Over the last few months, the organizing requests from my clients have centered around paper. People I’m working with seem ready to release reams of old financial records and even tougher to part with items such as children’s artwork, decades of Christmas cards and college papers with A’s on them. I’m hearing the term “paperless” again, and it’s been quite a few years since that’s come up in a meaningful way.
Manuals to household appliances and tools are a category that some clients have trouble editing. There are very few manuals that can’t be found online, but for me it’s still a lot easier to use a printed manual when I need one. For one thing, it is a lot more readable. For another, it’s a sure thing that the printed manual you have for something is for the right model number and all that, which prevents the frustration of searching around online for a specific manual.
That said, your collection of the manuals you decide to hold on to needs to be somewhere you can find it when you need it. I have some suggestions, but first, how do you decide which manuals to keep?
If you’ve lived in your home quite a while, you probably have a good idea of what manuals you have had to reach for the most often. Sometimes it’s something small and inexpensive, like a label maker, that you refer to a lot to get the most out of the options it offers. Sometimes it’s something that needs regular cleaning and maintenance that you handle yourself, like a hot tub.
Keep the manual for something very old and for which a manual may not be available online. You should also keep the manual to a high-ticket item that you think you might resell in the future.
I did a thorough purge of my manuals recently. I kept manuals for my washer and dryer, my complicated smoke alarms, my Bluetooth speakers, my well pump, my generator and a few others. I pitched any appliance and fixture installation instructions (everything is already installed, so why keep them?) and manuals for things I wouldn’t dream of fixing myself, like my stove.
You can also let go of anything that is simple enough or intuitive enough to use without a manual. Manuals for the blender, the vacuum, the electric toothbrush are probably easy outs. I was a little chagrined to see that I’d kept a manual for a set of steak knives—you just saw them back and forth over meat, right?
As said, keeping the installation instructions for something is usually unnecessary once the thing has been installed or built. But in the case of something like a futon bed, you might keep the instructions because if you ever move, you may need to disassemble it and then rebuild it in the new location. I kept the assembly instructions to my beloved Scandinavian Design bookcases which have moved with me a few times over the years.
Many people I work with store the manual with the corresponding item but I discourage this because it is cluttery and in the case of things that live in sheds or the garage, the manuals can get wet or dirty. I advise filing the manuals in your file system under “Manuals” with sub categories such as “Tools,” “Kitchen,” “Tech,” et cetera.
Another idea is to get a plastic magazine caddy or two and put manuals in those on a laundry room or linen closet shelf. An unused drawer in the laundry room or kitchen is also a decent choice for manual storage. You could also file them outside your main file systems in a plastic file box and, in that case, the garage is fine for storing them.
If you really want to go paperless in 2022, you are probably safe in letting all of your manuals go, but my recommendation is to keep the ones you have referred to often in a place you can easily get your hands on them.