Back to school is here, and for some of us we are a few weeks in. Are your kid’s school papers piling up yet? Artwork, papers to sign, sports schedules, lunch calendars, blah blah blah. Do you feel me? I know, I know some of those are important papers. Raise your hand if you’ve already lost some or you remember last year when your daughter’s teacher emailed asking you for the permission slip that was supposed to be sent in last week. WHOOPS! Let’s be honest, it happens to the best of us. Let’s start this year off on the right foot and get organized before the papers start piling up and the overwhelm kicks in.
What To Keep?
Set your boundaries with yourself now. If you don’t, and you keep every paper, worksheet, test, etc. that comes home you are literally going to be drowning in paper by the end of the year. So start thinking now, “What is important to me?” “What will I really want to look back at?” What will my child really want to look back at?” This is a personal choice, however I’ll give you some guidelines I go by.
Where to Keep It?
Set up a system for incoming papers as well as papers that need stored or displayed. As soon as a paper comes in you should decide is this a keep or recycle. If it’s a recycle don’t even let it see your counter. Toss that thing right away. This will eliminate some paper immediately. As you look through the other papers, I always recommend the 2 minute rule. If it takes less than 2 minutes to do, do it then! If you stick to this a majority of the papers that come in will go right back out or to wherever they need to be stored.
If you don’t have time to take action on the papers right then or if they need to be saved for a later time, you need a place for them to be stored short term. I always recommend an “active file system” for those papers that are coming in that need action. This is so simple to put together. Grab a hanging file bin and some hanging file folders. I love these from The Container Store. I suggest getting one that fits with your style and decor. You are going to put this in the place where you would typically open your mail, look through backpacks, etc. For most people this is in the kitchen with a garbage can near by. If it is going to sit on top of your counter you want something that fits with your decor. You can place it in a cabinet, but for some people this might be out of sight, out of mind.
This system will only work if you keep up with it. That means checking it at least once a week. To get you into the routine I would pick a day and time that you know you are home every week and set an alarm in your phone. For me, this is Sunday night, when I am planning and prepping for the week ahead.
This system can also be used for incoming mail and bills and other papers as well. More on than in a different post. For now, label a file folder for each child, and one that says “To Do.”
Now that it is set up, you need to know what goes in each file. This is where you can store those papers that need signed, that sports signup that you need to write a check for, the school lunch calendar that you will need to reference at some point, and any other important papers that need to be kept, but not filed away. Then each week, you check through EACH file (this is the important part) and see what needs action. If it doesn’t leave it in there for next week. This will keep it cleaned out and prevent the files from overflowing.
If you are the visual type that needs to see schedules and calendar right in front of you try attaching these papers right the the front of the bin. I did this using command hooks and binder rings. Another option is to post a small bulletin board near this action file and create a command center for your family.
Artwork and Special Papers
There are two parts to this one. First, especially for those little ones, they love seeing their artwork displayed. I would highly recommend having a designated space for this, and not your refrigerator. Sorry, I know that’s harsh, but it just ends up looking cluttered and can make your kitchen look cluttered as well. I use an old crib spring that I turned into an artwork display, but there are so many ways you could do this (bulletin board, frames, clipboards, etc. check Pinterest for some ideas).
After the artwork has been displayed it’s time to find a place to store it and make room for the new artwork. Create a keepsake bin for each child. This time you need a large hanging file bin with a lid and and hanging file folders. It doesn’t have to be pretty because you are storing it, but I would get something sturdy and waterproof to keep that precious artwork safe. Label a folder for each year of school. I also like to throw in some extra folders for school pictures, birthday cards, special awards, etc. Now, when your 6 year olds graduate party rolls around you are going to be the most organized mom on the block. Just whip out that container and set it on display for everyone to look back on your child’s masterpieces.
I know what you are thinking, “What about those giant dioramas and other beautifully gigantic pieces of art my child seems to bring home every year?” You have a couple of choices. These large portfolios are great for those larger pieces of art. Again, just grab one for each child. As for those other large items, my suggestion is to keep and display it for a little while, and then make a decision. If it is something you and your child really want to keep but you don’t know what to do with it, take a picture! Then just put that picture in their yearly file in their keepsake bin. I also love this app Keepy. Just snap a picture and you can add a note, save to Dropbox, and then even make a photobook for each year. This is also a great gift idea for grandparents!
Okay super mom, you are ready to tackle this school year and those piling papers! Grab your supplies and create your systems now. I promise you will thank me in by January!
What do you think? Will this system work for you? What types of papers always seem to be piling up in your house now?
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