Friday, October 10, 2008

Organizing Paper Clutter, School Supplies and Some Funny Memories

OK, so the kids have been back in school for a few months and now (hopefully) we have all gotten back into the swing of things. It's fun to get the kids all ready for school and shop the Back to School sale, I mean, who doesn't LOVE new school supplies??? At the beginning of the year it's easy to organize...get all the supplies on your child's supply list. Remember to buy extras while they are on sale because the kids will run out and need replacements AND the teachers will run out and these are great to give to the teacher mid-year... Teachers work very hard for very little money and usually spend their own money to buy their students just basic school supplies, never mind EXTRAS for the class! Alas, that is a post for another day.

Once the school supplies are purchased, then what? Organize, of course! Send the supplies to school, then divide your extra supplies into two different areas. One set of supplies should be stored at your child's desk or homework area. Your child should have their very own place to do homework away from TV, toys and other distractions. Clear the space so your child can spread out and have the area set up with supplies like paper, pencils, rulers, dictionary...and extra, backup school supplies. The other set of extra supplies should be put away into your gift closet to be used later in the year for teachers.

So, you have your supplies and an organized homework area and it is a few months into school. The papers from school have piled up all over the house and who knows what paper belongs to what kid. Permission slips, PTA, class parties, invitations, homework, classwork, artwork...AAAARRRRRGGGGG! Now, I only have ONE child and it is overwhelming, the amount of paperwork that comes home each day. I have such enormous respect for All mothers and especially mothers with several ( or more than several :) ) children. I cannot begin to imagine how much paper traffic alone they must deal with! How do we re-organize or just spruce up our organization and keep it that way...

First, we need a system. I set up family mailboxes. I went to Target (oh how I love Target) and bought 3 stackable paper trays from the Home/Office section and a medium sized matching box. Each of us has our own tray that we must check daily. The box sits next to the trays and in it I have a jar of pens, pencils, a hole punch, sharpie and scissors. Another jar of paper clips and binder clips. And Post-it notes, a small dictionary, note cards and tape. It sounds like alot but really just picture 3 black stacked paper trays with a matching box next to it on the edge of my kitchen counter. This is our system: The Princess unloads her Daily Folder from school into my mailbox for me to check ( most days I check it immediately or while she is doing her homework), the mail is immediately sorted into the appropriate persons box or into the trash, any other paperwork is, again, placed into the correct person's box. Hubby and I check ours daily but The Princess will go through hers when it starts piling up ( she also uses hers to put her toys in when she doesn't want to clean them up...this only works because hers is on top so picture our boxes with the top box full of Webkinz :) ). I asked her why they are in there and she said " It's MY mailbox and I get to put my important things in it", Well, that IS what I told her, I suppose I should have been more specific!

Now you must be thinking "there has to be more to it than just that!". Well, you're right, I wish it was that easy! So, when you "go through" your box, what do you do with the paper from there. Many, many things my friend. I have mentioned before that everyone needs a planner or, at the very least, a calendar for the family. Well, I'm saying it again, get a Planner- I don't "do" technology well so I have a Franklin Covey paper planner. Mine is pink (OF COURSE) and has weekly and monthly calendars as well as divided sections for other things. ANYWAY get one that is comfortable for you and USE IT EVERY DAY. Mine is like a part of the family. My hubby even checks MY planner before making appointments or plans because I write everyones schedules and appointments in my planner and update it daily....

OH, back to the paper stuff, sort through your box, throw away trash mail, don't even open it. Cut it up and toss it. Write down all appointments, volunteering obligations, playdates, dates with friends, parties, EVERYTHING. My daughter's teacher gives out a monthly calendar and I immediately write down days school is closed, tests, quizzes, field trips, class parties...Now, forms to fill out, do them as soon as you can so you don't forget them. If I can't do them right away then I leave them in my mailbox so they don't fall through the cracks. My husband takes care of the bills and he has his own system for that but basically, they come in the mail, go into his mailbox then go into a basket in the office until he pays them on certain days of the month. Invitations, RSVP immediately then write it down in your planner. If it is an event that needs a gift, write it down on your shopping list and/or write a reminder in your planner a week before the event so you aren't frantically running around trying to come up with a gift an hour before the event ( Hint... Gift Closet).

Now, that takes care of most of the paper work except for the things you NEED or WANT to keep. For important documents (IE.. tax stuff, receipts, medical info., insurance info.) you need to have a file system in place. This can be as simple or complex as you make it. Some people I know do everything electronically. They scan in their documents and save them in files on the computer. There is software for this and really cool office equipment for scanning and saving. I am not one of those people. I love my label maker and file folders. I simply make a label stick it to a folder and file it away. Simple but it works for me!

The other category of paper work is of the more sentimental variety. Who throws away their children's artwork? I do! When she is sleeping, of course, and only after it is prominently displayed for a day or two. Funny story... I am the same person who used to LAMINATE my daughter's scribbles. Yes, I have come a long way. I just could never imagine throwing anything away that the precious angle created until I realized she created TONS AND TONS of "artwork" every day! Another funny story... when I finally realized that every inch of space on every surface of my home was covered with scribbles from my one year old, I started to painfully trow some of it away. Well, Hubby was Outraged! He would actually go into the trash and dig out the pictures and...get this...hang them in the garage! I didn't even know he was doing it until I went out there one day and saw all the wrinkled pictures taped to the wall. He covered every wall in the garage then started making piles until I had an Intervention and sat him down for "the talk". You know, the one everyone has about not keeping every piece of paper their only child touches... What? you mean EVERYONE doesn't go through this... Oh, well I'm embarrassed now!

Anyway, that was many years ago and now we throw most things away unless she loves it or it is a gift (I still do find piles of her art hidden in my Hubby's drawers and other spots, secretly I think it is precious how much he adores her). What in the heck was I talking about? Oh, the papers you want to keep... OK, I went to Wal Mart and got some 4 packs of corkboard in the office section. It comes with adhesive and I put it up on the inside of several of my cabinet doors. I use it to hang my daughter's: lunch menu, weekly class notes, monthly school calendar and any party invitations she receives. I also hang my invitations and PTA info, Class Mom info and flyers to event we are going to. I weed the corkboards out so they don't get junky and we all know where to look for lunch info or party directions ( even though I write directions in my planner too). As for artwork, we now have a stainless steel fridge that is not magnetic so Princess is not so picky about what to keep. She has a drawer and when that gets full, SHE has to start weeding out stuff. Each new school year, I pack up the drawers contents into a tote, label it and put it in the attic. She will have these as cute memories as she gets older.

These are some of the ways I try to tame the paper beast, although this past week I have been quite ill and Hubby has been in charge of the house so there are piles of STUFF everywhere! I am not looking forward to cleaning up but it sure was nice of him to take over while I have been a big, contagious, feverish, cranky ball of sinus infection! I have a To Do list a mile long to get done by Monday and I don't even want to get out of bed much less clean. Oh, and I STILL haven't finished my "Thank You" cards for all the fabulous gifts from mine and my daughter's birthdays! EEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK. I'll do it later, it is what it is!

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