Mission Organization: Paperwork Edition

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Our family command center

It’s back to school time, which means it’s time for the copious amounts of paperwork. Some paperwork needs to be completed and returned to school, some paper needs to be displayed prominently to serve a reminder and some paperwork needs to be organized and filed for future use. How does a busy mom juggle all of this? Well, if you are like me, you have an entire system devoted to paperwork so that every permission slip, every finger painting and every sticky note can easily be found.

With paperwork from school and mail, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the sheer amount of stuff that comes home. Stay on top of the paperwork daily and weekly and it shouldn’t become too overwhelming. I sometimes don’t even open credit card offers I receive and I immediately place them in the shred box. Why waste my time opening mail I know I don’t need?

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One of the two drop file boxes.

My system has evolved over the years due to improvements in technology and the addition of a husband, kids and dog. When it was just myself, I had a portable drop file box filled with bills to be paid, paid bills and one for important documents. It was simple and I always managed to stay on top of it. At it’s worst, it was maybe 12-15 pieces that needed to be filed on a monthly basis. I shredded whatever was confidential but didn’t need to be kept and filed the rest.

When my husband and I first got married, I was introduced to his file cabinet system of organization. I wasn’t a fan of this method, but it sort of worked because we lived in a one-floor condo so it was fairly easy to access the file cabinet. Then we moved to a two-story home and the file cabinet went upstairs and wasn’t as easy to access. I implemented my drop file box system to keep track of paperwork on a daily basis. On a yearly basis we would go through the file cabinet and toss whatever paperwork was no longer relevant.

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Storage bins for each of my girls’ artwork.

Along came our three daughters and ENDLESS amounts of sometimes useful and sometimes useless paperwork. I remember adding a section to my drop file box for each of our girls and that’s when I realized that I needed to update our system. Medical documents, school documents and more art projects than all of the art museums in the world currently own. This is when I purchased large plastic bins with lids to house the art projects and also downloaded an app on my iPhone called Artkive. If you’ve never heard of Artkive, the concept is pretty cool and it’s easy and free. Simply use your smartphone to take a picture of your little Picasso’s artwork and save it to your child’s file in the Artkive app. There are options to order books and other projects to commemorate the pieces but sadly, I have yet to do this. They also offer a concierge service in which you send them ALL of your child’s artwork and they archive it for you! My drop file box became two drop file boxes and I micro-organized everything. My files included things such as an individual medical file for each family member (dog included) and individual school files for each of our daughters. Other files include things such as homeowner’s insurance, car insurance, HOA documents, coupons and I even file my Bed Bath and Beyond coupons in their own file because I have so many. My husband and I also implemented a “screen shot” system of important documents, just in case we can’t locate a document. Taking a screen shot eliminates the need to hold onto items that may be useful, but probably aren’t.

When we moved in 2017, I set up a family command center in our kitchen. The placement was perfect because it was in the hallway of the kitchen, which everyone passes to get to the garage to exit. You can’t miss it, so it’s easy to double-check the wall calendar and the wall folders. On a weekly basis, I check the wall folders and either complete and return the paperwork to school or file it in its appropriate file folder. I update the calendar for the next month at the end of the prior month. I keep dry erase markers close by so that I can add events and I even color coordinate for each family member because I feel like that helps everyone see what they have on the calendar. For myself, I keep an agenda planner. I carry it with me in the car so that I’m able to write down items as I receive them. I transfer items from my agenda to the family calendar. My husband and I go over our schedule monthly and then weekly. We have a lot going on and we don’t want to forget anything. We even remind the girls in the morning of what is on the schedule for the day, so they’re not surprised when I tell them we have back to school night or a dentist appointment.

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My agenda from The Happy Planner.

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A glance at a typical week.

As for the paperwork that doesn’t need to be saved, we shred it. Sometimes paperwork contains confidential information that you don’t want to compromise, so it’s always best to properly destroy it. I also purchased a stamper to block out information, but we usually end up shredding that document anyway.

Here are my top tips for keeping all of your paperwork organized:

  1. When you receive something, read it and decide if you want to keep it. If you need to keep it, file it immediately and if you don’t need to keep it, place it in the shred box.
  2. Do a little each day and stay on top of it, otherwise you may end up with a mountain of paperwork.
  3. Find a system that works best for you! Our system works for us, but it may not work for you.
  4. Share your system with your family so they can participate, too!
  5. If you implement a new system and it doesn’t work, quickly change it so you don’t fall behind. Your system can and should evolve.
  6. Find an app to help archive your children’s artwork.

Happy organizing ladies!   

  • Kimberly Lasher – SAHM to three beautiful girls, reality TV junkie & ISR advocate. 

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