Back to School: Organize Your School Papers
In my career as a professional organizer, one of the most common questions I get from parents is: How do we manage all the school papers!?
Tossing (or recycling) extraneous papers throughout the year is great, But waiting until the end of the school year to sort and toss items is often easier. Just that bit of time helps to take away some of the immediate emotional attachment to the paper. This system will help you control the ongoing paper flow throughout the year
I have found that the “Wall of Fame” and the “Box of Memories” is a tried and true organizing method for just about everyone. It is a very simple system that is easily customizable to your needs. Here’s how it works: First, you display the school papers on the “Wall of Fame.” Then, when new paper comes in, you take the old papers down and put them in the “Box of Memories.” Repeat as needed.
The “Wall of Fame” is simply a designated spot on a vertical surface that displays artwork and school papers. It can be a beautiful, Pinterest-insprired bulletin board on your wall or it can be the front of your fridge. It is up to you where you put it and how decorative you want to make it.
The “Box of Memories” is a container to store all the papers once they have been displayed. Create some guidelines to help you decide which ones will make the cut. Will you only keep aced spelling tests? Will you keep original artwork and not coloring pages? Write down your guidelines and display them on the container so you don’t get off track. Be sure to label your container with your child’s name and grade, as well.
Some people can easily decide which papers to keep as they come in. Others struggle with this and need some time to pass to loosen that emotional hold. If you need to give yourself some time, make your guidelines at the end of the school year and sort then.
Keep the container a reasonable size. This helps give us a limit on how much to keep. I personally like the Sterilite 16-quart container. They are cheap, durable, and help me to keep the right amount of stuff for us. You may find a different container more appropriate for your needs. The key is find one and stick with it. We store our boxes of memories in each child's closet for easy access (and to help motivate them to pare down when they're ready).
Store your “Box of Memories” in an accessible spot. If it is in the recesses of the basement, it won’t be easy to put papers away, creating the dreaded paper pile. Store it in a kitchen cupboard, in a hall closet, or in the child’s closet.
When it's time to sort, keep in mind:
- If possible, have your child help you make decisions. Involvement in this process may depend on the child.
- Especially for younger children, the fun is in creating the paper, not necessarily keeping it.
- If a piece of art or a sentence is significant to you, add a little note to yourself on the back about why it's so special. Believe it or not, in ten years, you might have a tough time differentiating between your children's nursery school paintings without gentle reminders to your future self.
- If you decide that a few of your child's papers or artwork are true treasures, here are some fun, crafty suggestions for saving special artwork and papers.
What about papers that you may need throughout the school year?
It likely that you'll have some information that you'll want to keep handy year-round, including:
- Class Schedules
- Bus Passes
- Passwords for school programs
- Box Top information and Box Tops
- Class directories
- Teacher newsletters or handbooks
Gather these together and make them easily accessible in you Launch Pad or Family Organization Center. For example, you might choose to post the school's calendar next to your main calendar, or tuck school papers into a binder with different sections for each child. Place a basket or bin to act as an in-box or central repository for school communications, and train the kids to place papers there each day.
You're also likely to have some paperwork that will come and go pretty quickly. Here are some suggestions for organizing these:
- Permission Slips: Whenever possible, plan to "turn these around" immediately: sign the slip, write any necessary checks, and make notes on your calendar about special field-trip needs like sneakers or a bag lunch, then put that slip right back into your child's backpack.
- Information about upcoming events: Transfer this information directly to your main calendar and recycle the paper.
For all of these papers, your goal is to keep the information handy while eliminating as many individual sheets as possible. At the end of the school year you might still have a small stack of papers, but you'll be able to sort through it quickly.
Here’s to an organized school year and organized papers! Do you have ideas about how to organize school papers?
©2016 Robin Harisis
Robin Harisis is a former professional organizer, mother of two and Customer Care Representatative at KidsOutAndAbout in Rochester, NY. She loves laundry and understands how crazy that sounds. Find more organizational and productivity ideas from Robin here.