I thoroughly enjoy being organized. I get a lot of satisfaction from order & orderly things. Having said this, I've found that I have 2 levels of organization: super organized or super not organized. Initially, I can get the mess under control. But one day of letting it go can turn things upside-down. Then, I just don't do anything about it until it piles up to the point where I can't take it anymore & I spend the day cleaning things out & starting over. It's vicious cycle.
I decided that this year my resolution was going to be to get our house in order & keep it that way. I'm fairly successful in a few rooms, but I'm still working on it. I've got a year to finish. I enjoy taking my time :)
One of the things that really put me on edge was the mountain of paperwork that came home with the kids from school. Classwork, homework, invitations, etc. this paperwork was going to be the death of my resolution unless I came up with something to help me keep it all straight.
Enter the Command Center
This idea was the brainchild of something I saw on the Today Show about keeping your house organized. It said that every mom needs an area of the house where they can operate the day to day: schedules, homework, paperwork. I was instantly hooked so I started looking around my house for a space where I could spread out & manage the stuff that was slowly suffocating me. We are lucky enough to have a giant laundry room where the boys already hang their coats & backpacks. The unused wall space was screaming at me so, I set to work.
One of my goals as a parent is to make my boys responsible & self-reliant. I wanted to make sure the space I was creating for them (and for me!) was conducive to independence; meaning that I wanted them to be able to navigate this area without help from me. I did a LOT of searching for the right items to make this happen. After several trials & errors, I landed on the items below:
The Set Up
The general set up is that each child has his own corkboard & folder slot. The schedule is above for everyone to see. Right now, it's our summer schedule that you can read about here. During the school year, it's the "specials" schedule (music, art, etc) that I put up for them to check every morning. That way, they know what they need to pack: library day means pack library books, gym day means wear your gym shoes. They can read the schedule themselves & I absolve myself of any responsibility. Oh, you forgot your library book? Make sure you check the schedule. Too bad that you forgot your gym shoes, don't forget to check the schedule. Responsibility & independence: check & check! To the right of the cork, is a calendar and to the left is their summer chore chart.
Break It On Down
Let's dive in a little deeper. Each kiddo has a corkboard where their individual paperwork gets pinned. Right now, it's their goals sheet (click here for more info) & their summer reading program chart. During the school year, homework gets pinned there as well as other important info that needs our attention: birthday invites, yearbook orders, etc. I've found that if I put something out of my sight, it completely disappears from my memory. If I pin it where we can all see it, I'm much more likely to remember! The boys are responsible for pinning & returning things to their board- i.e. go get your homework from your board, return it when it's finished. Again, I've completely taken myself out of the equation. You are responsible for the whereabouts of your homework. I found these lovely little corkboards at Michaels.
The folder slots I looked long & hard for but had a harder time finding. I got these at IKEA & they're perfect for my family because they have ENOUGH slots for my brood of children. Apparently 3 letter bins are the most that the majority of you need :) IKEA, once again, saved the day! I use these to hold the boys planners & folders. The kids come home from school & put their mail folders & planners in their slots. That way they're not coming in with papers blowing everywhere & piling them on my island- a place I work hard to keep clean because it's the #1 dumping zone at our house. I like this because it helps me keep the paperwork in order of what goes with whom & it helps me control what we keep & what gets recycled. I also like it because I can check the folders when its convenient for me instead of having paper strewn around while I'm not ready to tackle it. In the folder slots, I keep a pen for signing planners right away. I also keep a green file folder where any "save" paperwork gets stored until I'm ready to organize it: art projects, stories they've written, basically things I want to save but don't have time to file right away.
I like having the folders all in one place because it's easy for me to put in paperwork that needs to be returned in everyone's folder at the same time. I can also add teacher notes to their folders so I know it's at least getting to school... I always wonder about that one! The boys are responsible for returning their folders & planners to their backpacks in the morning before getting on the bus. Again, more responsibility for them, less for me :)
To the left, to the left...
I've just taped up their summer chore chart so they can check it easily. Click here for the link to what extra jobs my boys are doing this summer to help around the house.
To the right, to the right...
Here, I've put a dry erase calendar that will house the boys' schedule for that month. That way they can see when they have football practice or when camp is coming up. I'll also put doctor's appointments on here so they know when I'm picking them up from school early. Along the bottom, I'll pin anything that applies to all of them: lunch menu's, physical forms, etc.
So, that's how I conquered Mount Paperwork. How do you control the paper chaos at your house?