I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

DIY Tickler File: Organization for the Rest of Us

DIY Tickler File: Organization for the Rest of Us {The Unlikely Homeschool}

With my year-long goals before me, binge-and-purge 2014 has commenced.  I began by de-cluttering a long-term filing system in the basement...a place to store all things "official".  I kept what needed to be kept and did this with the rest.  

DIY Tickler File: Organization for the Rest of Us {The Unlikely Homeschool}

The Hubs was given detailed instructions to burn/recycle/shred it all!  Next...

I felt so energized with my little de-cluttering success that I moved onto other small, do-able projects of the house.  I was buried somewhere under a big pile of "what was I thinking?" in my closet when I suddenly remembered another pile of "official" that had to be dealt with...the day-to-day PILE that had somehow, over the course of the last year, taken residence on the top of the piano.

In my defense, The Hubs and I had redistributed some of our "administration/bill paying" duties recently, and THE PILE became the bad side effect of an otherwise glorious plan.  

DIY Tickler File: Organization for the Rest of Us {The Unlikely Homeschool}

When brainstorming a solution to the mess, I remembered a filing system that I had first heard about in junior high when I attended a woman's day conference with my mom.  The speaker called it a Tickler File and swore it was a sure-fire, "organize your life" system.  

It's worth a try,  I thought.  It's, certainly, a lot better than a big ugly pile on the piano.

Not wanting to spend a bunch of money in the stationary department of Target (I have no will-power in those aisles!), and with a stack of discarded manilla files I had cleaned out from my basement binging and purging, I decided to make a handful of cute labels and refurb those old folders into an organizational system that could be fully-functional but look obscure sitting somewhere in my office-less home.  

DIY Tickler File: Organization for the Rest of Us {The Unlikely Homeschool}

To turn old files into a Tickler File

You will need:

  • 43 old files
  • scissors
  • scrapbook paper
  • a circle and/or oval stencil
  • a stapler


  1. Cut off the used top tab of each of the files.
  2. Using a stencil or something that would work as a circle pattern, trace and cut out 31 two-inch circles.  (I used a Creative Memories circle maker.)
  3. Next, trace and cut out 12 three-inch ovals.
  4. Staple one circle or one oval onto the top of each folder to make a new tab.  Be sure to stagger the "tabs" so that each label will be readable.
  5. Write the #1 on the first circle tab.  Repeat this process on all the tabs until you have written the numbers 1-31.
  6. Write the months of the year on the longer, oval-shaped tabs.
  7. Put the folders in a file box (or an antique bottle crate, if you just happen to have one sitting on top of your microwave) making sure that the numbered files are in the front and the monthly files are behind them.

DIY Tickler File: Organization for the Rest of Us {The Unlikely Homeschool}

How to use a Tickler File

Throughout the year, as you come upon papers that you'd like to have access to sometime this year (ie., a birthday party idea that you tore out from a magazine, a list of books for your summer book club, a Grandparent's Day card you purchased on clearance the year before), file them away in the appropriate monthly folder.  

When each new month arrives, "unpack" that month's papers and store them in the date-appropriate number folders.  

Each day, sift through that day's papers, deal with each accordingly, and then move that folder to the back of the files.  

DIY Tickler File: Organization for the Rest of Us {The Unlikely Homeschool}

As I think of things that need to be done throughout the week, or even the next day, I jot it on a "to do" list and file it in the appropriate folder so that I can start each day with a few realistic goals.  

I, typically, pay bills twice a month.  By habitually filing them in the same number folders each month, I'm hoping to create a more efficient system.  

My antique crate is large enough that I am able to store my family notebook and my coupon binder in the back of all the files...creating a portable "household hub".  (Nope, scratch that! "Household hub" sounds way too Type A...and since I'm a last born, I can't very well be Type A...or can I?...)

While so much of my "brain" is stored digitally, there are still many hard-copy items that need a suitable home each month.  

I'm only a few days in, so only time will tell if the Tickler File system is the answer.

So far...so good!


  1. What a great idea! I was intrigued when I saw it in your last post. Thank you for explaining it further. I like the ability to file it away by month first, then day when you've reached that month. I try to 'pin' ideas for the future on my pinterest boards... but we all know how those go... lost and never again uncovered a zillion pins later when the event/month actually comes around! I can see how it'd be a huge help with bills too. Thanks!

    1. So far it is...
      The key is for me to actually stick with it. I have a habit of having good ideas that suddenly fizzle when I get bored with them.

  2. Great Idea. My husband really dislikes my "official" piles in places but it is only because we have 5 filing cabinets filled with "official" papers that he will not burn or shred for fear that someday someone will want proof of something. I have old Pepsi and Coke crates but they are too shallow I think to keep the files steady so I guess I will just have to be on the look out because I love the antique look of those type of boxes.