Taming the Paperwork Monster

Managing the paperwork that flows into your home is difficult!

Without a good organizational system, your best laid plans will fail. Paperwork CAN be managed without a huge time commitment.

Here are some time-tested tips from our experts.

Establish Ground Rules

Before you begin, set ground rules for what to keep and what to toss. This applies to ALL paper that comes into the house, not just paper from school.

This pre-organization process takes a little thinking time, but it lays the foundation for future success. You need to answer the following questions.

1. Where am I going to keep important papers like schedules, menus, and reports?

2. How am I going to keep track of permission slips and things that need to go back to school?

3. Where will I store the extra special stuff (think long-term)?

4. How will I decide when I’m done with a piece of paper?

5. Where do I “hold” paperwork that have items that are in progress?

Create a Family Office Area

At our house, I have designated a small area as my “family office” right next to our door. Here I keep a shredder in a cabinet, address books and a family binder in the drawers, a trashcan nearby, and an inbox at one end for managing papers. I also keep my calendar open and ready to go.

Here's how the daily routine works.

When the kids and I come home from school, they have backpacks and I have the mail. Immediately, the junk mail and catalogs go into the trash. Important mail goes into our adult in-box where it can be sorted and replied to later. For the most part, I’m done with my part.

The kids put their backpacks down on the bar and pull EVERYTHING out. While they are having a snack, I sort through their homework folder.

Prioritize

Teach them to prioritize their homework.

The younger one only has two sheets of homework a night, so she just lays them out.

Our older daughter gets to decide the order in which she wants to complete her homework. She can stack the papers in the order of preference or assign a number in her homework notebook.

We like to start with a pleasant, quick and successful activity, sandwich in the long ones in the middle, and finish with reading, which we connect to bedtime every night.

Attack the Monster

While the kids are doing homework at the table, bar, or other designated area, clean out the black hole, I mean backpack.

You should preferably be standing next to your trash can and your family calendar. Sort through their paperwork and assign them an area: trash, return to school, file away.

A family binder or file folder will keep important schedules, reports, and grades if needed. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just functional. You can put in colored tabs for each child or activity.

I keep one copy of the current lunch menu on the refrigerator. It is too much of a problem to leave it in the binder.

Sign any papers that need it (such as permission slips, behavior reports, ect.) on the spot and return to the backpack. The less time spent sitting in your house, the better the chances are of it being returned.

If dates are mentioned anywhere, write them in your calendar that stays open at your family desk. As I've said before, I love the Momagenda, and it's working the best.

Routine papers can be tossed. If a younger child has a problem with tossing, allow the papers to accumulate in a box for one week, and then sort through them together. He or she needs to learn the valuable lesson of letting go!

For older kids, keep all paperwork (like tests and notes) until the end of the quarter/trimester/semester…just in case… You need an area for the special papers and projects your child brings home. We keep one accordion file for each child. When you come across one of those “items”, have your child put them in the file. At the end of the year, it is neat to go through the file together, reflect on the year, and decide which items they want to keep.

If your child brings home a paper than cannot be tossed or filed, then you need to put it in their inbox. The inbox is your holding pattern until you can return it to school. Train your children to put their papers in their “home.” It will save you a TON of grief.

Finish the Day

When work is done for the day, carefully select a place to keep things that are ready to go to school. At our house, everything waits for us at the door. In the morning, we can grab and go!

There are ways of dealing with the age-old problem of paperwork organization. Find a starting point and learn to master one strategy at a time.