One of the questions I get asked most often is: Where do I put all of the papers my kids bring home from school? My answer usually includes, “it depends on what it is, but you need to have a home base.” Elementary schoolers have flyers, permission slips, art projects and so much more. Luckily, once you hit middle school and then high school the volume decreases dramatically, which makes managing the paper a little bit easier.
#2 of 5 ways it is easier to organize as your children get older…
Create a home base – for everyone.
The home base concept is one that I share with many of my clients. It is the place where all papers should go when they come into the home. That includes school papers, bills, mail, and all other papers related to your action items. Some of the documents will stay there and others will go, but all will cross home base at some point. It is a living file system and should not grow in size indefinitely because papers only stay there until they are no longer needed. My favorite tool is a stand-up file box that is kept in an easily accessible area of the home like the corner of the kitchen, the office, or even in an area by the back door. Here is one of many options that I like.
Just create a space and tell everyone in the family about it. The hope is that everyone will bring home their documents/papers, mail, bills, etc. and put them all in one place. Then, you (or someone who is the designated person) will go through the papers and decide where they go and determine with the help of others what action needs to be taken.
Home base can include files for:
- Each child or school – This is where the yearbook order form that you need to keep until you get the yearbook and bus route documentation might go.
- Action Items – This could be a permission slip for a field trip in a week, a fundraiser form, or documentation for other things that you need to act on for the family in the near future.
- Bills to pay – If you still get paper bills (like me) you might want a file in your home base box so that you don’t have to take them to your office or where ever you pay bills every day when you go through the mail. This is a great way to not lose your bills among stacks and stacks of magazines and junk mail.
- Receipts – If you collect receipts for budget purposes, or hold on to some for returns purposes a small file might be helpful. HOWEVER, you do not need to store a year’s worth of gas receipts in your home base. Those should be filed with your other family/household files in a larger, more permanent solution.
- Pending Activities/Projects – This system also helps keep your volunteer paperwork, party invitations and regular household stuff organized.
Most of the items listed above end up stacked in a corner on one of many surfaces and before you know it, you have multiple stack of paper in all areas of your home. The home base filing system will take up less space and give you the peace of mind that you know where to look when you need to find something.
Some of you with younger children might be thinking… What do I do with artwork and school work? Here are my thoughts on that…
Artwork: When it comes home from school you have some choices.
1 . Display the art. If you like to display every piece of your child’s work, commit to a 1-2 week showing on the refrigerator, playroom wall, etc. Then rotate it out with the new stuff. After the showing is over, move to #2.
2. Immediately document, highlight, discard or put the work into storage.
- Document: You can take pictures of the artwork and create a digital scrap book or just let the artwork stack up on your computer. (digital clutter takes up less space but is still clutter!)
- Highlight: Framing is a more permanent solution, can be expensive and takes up wall space – so be smart when framing. My favorite art frame when my kids were little was an Aaron Brothers shadow box style art frame that had elastic bands on the sides so I was able to easily stack several different pieces of art in there and rotate them as desired. I ended up picking my favorite piece for each holiday/season and storing them all in the frame and changing them as the seasons changed. One for each child makes for a fun wall display.
- Discard: Only keep the stuff you LOVE and would want to look at later. When you child isn’t looking, gently recycle what you don’t love. I starting including my kids in this decision as they got older. There is no need to keep everything that your child creates or completes in school. Hand print art is fun to keep to look at later, but 1 a year is plenty. New year’s resolution projects are fun too. Handwriting worksheets with a picture on top – not so exciting. I don’t believe that what artwork you keep and discard will come into play when making a final decision on how good of a parent you are.
- Put it into storage: Get a box/bin that is big enough to hold 11×17 art. That is the most commonly used project paper at school. This should NOT be as big of a bin as you use for your holiday storage. Then, go through that box at least once a year. After a year or so, you are able to prioritize the art work and decide what you like more and what you can discard. Consider something like this: https://www.containerstore.com/s/bigso-art-storage-boxes/d?productId=10018672&q=art storage
School work & Assignments: We had a year where the teacher wasn’t my son’s biggest fan and the grades reported weren’t always correct, so I needed to save all of the school work just in case. I ended up using the recycling bin in my office as the storage point. I put it all in there when it came home from school and didn’t discard it until the end of the grading period. It was a good storage place because I wasn’t going to keep it forever, and it was out of the way. I only rifled through the bin when I needed to find an old assignment. Pick a space that isn’t prime real estate in your home to store items like this. It could be in a basket in your child’s room, on their desk or in a drawer. Just be sure to clean it out regularly.
As your children get older, include them in this keep/discard process. It is amazing what they will say when you tell them it is going to be stored in their room and given to them when they graduate from college. Only what they really love will make the cut! If your child is older and you have bins of projects and artwork – get on this immediately!
As always, I am here to help. Contact me directly to set up a consultation.