Within a week of school starting, the chaos begins. The groaning noises from tables and countertops intensify as the paper pile grows. Homework, class reminders, past assignments, team schedules, test papers—face it, children generate a lot of paperwork. Implementing an organized system can save you time, energy and a lot of headaches.
Employ a filing system
This key component doesn’t have to be complicated. Find a convenient location (many people prefer the kitchen) to maintain a simple file system. A basic file box on the counter works well. Each school should have a file, and each child who attends that school gets a folder within that file. File all relevant school information for that child—extra classes, teacher information, field trips—in that folder.
Many parents assign subfolders for specific activities to help them quickly find the soccer team roster, dates for Sunday school or rehearsal times for The Nutcracker.
“My filing box keeps me sane,” said Laura Rehling, a local mother. “It’s my go-to spot for anything important. I don’t know what I’d do without that box.”
Remember to act on any paper before filing; that is, sign it, detach it and record the item on the calendar. Then, and only then, file it away.
Expand your files as you go
You can expand the basic school-year file system with another file cabinet. Make files for medical records and prescription receipts. Find a place for items you may need to reference again such as old report cards, state testing results and even information about past activities. For instance, keep past team rosters with phone numbers that may come in handy.
Maintain a family calendar
Note each child’s activity even if it’s something they always do. You may know that your son has karate every Wednesday at 5 p.m. But someone else, such as your spouse or one of the children, may make plans and not remember who does what when. Some people assign a pen color to each family member.
“My kids are so conditioned, they often ask to look at my calendar before they make plans,” said Julie Leary, a local mother of three. “My daughter, especially, will mark things done and highlight them in purple.”
As soon as the school/district calendar comes out, mark the important dates on your family calendar. This ensures that half-days don’t sneak up on you, or you don’t plan a weekend trip the same time as the school carnival.
Designate a “hot spot” for documents that need a quick turnaround such as permission slips, class photos and book orders. Some people use creative systems such as individual cubbies or hanging file racks; others simply keep a pile on the counter. Make sure you can see at a glance what needs immediate attention.
Keeping the stack in order of due date lessens the possibility that something will fall through the cracks. Remember to get papers out of this stack as soon as possible. The hot spot is only a temporary holding place.
Past assignments and art projects
Art projects, experiments and papers tend to pile up quickly. They are sweet memories, but it’s unrealistic to keep them all. Save the best ones or ones that show growth or insight.
Aby Garvey, professional organizer and co-owner of www.simplify101.com, recommends a cooling-off period before filing children’s work.
“Simply set up a bin or box to collect papers that you are on the fence about,” Garvey said. “Once a period of time has passed, sort through the papers. It will be much easier to pull the treasures from the stack and put the rest in the recycle bin.”
Program phone numbers and emails
Program school and doctor phone numbers into your cell phone. This allows you to make a quick call when you’re at work or away from home.
Also, add teacher and coaches emails to your contact list so you can easily drop them a line. You want to make communication as easy as possible. Save yourself the trouble of searching for those numbers or addresses.
Record websites and passwords
Many textbooks are now online, and some teachers even have their own website. Keep a small notebook near your computer to jot down those websites and passwords. You’ll want to easily access commonly used websites.
By implementing a few easy systems at the start of the year, you will free yourself from the stress of lost papers and missed deadlines. Whew. Now you can concentrate on the other challenges of raising your children.