This is not the blog post I had planned for this week. While I was planning on writing about ‘why organizing is important,’ I was taking a different tack until real life intervened.
One of the most frequently asked questions I get about organization is “how do I organize my kids’ constant paperwork?” While the same principles apply to organizing adults’ paperwork, typically a parent will get this started and then it gets passed down to the child to maintain, thus teaching them valuable organization skills. The problem comes when no system is in place and it feels like a herculean task to get it sorted out to begin with, much less come up with a system to maintain going forward. This is where Neatsmart offers you an easy method to manage the paperwork and activity-tracking chaos:
- Get a small filing box for each child. This is where you can get creative with your choices. Everyone from Container Store to Office Depot has an option for you. Choose something with a lid to protect the papers from dust and other damage and so you can stack them if necessary.
- Fill the box with hanging files in a pretty color or your child’s favorite color. Create a tab for each year of school.
- Here is what goes in the box: at least 1 school picture for each year, copies of recital programs, honor roll announcements, sports brackets, newspaper clippings, report cards, special cards or letters sent, etc. Think of this as the school memories box that you’ll eventually pass on to your child (because you will) and fill it with the little things you never really know what to do with but you’ll both enjoy looking back on years from now.
This accomplishes 2 things: it gives a home for these types of papers and it helps to teach your children organization skills. You probably won’t file every paper every day but I would designate an area of your home to temporarily capture these papers and then as your children get older they can help you put these papers away. It will be a fun trip through memory lane each time you look at old pictures and report cards that your kids will ultimately be glad you saved.
Here is what does NOT go in the box: birth certificate, passport, adoption papers, social security card, and artwork. The first 3 or 4 items should be in a separate file where you are storing the family’s important papers. These are not things that you’ll need to readily access and you don’t want your kids rummaging around in at this point.
Artwork can be handled a variety or ways, depending on the volume. Some should be displayed in the house whether it is on the refrigerator or a large bulletin board where it can be admired. Important pieces that you want to keep can go in a portfolio binder. Others can be photographed and later made into a book or just viewed online. I know it is hard to throw away any of these pieces but you just can’t keep everything unless you have unlimited storage and time to catalog it all.
Another thing every family with kids needs is a calendar that everyone can see. Most often this will be in the kitchen or mudroom or family room. All activities that involve the kids should be put on this calendar: birthday parties, sports practices, sleepovers if they are scheduled in advance, birthdays, doctors’ and dentists’ appointments, games, vacations, application due dates, church events, I could go on and on. It is especially helpful if this is kept close to where mail is opened so that you can immediately put the event on the calendar when you are advised of it via mail like invitations and appointment reminders. Everyone in the family can see what is going on and start to take responsibility for their activities. This doesn’t mean everyone remembers everything J but it does mean everyone knows where to find out what is going on. I know lots of us have personal planners that we keep with us either in our purse or briefcase or on our phone and, yes, this is duplicative. The benefit of this calendar is that everyone can see it. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to write things twice to help remember better!
So spend a little time putting your file box and file folders together and they’ll serve you for many years to come. You’ll have a box full of memories ready to pass down to your kids who I promise will thank you later. J Get your calendar up and start putting all of the family’s activities on it to keep everyone schedule straight.
Being organized for kids is something, like good manners and gratefulness, that needs to be taught. Of course, the best way to teach kids organization skills is to lead by example but that has its own challenges. Sometimes it is actually easier to organize someone else instead of yourself and having an organized child will make your life as a parent much easier.
Here is an example of a kid’s closet that I worked on recently. This lovely young lady had a closet, most likely the coat closet, all to herself for her crafts and creative projects. As you can see, it was needing some attention as I was afraid all of its contents were going to tumble out on me when I opened the door.
Here are 5 quick tips for organizing children, all used in this one closet:
- Clear out what is not being used. Kids like to amass their toys but they don’t actively play with everything. Keep what is being used and loved and put away (for a rainy day or donate) what isn’t being used. In this closet I found a lot of toys that this child had outgrown in the piles. These were set aside in a separate box for donation but your child should clear these things out on a regular basis.
- Keep toys and arts and crafts accessible to your kids. Don’t store things for them on high shelves. Unless you want them pulling out chairs and other pieces of furniture to climb on, just keep their things at their level. Save yourself ER visits.
- Label where things go. Actually, this set of drawers had been labeled but she had outgrown a lot of the toys that were in here so that gave us room to move things around and relabel what goes where. This alone eliminates the “I don’t know where it goes” excuse for not putting up toys. If your kids are not reading yet, use colored boxes or containers and pictures as labels. You can print out clip art, cut pictures out of magazines, or try your hand at drawing the picture on a notecard to tape on to the drawer or box. Super achievers can take digital pictures, print them out, and attach them to the appropriate drawer or container.
- Keep similar items together. Activity books go together as do pencils, markers, colored pencils, and paper. Tape, glue, paperclips all go together. You’ll have to look at what you have and find the categories that bind like items together. A professional organizer can help you with this as well :-). This will make it so much easier for your child to find the right medium to express their creative inspirations!
- Go through things regularly. This can be a task that you do with your child to make it a little more fun. Find out what they want to keep and what have they outgrown. Make them a part of the donation process so they get to choose which toys or books get passed on to needy children. Interests do change and the fact that they haven’t played with a toy since taking it out of the box is a good indication that it should go to someone who would like to play with it. If the whole family is going through their closets to find donations, it can be more enjoyable as a group activity.
This is the cleaned closet with probably 75% less stuff in it. The drawers are clean, with the contents clearly labeled. Everything in the drawers is currently being used and loved and can be easily retrieved. I was able to re-use the drawers they already had which was a great way of saving money, too. I have a happy client and they have a happy, organized child,