House For Six

Back To School Prep Week: Controlling Paper Flow

Deme Crinion1 Comment

Welcome to Day 2 of Back To School Prep Week!  Yesterday we chatted about transitioning the daily routine out of summer mode.  And today I took a break from painting kitchen cabinets to focus on my biggest school season challenge....the paper beast.

Last year, naive little me thought..."How bad can the papers be?  I mean we only have one in preschool and one kinder" And then I was mowed over by round after round of correspondence, schedules, permission slips and art projects.   This year I want a rematch.  Well, not really.  I would love to avoid the school paper landslide but it's inevitable.  So on with the game plan!

We've been working on having our pantry area (right as you enter the garage door where we all come in/out each day) do double duty for us as a pantry/mudroom/landing spot.  We removed the 4 inch deep shelves that lined two of the three walls and painted the insets with chalkboard paint.

I claimed the right side for all of the in/outgoing paperwork that makes its way into the home.

I picked up these hanging folders from Target last year (I don't kid around when it comes to procrastination), and finally put them up today.   I'm not sure whether to feel elated or really crappy that I put off a 5 minute project that will save my sanity in just a few short days.

The top folder is divided into envelope sized pockets for incoming and outgoing mail.  There's also a trash can right next to the white bench.  We can quickly sort through the junk, toss or recycle it, and only put the mail we need to read in the "inbox".   If there's anything I need to mail the next time we go out it goes into the "outgoing" folder.

When the kids come home we take out folders from their backpacks and anything that needs my attention goes into this "Action In" folder.  I'll go through those at some point in the afternoon/evening.  Papers that need to be returned to school go right back into the kids backpacks.
 The folder next to that is the "Action Out" folder.  This is for any paperwork I may need to drop off at the school office, need for an appointment, etc.  I have my own little drop zone for mom right outside this doorway, so I can easily grab my purse, keys, and those papers I need to address as we head out the door.  So, the folders in the mudroom are primarily dedicated to the paperwork as it comes in and organizing the paperwork that needs to go out.

As we go through the mail and any other paper work from school/activities, we pull anything that needs to be filed or addressed in our home office and bring it to this station on our kitchen counter.  I don't always have time to run that stuff all the way down to the office, so having this area ensures that those papers don't get lost in a pile or anywhere else in the house.

And it didn't always look like this.  Oh no. This is her lovely "before"...
It had become a catch-all or a junk drawer on the counter.  I pulled everything out, sorted, tossed (90% of it!) and filed it.  Then I made a few adjustments.

I liked the "To File" and "To Do" labels but they were in the shallow area where James usually keeps his phone charger and cards/IDs/keys when he comes home.  So, I unscrewed the label plates and moved them up to the next row.  They are tiny pieces, so a little painters tape helped hold them in place while I screwed them in.
 Now those middle slots are dedicated to those tasks.

In the large section in the back, I keep a file folder with our weekly meal plan and the corresponding recipes for that week (yes this is different than the system we used here.  I'll update you all on that here soon!).  I also have a small pocket folder from the Target dollar bins where we keep coupons and gift cards.

A tall creamer pitcher holds the chalkboard pens we use for our chalkboard family calendar on the adjacent wall.

Going back to the pantry/mudroom...we used the other wall inset to give each of our kids a place to hang their jackets and backpacks. 

As I mentioned before, all paperwork that needs to be returned to the classroom goes right into the backpacks that night so it's not lost in the shuffle.  I'll be sharing our system for storing and organizing all those projects, tests, and other keepsake worthy items that come home tomorrow!

I found Kathryn's blog Team Whitaker this past year and she has some great tips for managing the just home from school chaos.  She's a Mama to five kids, so she's knows her stuff!  What are your best tips for managing the paper whirlwind that comes with school?  Do you have a system that's been working for years or are you trying to climb out of the piles like me? Do tell! 

*Linking up the series at A Bowl Full Of Lemons and IHeart Organizing!