Product Manuals

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

These days it seems like every product, no matter how simple and straight-forward, is accompanied by a manual. In some ways, these little reference books are invaluable (especially if you're putting together toddler toys or IKEA furniture!), but why do we feel compelled to keep every piece of paper that comes with these items?

As my husband & I continue to prep for baby #2 (new chapters are a great time to reevaluate your systems) and simplify areas around our home, I knew this situation needed to be addressed (click on images to enlarge):

Each time a manual made its way into our home, it got thrown into this box. No bueno. I guess I get a few points for having everything in the same place - but not only was this system an eyesore, it wasn't reliable or functional. So when our house alarm recently decided to quit working and I couldn't find what I needed, I knew it was t-i-m-e.

I pulled everything out of the box and sorted the contents into piles. My trash pile grew pretty quickly when I realized I had French manuals, duplicate manuals, and manuals for products I no longer owned:

I also ran across some product registration forms. I tend not to fill these out because it's one less company that can fill up my mailbox and inbox with junk, but I do believe this is an important form to submit for car seats or any other item where you'd want the company to notify you as quickly as possible regarding recalls, etc.

I felt it was safe to toss this registration form, especially since it was for the oldest TV in our house.
Since most product manuals are now available online ( is a great resource), I knew I could take advantage of this fact and free up some storage space. Additionally, electronic manuals have the most up-to-date product information.

I was able to toss all of these manuals after I confirmed they were available online.
FAQ sections on company websites also contain valuable information when you have product questions.
The motivators might be different for each family, but for one reason or another, there were several manuals I wanted to keep handy and in print. I also had some warranties and original purchase receipts I attached to our printed manuals.

I found this unused wicker file box in our home office and knew it would be a great new home for our sorted manuals. I am a big fan of reusing supplies if they appeal functionally and fashionably.

When it comes to filing paper, always keep retrieval in mind when labeling. In other words, when you're looking for something, will "pet" stick out to you or "dog" or "Scout?" After you assign labels with titles, a font, and a size you like (I recommend straight-line tab filing with all CAPS and bold print for easier reading), organize your files alphabetically and voila!

I added an asterisk to manuals that will stay with the house if we ever move.
How do you organize your product manuals? Let me know - I'd love to hear from you!

'Til next time,

UPDATE (as of 7/8/14): I recently learned about This smartphone app allows you to scan the UPC code from your product, which then gives you online access to that item's manual. You'll also get recall notifications, assistance registering your product, and be connected to Customer Service if you're having problems with your appliance or gadget.

Birmingham-based professional organizer, Stacey McElrath, helps clients throughout Alabama and the southeast clear clutter and establish customized systems to maintain order in their homes or offices. Contact SHMorganizing today for more information: