LI: The other thing that comes to mind is you need a cooperative partner...but that’s a whole other topic. Your husband is on board with the system, I assume?
HH: Yes, for sure, and that really helps. I think if he wasn’t though, that I would still sort the mail the same way I do now. If there were things of his, or that I knew he’d want to keep, I’d start a bin for him somewhere the same way I have bins for the kids. It could be out of sight to me, and he could do with it as he pleased.
LI: What is your system for managing the school papers that come home in backpacks every day?
HH: I unpack the kids’ backpacks immediately after school (most days). What are school papers to you?
LI: OK that’s interesting. Currently, I make the kids unpack their lunches and water bottles when they first come home from school. Then they put their backpacks in the closet. Later after dinner, when it’s homework time, they will take out their folders and then start handing me their papers.
Sometimes it’s homework, but that’s usually kept in their folders and backpacks. The only things I get are field trip permission forms, advertisements or notices about upcoming school events, and then LOTS of kids’ artwork or tests (bad and good!). They hate throwing away their artwork so I have it piling up in the kitchen. I tried to have a special bin for each kid to keep favorite ones, but those are full now. I also tried taking a photo of each thing to turn into a book, but I’m not very disciplined about doing that.
HH: Yeah, that is hard. This is the drawback of my personality. I can too-often do things for the kids because I want it done right. But I neglect building personal discipline in them. This year I have wanted ownership of their backpacks because it is our first year of school and I wanted to stay on top of what is going on. But that is good to think of implementing for this coming fall.
LI: I should point out that even though the “rule” is they must empty their backpacks after school, it took [my 8-year-old daughter] until NOW to get into the routine, and [my 10-year-old son] still throws his backpack on the kitchen floor when he gets home. I have to call him into the room to remind him to unload it and put it away every day.
HH: That is comforting. :) To answer the larger question of where the paper goes, if it is graded homework I either toss what is not needed any longer, or else keep tests or things with bad grades so we can review again during homework time. There is a pile on my desk of my daughter’s homework folder where I keep those kinds of tests.
Field trip notices or other announcements from school I read right away, put any necessary dates right in my iPhone calendar and then toss the paper.
For artwork, we have two long pieces of ribbon strung across a wall in our playroom which we dubbed ”the art wall.” We keep the kids’ art hung there. Honestly there are some pieces of “art” which are just doodles or whatever and I leave those pieces of art on the kitchen counter “to show daddy” and then once the kids are in bed, they are thrown away! Only ONCE did my son catch me in that, and I feigned innocence on how that got in the recycling bin! In general I find that after 24 hours the kids forget exactly what art they have brought home, and seeing their art wall is a constant reminder that we do care and are proud of all their efforts. But I have seen my mother’s attic and knew from day one that if I kept every piece of “art”, things would get out of control fast. So I am choosy about what is on the wall and what gets “lost.”
LI: That’s a good point. I feel so bad throwing away their stuff now, but it really is doing them a favor in the long run. What 22-year-old wants a box full of their own first grade artwork? All that stuff would be a burden to them down the line.
HH: So true!
LI: Well, I feel like this gives me a good glimpse into how you manage papers. Essentially it boils down to taking the time to stay on top of it every day. When you do that, you’re only working on it for a few minutes at a time instead of trying to dig yourself out on a weekly (or worse) basis. And a huge takeaway is what a favor you’re doing for your kids in not teaching them to hoard papers that will be a burden to you now, and them later! Thank you Holly!
HH: This was great fun to talk about, so anytime!
I so appreciate Holly taking the time to sit down with us and share some of her insights. I am already putting her advice into practice. Last night when my daughter gave me an invitation to Mother’s Day Tea in her classroom, I immediately put the info on the calendar, RSVP’d to the teacher, and then threw the piece of paper away. It took about one minute and felt worlds better than putting the invitation in a pile of “to do’s.” I hope you found some helpful tips too!