21 April 2007

How to organize product manuals

Nicole, who blogs at Much More Than a Mom and Much More Opinionated, offers this advice about organizing product manuals:

Almost every item, small and large, that we have ever received for our son has come with a manual.  Some of them are obviously recycling (when will I need a manual for a ball?) but some may come in handy one day, if only when we resell the articles at a garage sale.

We use a large filing bin with files labeled "small toys" "large toys" "furniture" etc., so I can easily pull out any manual when I need it.  If I have any small spare parts or item-specific tools, I put them in a small baggie and staple it to the manual to keep it together.  If there are large items that go with it, like a spare tray for our booster seat, I mark on the manual where it is, in pencil just in case we move it.  For example "Spare tray on second shelf in storage room."

Incidentally, we have another box that we use for non-child related manuals separated into outdoor appliances (lawnmower, bbq...), large appliances (washer, dryer, fridge, stove, dishwasher, furnace...), kitchen appliances (blender, espresso machine...) and other (alarm clocks...).  It works for us!

I'd add one thing: if you can, staple the receipt to the manual in case you need to return or exchange the item in question.


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I store my manuals in two different places: there's a file folder in the office for personal items, and I have a box in the laundry room for house-related manuals. We're not going to be in this house forever and I don't want to have to remember to search through the manuals for what goes and what stays. So far, our files are small enough that I don't need to categorize any further than that.

For more product manual suggestions, see my tip about decluttering the owner's manuals at http://www.jdorganizer.com/2007-04newsletter.html

For the most part, just throw them out. They are always available online and it just ends up being another box of stuff somewhere in the house that eventually has to get moved to another house.

I like getting the instruction manuals online in pdf format while the toy is still being made (check out www.toyinstructions.net for information and links to specific products) and saving them to a disk or hard drive. It's much easier to manage than paper files.

We did this for much of our gear too (Kelty backpacks, etc.). I do so much better finding digital info than paper data thanks to the great file search tools. Just name your files well and store them all in one area. Sorting them into subfolders by type (GEAR, TOYS, FEEDING) and ages/stages also helps.

We also collect our fair share of product manuals. Once I check that a specific item has a PDF or self-help page online, I can happily place the item in the recycling bin (because our living quarters is relatively small, I try to get rid of as much as I can). For certain items, I file the manual in our filing cabinet. Then, there are some manuals that I like to have at my fingertips --and attach it to the item itself or in a pocket of the item (at least in the beginning when trying how to figure out how something works).

Following on the same lines of another poster about saving the PDFs, I've developed a Mac OS X program called DocumentWallet which allows you to store and organize PDFs. So I download the PDFs from the websites and save them into DocumentWallet. I can use DocumentWallet to organize the manuals into collections so that I can quickly and easily find them.


I bought an accordian style folder that has alphabet letters already on it. I file manuals in it under the name of the item ie. car seat goes under C. It takes up very little space and I can quickly find what I need

We also keep the Proof of Purchase tag and put it in the folder too... makes returns much easier, esp. on computer related items.

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