templates. Categories include:

  • Education (for teaching addition, alphabet tracing, telling time, cursive writing, and more)
  • Sports and Coaching (for teaching basketball, football, and hockey plays)
  • Family Activities (daily calendar for activities)
  • Home Management (grocery shopping planners, architectural design planning)
  • Scheduling and Management (Gantt charts, goal tracking, sales reporting, weekly/monthly/yearly and project planners, and more)
  • Medical Industry (hospital and clinic sign in/out, operating room schedules, patient information data for hospital rooms, etc.)
  • Restaurant Management Industry (layouts for the day’s specials)

Got papers? Stick them up!

Got something you want to write or draw? Doodle it freehand or use a template! Get thee to it!

Whether you’re doing a presentation for your biggest client or teaching your child that “M” is for “Mommy” by moving a photo of yourself next to where you’re practicing the alphabet together, Justick has an option.

Justick Frameless Mini Dry-Erase Board with Clear Overlay

The Frameless Mini Dry-Erase Board comes in two versions, black or white, with a clear overlay. Both measure 16″ W x 24″ H and sell for $79.99 at Amazon and

Premium Aluminum Frame Dry-Erase Boards with Clear Overlays

If you want something on a grander scale, for your home, school, business, or medical office, Justick has four full-sized dry-erase options, all with the same electro surface adhesion technology and erasable properties, in either black or white in each of two sizes, measuring 36″ W x 24″ H or  48″ W x 36″ H.


In addition to home and office bulletin board and dry-erase solutions, Justick also has a line of commercial display products suitable for larger businesses, restaurants, hospitals, non-profits, and other locations.

3-Panel Table-Top Expo Display

Picture yourself at the fanciest, most grown-up version of a science fair and you have some sense of how this Justick 3-Panel Table-Top Expo display works. At 72″ W x 36″ H, it allows you to set up your displays for conferences, expos, and whatever corporate version of Show & Tell at which you need to make a big splash, without fear that breezes, un-sticky sticky tape or lost push-pins will cause trouble. It’s priced at $399.99 at (or $391.67 at Amazon) and can be carried securely in its own 36″ W x 27″ H nylon carrying bag ($99.99).

Lobby and Promotional Stands

Justick also makes a wide variety of lobby and promotional stands. They are all black with aluminum frames and have electro surface technology, but you can choose from standard or dry-erase versions for the lobby stands, and choose among single- and double-sided for the promotional stands, as well as a dry-erase version.

Certainly, some of the higher-end Justick products are more than one would need in a home or small office, and I’d like to see some technology for making the wall-affixed products even easier to display. (Hmm, how about a partnership between Smead’s Justick and 3M’s Command brand of hooks and adhesives?) I’d also love to see some colorful options for the smaller items for use in dorm rooms.

So, why are these Justick products so intriguing?

First, it’s the balloon magic. The ability to make your papers and photos adhere to a vertical surface without having to rummage through your desk for thumbtacks or tape is an organizational advantage.

Second, for the dry-erase versions, it’s advantageous to be able to mix (temporary) storage and dynamic writing.

Third, it’s VERTICAL. As this blog has referenced previously, vertical storage is fabulous when your area is small, when your workspace is awkwardly laid out, and when you want to avoid building up clutter.

Of course, vertical clutter isn’t completely impossible — I’m sure you’ve seen refrigerator doors with long-forgotten appointment card reminders, overdue notices, and invitations to events that have long-since past — all layered over one another until the door is almost double its original thickness. So, it’s still important to cull and purge your papers on an ongoing basis, whether they’re lying down or standing up.

Don’t you just love balloon magic?

Photo of Bella+Balloon, courtesy of Pat David is licensed under Creative Commons 2.0