If you have a child that can hold a crayon and make a scribble, you know how hard it is to figure out what to do with all of those “precious masterpieces”. Enter the school years, and it is multiplied by the random “scribble art” to pass time, important parent information, prized papers that mark the progress of your little one’s mind, and everything in between! It really only takes the first week or two of school and it begins to feel like the paper has already taken control of your home. I’m guessing that at this point in the year, there are some desks and kitchen counters that can’t be found under the paper piles. So, here is a post about how I sort, contain, treasure, stash and (shhhh!) trash all that paper!
Let’s start at the beginning…
The paper trail begins when registration starts for school and all of those fall activities. We have schedules, calendars, snack lists… I have a file for each child in my home office for school papers. The file in my office for each kid ONLY holds papers that I may need to quickly refer to throughout the year. My 2nd graders file has: school calendar, allergy free snack schedule, letter home about how to do “math links” homework sheets, word study sheet to explain spelling word homework, his teacher handout from curriculum night, and a progress report. If I let too much get in this file it becomes useless. I don’t put anything in this file that needs to be completed and returned – more on that in a minute. Here is my file box. You can see it holds a lot more than school papers – more on that another day too!
I also have a family binder that I place our activity schedules in. (soccer, dance, church) This binder also has contact information for attendance, Dr.’s, emergency info…. Yes, another post on that someday too! I like having all of these schedules in one place when I’m in a hurry and need to check something. I also have my planner that I write schedules in when we get them and carry with me everywhere, but I have been known to forget something or write it down wrong. I quickly know where to look when I am frantically checking to see if my son is right and he was supposed to bring snack to soccer! Yes, I am organized. Yes, I make mistakes that leave me frantic at times!
Now to the tough part – once school actually starts! I feel like even writing this post just to explain how I manage the paper clutter is an exercise in organization! This is a wall in our mudroom, just inside the door we always use. I have a family calendar, magnetic strip, bin with paper and pen, magnetic hooks for our keys, and two mail sorters. The four slots in the mail sorters have been designated: one for mail and one for each of our 3 children. I recently added labels to the bins – hoping that papers can make their way to the correct spot even when I’m not home. Optimistic I know, but we’re getting there! Again, these bins are on the wall of our mudroom when they first enter or leave the house. When my kids come home from school, we clean out their homework folder – EVERYTHING! There are usually one of three things in the folder:
1. Papers to save, tests, artwork… Anything they brought home that doesn’t need an “Action” and they (or I) think they want to save goes in their inbox horizontally – so you can’t really see it. I do toss some papers in the trash right away, but only if it won’t cause tears – from any of us! I also let my 4 year old put artwork from church and other places in her box. That will all get sorted another day – there is homework, dinner, soccer… to worry about! The only exception to this is if there is any really large pieces of artwork – I have a box in my office that holds random, large and awkward items that I want to save until I can store them properly. I do try to get a name and date on the back before they go in that box – in case they are in there a while. 😉
2. Papers I need to complete & return, review, save for my reference... These papers go in my office. I have a to do file for me (Pending – Urgent). This is my file for items I need to take care of in the next few days. If it has to be returned the next day I just deal with it and put it back in the homework folder. Any papers that I need to save for my reference, go in the child’s school folder in my office I referred to earlier. (Child – School)
3. Homework… Any papers that my child needs to complete and return to school stand vertically in their bin, along with their empty homework folder. After a snack, I can send them back to their bin to get their assignment and complete it. I like having them take it out as soon as they come home, it makes it clear to BOTH of us if there are assignments to be completed. Once the assignment is done they return it to the homework folder, and put their folder back in their backpack. The exception to this would be if they still need to complete something in the morning or show something to their dad, then they would leave their homework folder in the bin until morning. I like that their homework folders stick out of their bin, very visible – this make is easy to see that it isn’t in their backpack on their way out the door in the morning. But, it also isn’t cluttering the table, counter…
The last and probably most difficult part of school papers, is what to save for the long haul. My next post will be all about how I display and store all that treasured work!