This back-to-school series was first posted two years ago, but as we head into back-to-school season, it seems appropriate to repost it!
Have you ever noticed how many pieces of paper with bits of information come from school, especially at the beginning of the year? There are health forms, permission slips, school newsletters, PTA notes, standardized testing information, spelling words, book report project information sheets, lunch menus…enough paper to make you wonder if the school has its own forest growing to satisfy the endless need for the stacks of white stuff they use to communicate to you on.
The parent side is just the beginning of the paper pile that appears every time my fourth grader runs through the door in the afternoon. Artwork, homework assignments and corrected math sheets come home daily and somehow manage to find their way to my kitchen counter.
Keeping those scraps and sheets and notes and lists off the counter and organized can help keep you sane, especially when you’re dealing with multiple kids in school. No more forgetting field trip permission slips or turning in book orders a day late. Say goodbye to hurried school mornings and frantically searching for that salmon-colored half sheet of paper that you signed last night before dinner.
Here are five ways to help you manage the back-to-school clutter and keep you prepared and decluttered on a daily basis:
1. Reuse and recycle.
Take those pieces of paper that you won’t need – the information sheet about signing your kid up for Thursday Tae Kwon Do lessons when you already have Girl Scouts every Thursday – and cut them into four rectangles. Place them in a cute basket or box, blank side up, on your desk or in a drawer to use as scrap paper. Next time you reach for a Post-It or tablet of paper to write on, grab one of these instead. It’s frugal and green.
2. Create a folder system.
Identify the place in your house where the homework starts and ends. For us, it’s the living room. Purchase a pocket-style file folder and write your child’s name on it. Using tape or poster putty, hang the folder on the inside of a closet door in that room and have your child put their homework there when they get home from school and again once they’ve finished it. You can also send any signed forms and slips to school the next day in the same folder. We hang outs inside the front closet above the hooks for their backpacks, but you could also use the inside of a bedroom door or the mudroom.
3. Decide what to keep and what to toss right away.
Rather than keeping a running pile of daily math assignments that have been graded and handed back to your children, look them over and determine if they need any further attention. If there aren’t problems you need to look over with them or anything else that needs to be addressed, toss it in the recycling the same day. Don’t allow it to get pushed under bills and moved from the counter to the desk or some other horizontal surface only to be found two weeks later.
Be decisive and take care of it the same day. I make sure to clear the counter of any stray papers before I go to bed each night so that I wake up with a clean canvas for things to start collecting on each new day. It may not stay clean for long, but, hey, it’s free of clutter while I sleep!
4. Sentimental Artwork.
Artwork is a tricky one. It can be difficult to throw away your progeny’s creations. When little fingers learn to create, it marks important milestones. Make a list of things you’d like to keep to determine what is worth keeping and what won’t be missed. A poem and handprint from your little one probably has more meaning than the dozens of pieces of marker-scribbled construction paper from free time.
If you must keep them around, hang each one on the fridge for a day and replace it when the next colored sheet rolls through the door to cycle them through. Take pictures of artwork you want to remember but don’t think is worth keeping, and invest in an art portfolio for those really special projects that mean something to you and your child.
I have a family tree I made in seventh grade my mom kept that listed all of our relatives and their birthplaces for five generations back. It was useful as similar school projects for my siblings and me came up again and again, and now I can look back on it to show to my kids, “This is where you came from.”
5. Make yourself a folder.
Not only is it important to lead by example, but it’s also good to have a place to keep all of the forms and ID numbers and packets of spelling words so you know where to find them when you need them. There is nothing worse than misplacing important information and having to admit it to your child and – worse – to their teacher. Whether it’s your own folder to store things in or a desk drawer or file folder designated just for important school information, have a place where you can reliably place information pertaining to this thing called school.
How do you manage all of the school papers that find their way into your home?
|Shaina Olmanson is the freelance writer, photographer, and home cook behind Food for My Family. Cooking daily with and for her four kids and husband, Ole, drives her desire to inspire other families to do the same. Shaina is also the author of Desserts in Jars and contributes regularly to a variety of online sites and traditional print magazines.