General contractors and friends

There are many layers to working on an old house. Some projects take a weekend, some a month, some…well…a while. We can’t do everything, so when a project is more than we can handle or we lack the expertise to do the job correctly, we hire a contractor. And when we do this, we act as the general contractor. So we get to manage the project, headaches and paperwork included at no additional charge.

This past summer we contracted out five big projects: installing central AC; exterior house stucco repair and painting; new gutters and re-routed downspouts; 2 bathroom remodels; and front yard landscaping make-over. All of this work was done in about five months.

In the beginning of this contractor marathon, I had notes, receipts, samples, contracts, ideas, all in one pocket folder. That system ceased to work on Day One.

It was essential that I be able to quickly locate any bit of information requested. Time is money, these guys were moving fast and I had to be on my game.

I may not know all the ins and outs of a toilet rough in, (well, now I do), but if I can get the spec sheet to the contractor when he needs it, life during a remodel is less stressful, for everyone.

My solution to all this information overload was low tech and basic: everything went into a 3-ring binder. I separated contracts from receipts, order confirmations, spec sheets and punch lists for each project, plus business cards for all the contractors in the front.

Welcome, The Contractors Book.

Summer of the Contractors

Organization making me look good.

I’m proud to say my contractors were impressed. Knowing I was organized gave them a level of comfort and made everyone’s life easier.

This moment of organizational triumph started me thinking about the vast amount of other paperwork in the house. As we’ve worked on the house, this “stuff” has grown at an alarming rate.

You know what I’m talking about…the snowblower manual, sales receipt for the sofa, paint color cards for everything you’ve painted, tree pruning invoices, window measurements…etc, etc.

We had paperwork “filed” in desk drawers, a basement filing cabinet, workbench drawers, and kitchen drawers. It became unmanageable. There had to be a way to get all this “stuff” into one spot where we could access it with ease.

Light bulb moment!

Three-ring binder.


The House Book is born.

The House Book

The House Book

I gathered all the “stuff”, commandeered the dining room table and sorted every thing into categories. Sorting took a full day. Who knew we had three manuals for three different hot water heaters, none of which are in this house? Into the recycling bin for you! Only relevant information allowed in this binder.

We ended up with ten sections: Electrical; AC and Heating; Plumbing; Windows/Doors; Walls/Floors; Tools; Furniture; Appliances; Exterior; and of course, Miscellaneous.

Our House Book is a red, 4-inch beauty with clear plastic tabbed dividers and page protectors to hold everything. I also bought four Avery sheet lifters – these proved to be a big help. Supplies at the ready, I began slipping paperwork into page protectors and loading the binder. Once that was done, I created a Table of Contents, listing each item as it is filed in the binder.

The House Book

The House Book, she’s a beauty

Now, when we need something from the book, a quick look at the Table of Contents leads us to the right spot in the right section. Time, frustration and sanity, saved! As new items are added, I just write the name in the Table of Contents and retype/reprint it when I want to.

This system proved its worth last week when my husband needed to see the original roofing contract, (an item left by the previous owner in a kitchen drawer). He needed to tell the contractor what style/brand of shingles are on the roof. He went to The House Book, found the listing in the Table of Contents and located the information without frustration or any cringe-worthy remarks. Success!

Table of Contents

Table of Contents aka The Lifeline

During the sorting process, I decided to create a separate Landscaping Book because I wanted a thin, easy to grab binder for my garden brainstorming, relevant information and note keeping.

The Landscape Book

The Landscape Book

So here it is, our trio of organization, easily accessible next to the desk: The Contractor Book, The House Book and The Landscape Book. Wish we’d done this 30 years ago!

Glad we did it now.

A Trio of Organization

A Trio of Organization


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