It’s official. I can no longer ignore the piles of backpack catalogs and back to school coupons that arrive daily to remind me that fall is right around the corner – a season where paper of all sorts enters our home more swiftly than the leaves fall from the trees. There are class lists and calendars. Cafeteria menus and permission slips. “Artwork” and homework. You get the idea. But what to do with it all? With a third-grader, first-grader and three pre-schoolers, I have to have a plan to tame the paper beast. And I do. And today I’m going to share it with you.
For starters, get yourself some basic supplies. This is the easy part. Clip some of those coupons, go to your store of choice and get yourself:
- A label maker
- A desktop file organizer
- File folders in various colors
- A small storage box for each of your children (note: these can be made rather than bought but I’m not that crafty!)
With supplies in hand, give yourself an hour to:
- Weed through any lingering remnants from the last school year — in my case, these included a birthday invitation we never RSVP’d to, an expired coupon to a local aquarium and a class list from when our third-grader was a preschooler… proving that I’m not always good at following my own advice!
- Put that label maker to good use. I create a folder for each child in addition to a few extras to corral the mail, menus and miscellaneous papers that arrive via mail, backpacks and, as far as I can tell, by carrier pigeon too!
- Set up a “memory box” for each child – once you do this, you will (hopefully) reuse this box for years to come. In our house, each kid has a box (neatly labeled with his or her name, of course!) and each year we cull through what we’ve collected, keeping only the most precious of memories – first handprints, first report cards, etc. It’s important to recall the items that are NOT worthy of the memory box: random scribbles, spelling tests (even if s/he gets 100!) and ceramics which will break before you even get the lid on. I have several good friends who assure me that when our children are grown and we are gone, they won’t be looking for these lost treasures… and needless to say, neither will we!
The last piece of the process is no doubt the hardest – it’s making a lasting commitment to control the paper beast. To tackle it daily. To keep only what is critical and to recycle or trash what’s not. To actually use your file folders and memory boxes. To keep the paper beast under control — before it grows big and scary and requires a bonfire to tame it. Although, if all else fails, a bonfire isn’t a bad idea… it is, after all, a sure (and welcome!) sign of Fall.