School hasn’t even started, and already the paperwork is piling up. Supply lists, class schedules, student handbooks…and it’s only going to get worse. If you school papers overwhelmed you last year, now is the perfect time to find a new organization routine to keep the paper tiger tamed.
Choose your spot wisely. The place needs to make sense in light of what your family does right before leaving for, or immediately after returning from school. Keeping papers near the door to the garage won’t help if your child goes through the front to catch the bus. Likewise, using an upstairs home office just means papers will accumulate on the kitchen counter until you get around to filing.
Move things if you must. Realize you may need to move other things to free up space for your paperwork system. That’s what happened when I set up ours: the cupboard over the kitchen desk where I kept my recipes and cookbooks was really the only convenient place for school papers. After some rearranging, I found a better place for my cooking-related stuff and now the school paperwork has a home.
Have separate storage for each child. If Little Timmy’s teacher says he failed to turn in an assignment that you know you saw a grade on (and that’s happened more than once with my son), you don’t want to have to rummage through all of Janey’s papers trying to find it. An inexpensive way to keep papers separate is to make a paper holder out of a cereal box. Or pick up a paper sorter from an office supply store, if you don’t have one already.
Deal with paperwork daily. Yes, afternoons are busy, what with sports practice, music lessons, homework and dinner drama. But two minutes spent per day spent going through papers will keep them under control, and keep them from piling up on your kitchen counter.
Enlist your child’s help. Have your kids separate graded papers from that afternoon’s homework. Work with your child so you know if there are any notices requiring your attention. Your child can file his or her paperwork, too.
Sort and keep homework properly. Staple each week’s homework together and file it in your child’s homework sorter. As progress reports or notices of missing assignments come out, compare them with the graded homework you have in your file. Teachers are only human, and sometimes they overlook things. If you find an assignment was graded but not recorded, send it back to the school with a nice note. (Hang it where you keep signed permission slips so it goes back to the school in a timely fashion.)
Keep a family calendar near your paper station. If you’re using a cupboard as your paper station, attach the calendar inside the cupboard door where it’s handy when you’re sorting papers. It doesn’t have to be fancy, either: we use a free one that our bank sends every year. (I have a pretty one elsewhere in the kitchen where I track menu plans and use-by dates.) Write each child’s important dates and deadlines in a unique color so you can easily find what you’re looking for.
Don’t file permission slips. I can’t tell you how often I used to lose my son’s permission slips, even though I’d signed them. Then I learned to clip them to our Out The Door Organizer where I’d see them when grabbing my keys in the morning. Another option is to affix a binder clip to the wall near the door you use when leaving in the morning and stick signed papers or lunch money there. (Paint the clip to match the wall if you like.)
Be choosy about what you keep long-term. When report cards come out, ask your child to go through his or her homework from that quarter and select one or two items to keep in their school memories box. (Ours is a shirt box marked with that year’s grade level and stashed in my paper station until the end of the year.) Bulkier items, like dioramas, are best remembered with a photograph tucked into the school memory box.
Remember, you know your kids and your own organization skills best. Find a system that works for your family, and start using it now to keep school papers from taking over your house.