Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Organizing the Chaos

As I explained in my last post, it's been a little chaotic at our place. Apparently, buying a home AND starting the adoption process at the same time will do that to you. So in the face of all that chaos, I decided to be proactive and get organized before my husband found me drowning in a pile of paperwork before I lost something in the move.

While I can't control much in the midst of these two huge, life-altering processes (because Lord knows if I could, our baby girl would be HOME, and we would already be moved in to our new house!) I can be organized. And that, at the very least, makes me feel like I have a handle on things. So for those of you who aren't the best at organization, I thought I'd share how I organized our adoption files! Maybe it will help you get a handle on things too.

First, I went to the office supply store (oh, how I love the office supply store!) Here's a list of what I bought:

  • One large plastic file box with a handle (I chose a waterproof box just to be safe!)
  • Hanging files
  • Manila file folders
  • Clear plastic velcro file pockets
  • Color coded plastic folders
  • Large 3 ring binder
  • Clear sheet protectors
  • Plastic colored pocket dividers (I like these because I can stick things "to file" in the pockets)
  • Various paper clips/large clips
  • Post it notes
  • A 3-hole punch
  • A stapler
  • Good pens (These are my favorite! They're so easy to write with, but the best part is the ink is fade-proof and water-resistent. That sort of thing is important when you're signing extremely important adoption documents!)

Then I got to work! It took me a while to come up with a filing system, but once everything was in it's place I felt so much better. Now all those stacks of papers are safe and sound in their box or binder, and I can access what I need quickly! Plus, it's easy to take this box and binder with us when we have a meeting at our adoption agency. Anything we need is with us and accessible then!

Here are my labels for my Hanging Files and Manila folders:
  • Placing Agency
    • Contract & Application
    • Adoptive Family Profile
  • Contract Agency
    • Application
  • Home Study
    • To Do :: Homestudy
    • In Progress :: Homestudy
    • Complete :: Homestudy
  • Dossier
    • To Do :: Dossier
    • In Progress :: Dossier
    • Legalization :: Dossier
    • Complete :: Dossier
  • Misc
    • Basic adoption info, adoption questions/advice, general information about Thailand, info for Adoption Conferences

This helps me keep both finished documents and documents still "to do" in order. I put everything our agencies sent us in our "To Do" folder for our homestudy and dossier, and then I move them to the "In Progress" folder when I'm ready to work on a particular section. We will work on those documents for a few days/weeks, and then mail them to our agency. Once a stack of documents is ready to be mailed, I make a copy of each page, and transfer the copies to the "Complete" folder. The "Legalization" folder is for documents that have to be sent to the Dept. of State to be stamped/legalized before I submit them to our agency.

I use the clear velcro file pockets to protect a stack of papers before we deliver them to the agency office, or to protect a finished section of paperwork that's important (for example, our Adoptive Family Profile.) I use the plastic colored folders to separate a section of documents within our "In Progress" folder. For example, that might hold all the documents we've ordered in one place (birth certificate, marriage license, etc) while the "in progress" folder also has education and misc documents in it. This may be me taking the organization to the extreme, but I've found that the easier it is for me to find documents when I need them, the better!

I will probably add a "FINAL" folder to both the Home Study and Dossier files. That will hold the final, edited, approved, and submitted version of our Home Study and Dossier once they are mailed off.

{ Thank you to Mandy's Moon for this cute stork graphic! } 

In my 3 ring binder, I have the following sections:
  • Home Study
    • Contact info for our Contract Agency
    • Instructions for the Home Study in clear sheet protectors
  • Dossier
    • Contact info for our Placing Agency
    • Instructions for the Dossier in clear sheet protectors
  • Expenses
    • a running list of expenses (printed on cardstock)
    • copies of all our checks and receipts in clear sheet protectors
  • Encouragement
    • Misc bible verses, poems, and notes from friends that are encouraging. I love being able to flip to this section if I'm having a tough day, or really missing our little girl!

I know some people file everything in a binder, but that was just too risky to me. I like having our paperwork in the file box (safe from water, dust, etc) and using the binder as more of a reference tool. It also keeps me from having to put every page into a sheet protector and then having to take it out when I want to work on it. This just made more sense to me.

I'm sure this post was boring to those of you who aren't adopting, but I hope it helps an adoptive Mom or Dad out there who's feeling overwhelmed! If you'd like to download my Expense List template, I'm inserting the PDF below. It's a great way to keep up with how much you've spent and when you made payments. I printed it on cardstock and punched holes in it, then put it at the front of my "Expenses" tab. I update it each time I write a check. 

*Can any other adoptive parents think of something I missed? Feel free to post other helpful tips and suggestions in the comment section! Happy filing ya'll!


  1. I forgot that you always had the prettiest handwriting of all of my friends. :-)

  2. Way to go! You will need to be that organized. Keep up the good work! From someone who has been there : )

    1. Thank you Jason and Melissa! Do you guys have a blog?

  3. We only blogged while we were in Thailand as a way to update the family back home. So it is not really up to date. If you give me your e-mail address I will try to send you an invite to it so you can check it out anyhow. Love your 4 year post! You seem like my kind of person!!! How did you do all that in 4 years? Love to hear about the children's home you bought in Thailand and more about your organization. I am also on FB as Melissa Miller Overly.

  4. Great info and ideas, thank you!