Within a week of school starting, it begins. You can
almost hear the groaning noises from tables and counter tops as
paper after paper gets piled up. The computer in-box swells as
e-mails fly in daily. Homework, class reminders, past due
assignments, team schedules. Face it: Kids generate a lot of
But by figuring out a good system that works, you'll save
yourself not only time and energy but also a lot of
Implement a basic filing system. This doesn't have to be
complicated. Find a convenient spot (many prefer the kitchen) to
keep a simple file system. Even a basic file box on the counter
works just fine. Each school should have a file and each child who
goes to that school gets a folder within that file. All relevant
school information for that child-extra classes, teacher
information, field trips-gets tossed in that folder.
Many parents give each activity its own folder to help
them quickly find the soccer team roster, the dates for Sunday
school or the rehearsal times for The Nutcracker.
"My filing box keeps me sane," says busy mom Laura
Rehling. "It's my go-to spot for anything important. I don't know
what I'd do without it."
Just remember to act on any paper first. Sign it, detach
it and enter it on the calendar. Then, and only then, file it
Expand your file system as you go. Even if you need
another file cabinet, make files for medical records and
prescription receipts. Make another file for items you may need to
reference again, such as old report cards, state testing results
and even past activities that you still need information on: what
level swim lessons they completed last year or old team rosters
with phone numbers that may come in handy.
Maintain a family calendar (not just your PDA). It may
seem old fashioned with all the new technology out there but a good
wall calendar can change your life. School calendars, deadlines and
the kids' extracurricular activities can all be seen at a quick
glance by everyone. You may know that your son has karate every
Wednesday at 5 p.m., but someone else, such as your spouse or one
of the kids, may be making plans and not remember who does what
when. Some people find it helpful to assign a pen color to each
"My kids are so conditioned, they often ask to look at my
calendar before they make plans, and my daughter especially will
mark things done and highlight them in purple," says mom of three
As soon as the school/district calendar comes out,
integrate those dates into your family calendar. This ensures that
half-days don't sneak up on you or you don't plan a weekend trip
the same time as the school carnival.
Avoid e-mail overload. With more schools going paperless,
you'll need to find a reliable way to juggle all the e-mail updates
and reminders. Keep your calendar by the computer so you can
instantly transfer important due dates.
Create a special folder in your mailbox to hold e-mails
you need to follow up on. If you subscribe to the "out of sight,
out of mind" theory, try keeping a notebook at the computer to
remind yourself of items to check back on, such as what time you
can volunteer for the ice cream social or what size school
sweatshirt your daughter needs. A notebook can save on paper and
ink by eliminating the need to print out every e-mail.
Designate a hot spot. Keep a "hot spot" for papers that
need a quick turnaround-permission slips, class photos, book
orders, etc. You may have one spot on the computer and another for
For paper, you can develop a system such as individual
cubbies or hanging file racks or simply keep a pile on the
counter-as long as you can see at a glance what needs to go out.
Sometimes it's helpful to keep this stack in order of due date to
make it less likely that something will fall through the cracks.
Just remember to get papers out of this pile/file as soon as
possible. Answer it, sign it, mark it on the calendar, then toss or
Deal with the past. Art projects, experiments and papers
pile up quickly. Sweet memories, but it's unrealistic to keep them
all. Save the best or those that show growth or insight.
Aby Garvey, a professional organizer and co-owner of
www.simplify101.com, recommends a cooling off period before filing
"Simply set up a bin or box to collect papers that you are
on the fence about. Once a period of time has passed, sort through
the papers. It will be much easier to pull the treasures from the
stack (and put the rest in the recycle bin)."
Program phone numbers and e-mails. Program-ming school
phone numbers and doctor numbers into your cell phone allows you to
make a quick call when you're at work or away from home. Add
teacher and coach e-mails to your contact list so you can drop them
a line. Make it as easy as possible to communicate. Save yourself
the trouble of searching.
Mark websites and passwords. Many textbooks are now online
and some teachers have their own website. Keep a small notebook
near your computer to jot down those websites and passwords. When
your child is in the throes of homework anxiety, you'll want to
know how to easily access them and other recommended
Now you can concentrate on other challenges of raising
Laura Amann is a freelance writer and the mother of four living in Elmhurst.
See more of Laura's stories here.
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