How to Organize Instruction Manuals

instructionmanuals

Nearly every homeowner has a collection of instruction manuals stashed somewhere in their house. From that new stereo, to your appliances, to your tools, television, computer, and so on, almost every semi-sophisticated item you own came with an instruction manual. And it is inevitable that, when you need the instruction manual for the digital camera, or the pool filter, or the new printer, chances are, you will not be able to find it—unless you have your instruction manuals saved, sorted and organized in an easy to manage system. There may be other methods out there for organizing your instruction manuals, but we have found the following two methods to be the most effective and user-friendly.

Filing Cabinet (or Box) Method

What You Will Need:

  • Filing cabinet or Large filing box
  • Hanging file folders
  • Tab labels (the plastic ones that stick on, and paper label is inserted)
  • Large label (for filing cabinet or box)
  • Pen
  • Marker
  • Instruction manuals
  • Rubber bands
  • Large uncluttered work area

How to Get It Organized:

  1. Gather all your instruction manuals from wherever they may be and place them in a pile at your work station, along with your supplies.
  2. Decide how you want to divide up your instruction manuals, i.e. you can sort them by room (for instance, all family room items, all kitchen items, etc), alphabetically or by type (for instance, all appliances, all entertainment systems, all tools, etc.). Choose whatever method works best for you.
  3. Label your file folders with the stick-on plastic label tabs according to the categories you’ve chosen.
  4. Divide the manuals into the appropriate folders according to the category. If an item comes with an instruction manual plus other information (i.e. such as assembly instructions, warranty information, etc.), rubber band the related items together before filing them into the appropriate folder.
  5. Place your hanging file folders into the filing cabinet or box, and label the cabinet drawer (or box) with the large label and marker as “Instruction Manuals.”

Binder Method

What You Will Need:

  • 3-Ring Binder (1 to 5 inches, depending upon how many manuals you have)
  • Protective plastic sleeves (with an opening on the top or side, and 3 holes on one side to fit in the binder)
  • Dividers with labeling tabs
  • Large label (for the front of the binder)
  • Pen/marker
  • Large, uncluttered work area

How to Get It Organized:

  1. Gather all your instruction manuals from wherever they may be and place them in a pile at your work station, along with your supplies.
  2. Decide how you want to divide up your instruction manuals, i.e. you can sort them by room (for instance, all family room items, all kitchen items, etc), or alphabetically, or by type (for instance, all appliances, all entertainment systems, all tools, etc.)
  3. Divide your binder into sections (using the dividers), and label them according to the categories you have decided upon.
  4. Place protective plastic sleeves in between each divider (one for each instruction manual that will go within that section).
  5. Place the manuals in the plastic sleeves (one per sleeve, covers facing out) according to the categories you’ve designated. If an item comes with an instruction manual plus other information (i.e such as assembly instructions, warranty information, etc.), place that information into the plastic sleeve along with the particular instruction manual. You can reverse steps 4 and 5 if it is easier for you—i.e. place all the manuals in the plastic sleeves before placing the plastic sleeves into the binder under the appropriate categories.
  6. Mark the large label as “Instruction Manuals” and stick it to the front of the binder.
  7. Store the binder in a safe and convenient location.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • If you are using the binder method, purchase a binder that is bigger than you actually need at the time to allow for additions later on as you buy other items or find more manuals.
  • If you have a large number of instruction manuals and are using the binder method, you may want to use more than one binder so that it doesn’t get so full that it can’t be used properly.
  • Keep extra folders, labels, dividers or plastic sleeves together with your instruction manuals so that you can easily add more manuals as they come into your home (or you find them hiding some where).
  • Some instruction manuals are too thick to fit neatly into either a binder or file folder (i.e. my computer manual is relatively the size of “War and Peace”). For these thick or odd shaped manuals, consider using a large shoebox. The manuals can be kept in the shoebox and a label affixed to the lid describing exactly which manuals are in there. The shoebox should be kept at or near the same location as your other instruction manuals. For further ease of reference, in the plastic sleeve or file folder where the instruction manual should have went, you can place a piece of paper indicating the name of the instruction manual and the fact that it is in the shoebox.
  • Periodically clean out your instruction manual file or binder. If you no longer own a particular item, then there is no need to keep the instruction manual. This will help to keep your binder or file from getting overstuffed.

Comments

  1. Micahela says:

    You can also tear our the parts of manuals that are not in English, and get rid of manuals that are self-explanatory (why do you need a manual for the hair dryer, the blender, the curling iron, or the toaster?).

  2. Rick says:

    I also create a category for the manuals of appliances and items that would stay with the house if sold to a new owner. The new owner appreciates it, and I do not have to pack, it sort or purges it.

  3. Lynn says:

    I agree with what Rick said above. We are converting from a file drawer system over to a binder system as we clean out our “A to Z” files.

    In anticipation of moving someday, we are setting up two sets of binders:

    (1) First one will “stay with the house” for things like appliances, faucets, heating unit, garage cabinets, paint color samples from each room, etc. and

    (2) Second one that will come with us that contains manuals for small appliances, snow blower, office equipment, etc.

    We are also trying to really scale back what we have saved in our paper files over the years as so much is available online. We love theater mailers with the new season offerings, but really all we need to do now is look online and there you have everything you need. :)

    We are excited to get through re-doing our “A-Z” files and hopefully reduce down to one file drawer from two after purging and setting up our binder system. Your blog helped me to clarify what we need to do to get this “monster project” started. Thank you!

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