How to Organize Product Manuals
Updated: Apr 7
Raise your hand if you have a fear of not knowing how to use those fancy cycles on the washing machine? Or what steps to take if the printer starts eating paper? Product manuals… they are a necessary and something everyone has.
When it comes to basic home items such as product manuals, we often don’t often think about what to do with them. This lack of attention leaves us shuffling packets around our desk and shoving them into our drawers. Then we become panicked when we can’t find one when we need it. And we might even feel a slight sense of disorder from the lack of organization in this one area.
The good news is that organizing product manuals is a task that can be done quickly and with little emotion. If you want to feel a boost in productivity, this is an easy one to tackle. It will also leave you feeling prepared for the next “emergency” at home.
Here are three ways to organize product manuals:
One option for organizing product manuals is with a binder and some clear plastic sleeves. It is a simple process of placing each manual into a clear plastic sleeve that is clipped inside a 3-ring binder. You can also store loose materials in the side pockets. Many binders can be used, one for each area of the home or type of product.
PROS: Small footprint, easy to set-up
CONS: Manuals may be too bulky or have big pieces that do not fit well in the sleeves, sleeves may rip, takes time to organize by type of item
Another option is to keep only digital copies of product manuals. This will require that you do one of two things: 1) scan each manual into a laptop and save a digital copy or 2) toss paper copies and save digital copy found online. A true minimalist, as well as those who move often, would prefer this method.. Some people though still prefer a paper copy they can take to the particular product they are working on.
PROS: nearly zero footprint, easy to organize & find things, cost effective
CONS: takes time to scan older manuals, still have to deal with bulky pieces, must have access to a scanner, no paper copy
BANKER BOX METHOD
The last option is to store all manuals in a simple banker box with lid. As you receive manuals you simply place them in the box. While you don’t need to categorize items as you place them inside, there is also no organization of them overall. Finding what you need and when you need it can be time-consuming. This method though does provide a solution for those items with small pieces or extra parts. Label the box on the outside for quick recognition.
PROS: Allows bulky pieces to stay with manual, easy and quick
CONS: Larger footprint, harder to find what you need
What manuals should you keep?
There is no clear-cut answer for this as it depends on your personal level of comfort. Some people want to have all the information on hand. Others are less cautious. Keep in mind that many newer products have both a paper version sent with the item as well as an electronic one on the manufacturer website.
As a rule, I will keep appliance and small equipment manuals. I often will also hang onto paperwork for electronics. I do not keep manuals for other types of items such as baby gear or toys.
Should I keep the manual in case I decide to sell the item down the road?
Unless it is an appliance or electronic, I personally feel that the manual adds little value to the price of a used item. Sure we can feel good when we add “manual included” to its description but does that really make that much of a difference? In my experience, it has not.
Keep in mind you can always print material to include with the purchase if you think it helps market the item better.
But what if I need the manual and I don’t have it or can’t find it?
When deciding whether to keep something or not, I often ask people to picture “worst case scenario.” Let’s say you have a stroller that can be adjusted a billion different ways BUT… you can’t remember how or what buttons to press. And you can’t find the manual. In this scenario, your best option would be to go on YouTube, search for your stroller, and look around. My guess is you will discover literally hundreds of how-to video’s on your particular model. Doesn’t that same pretty low stress?
Always remember that if you are experiencing a problem with a particular product there’s a good chance you aren’t the first person to run across this same issue. A manufacturer’s customer service hotline, professional repair people and the global population of YouTube have more than likely seen it before. Lean on them for help.
Decluttering Queen Professional TIP
No matter the method you choose make sure to go through your manuals on a regular basis – once or twice a year. Toss out manuals for products you no longer have and organize the ones you do. You can also do a hybrid of both paper and digital copies if you want to reduce the amount of space these things take up inside the home.
Today let’s decide to no longer feel the panic of where we put that important manual. And let’s not have them clogging up valuable real estate on our desk or kitchen counter.
Let’s take time today to organize our product manuals so, when the need arises, we know just where to find them.