Many items we hate to get rid of: sentimental items, clothing, jewelry… today’s challenge is not about these things. Instead, we are going to tackle your stash of manuals and instructions. Many clients I work with have vast stores of manuals, warranties, and product paperwork.
As someone who manages a home myself, I completely understand. Everything we buy these days seems to come with an impressive packet of paperwork:
- Quick Start Guide
- Operation Manual (in 4 languages)
- Installation Instructions
- Warranty/Registration Cards
In the past, these were common only for major appliances, such as washing machines or dishwashers. In the modern world, significant paperwork comes with everything, from phones to toys to hair dryers to faucets. Most of us don’t really need an operation manual for a faucet, but we hold onto it anyway for fear that as soon as we pitch it, the gadget will fail and we will wish we had it. We might even keep blank registration cards with no intention of ever registering the item.
Today’s challenge is to find 17 manuals or instructions to recycle that came with an appliance, toy, household fixture, camera, or anything else you can think of. I frequently find these in file cabinets, boxes in the basement, on shelves in the garage, or piled up in a home office.
Bring them all to a sorting surface and begin by separating them into categories:
- Items I no longer own
- Items I own, and have a warranty for
- Items I own, but have no warranty for
If you are “lucky”, you will have 17 pieces of paper in the first pile that you can place directly into your recycle bin. If not (or if you want to just purge the whole collection while you have it out…which I highly recommend), I suggest that you:
First, clip the paperwork for insured items together by item (e.g. with a binder clip.)
Second, cast a discerning eye at what is left and decide what remaining paperwork you can recycle. Let go of empty product/registration cards you do not wish to complete, instructions/manuals for products you already know how to use, and all advertising.
Third, check to see if you can find an online version for any of the operation manuals you have decided to keep. You can typically find these on a manufacturer’s site by searching with the product name/number. If online versions exist, download them to your computer and put them in a file entitled, “Manuals.”
If you are not computer proficient, prefer using paper, or can’t find online documentation, set up either a file or a binder to hold your paper manuals.
- If you use a file cabinet, use a “box bottom” hanging file to accommodate the wider depth.
- For a binder, either use plastic sleeves or hole-punched pockets to hold the thick paperwork.
Another option that can work well for household appliances is to stick adhesive sleeves near the appliance and tuck the paperwork inside (e.g. on the inside of a cabinet door or under a sink.)
Be sure to label whatever system you use.
Ready to free some space? Do you think you have any old documentation clutter?