Sunday, March 23, 2014


There are important things going on in my life. Chances are, every important thing has a file to represent it, and a place in my filing cabinet.

If something is extremely important to me, I create a binder for it. Once a subject has a dedicated binder, it is in the upper echelon of stuff I am working on. It is a level above the materials I house in the filing cabinet. It is Binder Worthy.

Binder Worthy means that the subject would benefit from an intensive Staples office supply treatment.

I have plastic translucent folders in a fetching palette of spring colors. I have dividers for different categories. I have clear plastic pages for display. I have zippered pouches that fit into the binders for small miscellany. I have labels and Sharpies. The act of creating and maintaining a binder is not only useful, but an exceedingly enjoyable experience for me.

I remember the moment it all started. It was at a middle school fair held at my kids' elementary school. I organized the whole thing.

I arranged for some parents whose children were successfully placed in good middle schools to come and talk to families. One of the parents was a smart and organized dad who managed to handle the placement of boy/girl twins. In NYC. In public middle school.

During his presentation, the savvy dad showed us a middle school binder he made. I'll never forget what he said. He recommended making a binder and carrying it around at all times. The reason, he said, was that one never knows when a middle school related opportunity could spontaneously arise.

I was hanging on his every word, and by the next day, I'd started that binder. That's what kicked this whole thing off. Now I have several active binders.

One of my current favorites is my apartment renovation inspiration binder. The first thing I want to mention is that I love the outside of the binder. It’s black, with a white Apple computer sticker affixed to it. The Apple sticker was lying around our desk for a long time. No one ever stuck it to the computer. One day, I slapped it on the binder. It makes for a visually compelling graphic statement.

At first this binder was for Noah's IEP. If you know Noah at all, a binder with an Apple logo front and center is extremely appropriate. Unfortunately, IEP records and materials soon made a larger binder necessary. I re-purposed it once Jeremy and I started talking about the apartment renovation.

Every time I see something inspiring for my apartment reno, I tear it out and display it in the binder. It is sort of like an analog version of Pinterest. It does not have the same sharing capacity. That said, I showed it to my mother the other day. She said that now that she's looked at my binder, she will send me things to put in there if she sees anything good.

I have another binder devoted to creative inspiration. This is a broad category and can include anything from clippings of art I love, to quotes, to articles. It is important that the act of leafing through the binder be an uplifting and highly aesthetic experience.

The high school binder is very active. It has helped me place both kids in an appropriate medical school program that fits their interests and needs. Did I just say medical school program? Sorry! I meant to say New York City Public High School.

Having a different color-coded section for each school with notes, brochures, and copies of application materials gives me a peaceful feeling. Once I'd completed the process for Hannah, I repurposed the binder for Noah, with all different schools, but the same beautiful colors.

The IEP binder I have for Noah is something I started when he was in 5th grade. This is a serious binder. It functions somewhat differently than the other ones.

For those of you who don't know the parlance, IEP stands for Individualized Education Program. Noah is a very interesting person. Like many interesting people, his skill sets are somewhat uneven. Some of his difficulties were causing learning and other issues in school.

The 5th grade IEP binder contained private evaluations I had done from occupational and speech and language therapists as well as a child psychologist. I had every phone call with the school documented and filed in there. I had examples of Noah's work, handwriting samples and copies of report cards with plummeting grades.

The school psychologist had a hissy fit when our guidance counselor said that I wanted to get Noah an IEP. I'd heard this song and dance before. Noah is very smart. This particular school did not traditionally like giving IEPs to students who were above grade level for reading and math.

I saw where this was headed and I wasn't having it. I'd been called into an impromptu meeting with the school psychologist and guidance counselor. I took my binder and plunked it on the desk with an audible thud. We exchanged pleasantries. I smiled. I never raised my voice.

I've stopped working so I can focus on my son, I said. I have all the time in the world to pursue this IEP. This is my full time job now. This binder is full of private evaluations. This binder goes where I go. I'm available 24/7 to pursue what's right for this child to have the support he needs going into middle school.

I leaned over. My son has ADHD. His mother most certainly does not, I said.

I had that IEP in short order and Noah is now a successful 8th grader at a different school, with a smaller IEP binder and the support he needs.

The recipe binder is my eldest one. It lacks a certain finesse that the newer ones have. I'm thinking of some new ideas to make it more efficient and attractive. I'm in no hurry because it’s functioning well. As binders go, it could be a lot worse.


  1. Oh, Karen, I love this so much! I want to go right out to Office Depot and stock up on binders, but it is too late!

    This is a great article, I only wish it had more photos of your binders...

  2. Thank you so much Gwen. That means a lot coming from you.