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. 

Back to school, back to school…

It’s that time of year again, time for back to school shopping and the highly anticipated first day of school. Whether it’s your first year sending your little one off to preschool or it’s your first year sending your child to college, photos are a must. It’s 2018 and documenting important moments are easier than ever. Just snap a few pictures on your smart phone and within minutes you can send pictures to grandparents in other states or post your pictures to Instagram. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love seeing cute kids on your Facebook feed?!?

I searched Pinterest and found several ideas that were quick and easy. I enlisted the help of my older girls (my littlest lady already started preschool) for a little back to school photo shoot. Manned with sidewalk chalk, printable signs (which I found free on Pinterest) and a few props we headed outside for a little fun! I don’t claim to be an award winning photographer and I was only using my iPhone, but I was able to capture several great photos of my girls.

So get out there and start snapping pictures of your adorable kiddos!

 

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

Homeschool Hindsight

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After resigning from my job (two years ago) to stay home with my daughter, homeschool was never on my radar… Now, its second nature.  There are many challenges, but my family loves this life. I can now say with confidence, “I would not have it any other way.”  However, before my family began this Journey, I wish I had heard more of the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Here is a little of mine.

You spend ALL of your time with your child– Every single minute of my day is spent with my daughter. Every question and thought that runs through her brain, comes out her mouth and straight to my ears…every single one! It is mentally exhausting to take the majority of the conversations and turn them into a learning experience. At the end of the day/week I feel more exhausted than I did when I worked full-time, but my heart grows fuller and brighter EVERY single day!

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Not all Homeschool journeys are created equal– When I first started homeschooling, I was constantly comparing my journey with others. I felt a need to get ahead and spent more energy than I would like to admit worrying about why my child wasn’t as far along as others. I am a homeschooler. Where is the fire?? My daughter and I are walking our own path. We do this so that we can go at our own pace. There is no rush or need to compare yourself with others. Do what works for you and your family!

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Join Homeschool groups/Co-ops, but be prepared to leave a few too- We are lucky enough to live in an area with a large amount of Homeschool families. In the beginning of my journey, I joined Facebook groups, attended events and reached out to other Homeschoolers in Everyday Moms. Some groups weren’t a good fit for my family. It took some time to find like-minded groups, but we now have an amazing amount of support. I could not do this without knowing other homeschool mothers. I would honestly lose my mind without them! Their support has been invaluable.

You will doubt yourself constantly – I also see this as a positive. I am constantly questioning myself. Am I doing enough? Am I screwing my child up for life? Could I have approached this better? Is my child happy? Am I happy? Can I do this?. THIS is what drives me and makes us better. The very fact that I question myself means that I want to do this to the best of my ability. I know my child better than anyone else. NO one knows my child better than me!

You are the responsible party- The pressure and responsibility that comes with homeschool is taxing. You have to motivate yourself to engage with your child the majority of your day. Your Spouse, family, and most of all your child are counting on you! Their education literally rests on your shoulders. Sometimes I feel as if I am being looked at with a microscope by many.  Not always the case, but a horrible feeling. Like I said above…’This is OUR journey”. I believe that this lifestyle is best and will do anything to make it work. If for whatever reason it isn’t working, I will be big enough to admit it and fix it!

 

Family– I do not know what I would do if my Husband didn’t support homeschooling. I certainly wouldn’t be writing this if he didn’t. Homeschool is a decision that we made together (my daughter included). We are also lucky enough to have support from our immediate family.

Some days are lonely – There are days when my daughter gets sad and wants a friend to play with. It makes me sad too. There isn’t always someone available to come over and play. Those are the days that I try my best to get out of the house. We go to the park, for a walk or head to the pool for some fun. After all, we eat, sleep, and homeschool under the same roof Every. Single. Day.

We have so much fun- We have lots of time and opportunities to explore our surroundings. We go on nature hikes, field trips at least twice a month, and build long-lasting and deep seeded relationships. Not a day goes by that I’m not thankful for this opportunity! My daughter is more cultured at age 5 than I was. She gets to see and do so much. The freedom we have is priceless. This is why we do what we do.

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THIS IS “OUR” JOURNEY!

Suzette Foister

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SAHM, Wife, Homeschooler, Owner/Artist of Bring Your Own Canvas