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Back To School and the Agony of Paperwork

Do you remember that commercial Staples had on a few years ago that was aired in July? It was the one where the music was the Christmas song “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year”. Every time it came on I just cracked up laughing. Along with the music a father was zipping around the store loading his cart with school supplies with the happiest smile on his face. The children were standing there watching with sad expressions. I had five daughters; four of them were under four so I always had a busy, busy summer. It was a lot of work planning and implementing worthwhile activities, trying to keep them sharp for school and having a balance with play activities and just play. I admire mothers who can home school their children. But frankly I am just not the mother that can have my kids around me all the time. I was happy when school started again in the fall. So whether you send your kids off to public or private school or you home school or are on year around school this is a good time of year to get the little and big ones ready for the school year. Before you head out to the stores and grab up the great buys they are offering this time of year take stock of what you have at home. Check to see how many pens, pencils, lined paper, notebook paper, note pads, erasers, and other supplies you have. If you haven’t designated a place in your home for paper/office supplies, do so now. This will save you a lot of time and money. Label the shelves, use containers to separate items. Containers can be check book boxes, plastic baby food containers, plastic Crisco containers—you do not need to rush out and buy containers, first look around your home to see what you have that you can use. Store the extras behind the items that will be used currently. This is the ideal time to also set up a homework area. According to the magazine Psychology Today in the September 2007 issue,”Creating a functional, organized and comfortable area for your child to do their homework can increase their productivity and give them confidence to do well in school”. Notice it doesn’t say you have to have a desk and all that goes with it; it needs to be an organized, functional and comfortable area. If that area isn’t a desk have supplies they need for home work assignments convenient for them to access. Create a filing system where they can put their art work or home work they want to keep ‘forever’. Right now is the time to set ground rules on how many pieces of paper they will be allowed to save. Three pieces of paper a week will add up to 864 pieces pre-school through sixth grade. Set up a designated place to manage everyday paperwork. Make this accessible for them and for you. Have baskets or sorting bins (metal kind that sit on a desk or the kind that hang on the wall) labeled with each child’s name on them and one for the parents. When they come home from school teach them the expectation is they will unload their backpack by putting their papers in their designated spot. If there is something that has to be signed by you and returned to school this goes in your slot. But don’t just rely on them putting it in the right place, check their slots also. You could separate your slot into more specific slots such as To Do, To Pay (picture day forms, field trip fees etc) and To File. Okay, now you can dash to the store for all of those great buys. Go alone if you can, you will probably buy less and it won’t be a hassle without little voices saying, “Buy this, buy this, can I have this?” When you get the specific list of what your child needs then they can go with you to buy those specific items. I hope this school year will be the best ever for you and your child/children. Marilyn is a creative organizer who helps women, seniors and their families create space and end clutter in their homes and offices by setting up custom made systems. Marilyn invites you to visit her website http://www.marilynbohn.com where you can find solutions to your organizing needs. She offers free tips in her blogs, articles and videos for your home and office organizing solutions.

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