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What to do with user manuals

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Last week, I purchased insoles for my husband’s work boots and in the box were three pamphlets of details and instructions. They are just insoles, how many warnings or different ways could there be to use these things? As a gift, we received a Bose Speaker and the instructions were in 21 different languages. Holy cow! I definitely don’t need to keep all that information.

The additional paper that comes in packaging gives me a little bout of anxiety, as I debate if I really need to spend time looking at them or if I’ll regret throwing them out. Do I really need to keep all that paper?

We have thousands of pieces of paper in our houses and user manuals tend to be the bulkiest. If you’re like me, you’ll Google how to troubleshoot your product, before you search for the user manual, but they still seem to be a necessary evil.

Here are a few tips to consider when determining if the manual is worth keeping and ideas on where to store them in an organized fashion.

First, determine what is actually the manual vs other advertisements.
Usually there are additional papers included, solicitations for you to sign up for a warranty or information about advanced features that your specific product doesn’t have. Also, there are usually instructions in umpteen languages that you don’t need taking up your precious space. Throw out the items that aren’t relevant to the model you purchased.

Second, if you use the “quick start/setup” guide to assemble your product, you most likely will not need it again. There is usually a more in-depth user guide available. Discard the quick start info once your product/item is set up and functioning properly.

Third, determine if you will need the user manual in the future and,

KEEP the manual IF:
it has an active warranty
you will repair it yourself, if it malfunctions
it has moving parts that are unfamiliar to you
you may need to re-program or re-set in the future
it is an expensive item [potential for re-sale or need proof of purchase]

DON’T KEEP the manual IF:
there is an online version available
the item is inexpensive and you’ll throw it out if it no longer functions
it’s a piece of furniture or non-operational item [ie shelf, desk, cabinet, bed, etc]
you haven’t referenced the manual in multiple years
you’ll never look at it ☺

Fourth, write the purchase date on the front of the manual for future reference.

Be sure to do what’s best for your memory and functionality of your house. These aren’t one size fits all concepts.

You’ve determined what to keep, now how do you keep the user manuals organized? A few ideas, both for the perfectionist and the piler.

◊ Create a file for each room of the house and store the manuals according to their location.

◊ Create a file for each year and store manuals based on purchase date.

◊ If you are a dedicated saver of manuals, have a file tote that is specifically for manuals and categorize the hanging file tabs by: household room where the product lives or by product name. Store the bin on a top shelf or out of your main useable space because you don’t access them frequently.

◊ Use a bin with a lid and pile the manuals in it. Label it accordingly and put on your top shelf. This isn’t ideal  if you need to reference the manuals, but at least they have a home and are in one place.

◊ Use a three ring binder and slide each manual in it’s own sheet protector.

◊ Keep the manual with the item. This works for some items, but not for most areas of the home.

◊ Digitize the manual. Scan it in to your computer or use a home organizing app such as

◊ Purge out manuals of items you no longer own, annually.

◊ Where ever they are, keep them in one consistent place and labeled.

We recently purchased a new TV. We were so excited when we got home from Costco and unpacked the 10 layers of overly secure packaging and out emerged the Vizio we’d been saving for. Ta-da! Also buried in the packaging were three booklets of instructions, warnings, and who knows what type of legal disclaimers. After the TV was set up and we were vegging on re-runs of Friends episodes, I kept one instruction booklet and tossed the rest. Then I discarded the manual from our old TV. Time to enjoy our purchases and overcome the user manual clutter!

*these are not exact guidelines of what to keep or toss. Use your best judgment.

Together we will work to make your days flow smoother so you can be free to do more life!