Back-to-school paperwork clutter

Back-to-school paperwork starting to pile up? Try one of Beth Randall’s organizational systems.

The kids are back in school and that can only mean one thing — you now suddenly have an abundance of paperwork flowing into your house. I remember those days well.

Three kids and three backpacks to unload and weed through the paper onslaught every single day. It really helped when the teachers started to use a ‘Take Home’ folder system. Then at least all the paperwork from the day could be found in one folder and not just a wad of paper shoved into the bottom of the backpack.

Over the years, our family used a couple different systems for keeping track of the kids’ paper work. The first rule was to always respond and return any papers that you could on a daily basis. You might receive a field trip notice that needed a signature on the permission slip and maybe a dollar or two (I know I am dating myself).

If you can, I suggest you fill out that field trip permission slip and send in the money the very next day. Whenever you can react to papers and get them out of the house the better off you will be. Just make sure you notate the field trip on your calendar.

All homework pages can be worked on and returned the next day, too. That’s the first thing my kids would do when they got home from school — eat a snack while working on their homework. Once it was complete — back into the ‘Take Home’ folder it would go.

For the completed school work papers, we would review it and then file it into a large three-ring binder — one for each kid. We wouldn’t decide until the end of the school year if we were going to keep the papers or not. But in the meantime, there was only one place to save them and that was in the three-ring binder.

These binders were kept in a kitchen cabinet closest to the kitchen table where the kids did their homework. Also in that cabinet were items they might need to complete homework like pencils, crayons, glue, color pencils, paper, etc. This way when they sat down to do their homework, they could get it done and not have to track down the supplies they would need.

The three-ring binder system worked pretty well for a few years until all three of the kids were in school and my husband started slacking at punching the holes and putting the papers in the binder. He started just placing the papers in the binders without the holes punched.

That’s when we switched to the second filing system and that was to have an IKEA cardboard box for each kid. These boxes were oversized compared to a piece of paper (8 ½ x 11) — they were closer to 10 x 13. The KUGGIS line at IKEA now has similar sizes.

These boxes was where all the completed paperwork was kept until the end of the school year, at which point we would go through it and decide what was worth saving. When the kids were older, they helped make that decision. It was nice to review the school year with each kid and let them tell me what to keep and toss.

Without a filing system like one of these, you might not be able to keep up with the decision-making of what to keep and what to toss on a daily basis. Besides, you really do not want your kids to find their school papers in the garbage the next morning. If you have one place to put the papers, then they will not pile up somewhere else in the house.

Welcome back to school!

Beth Randall, of Illinois, is a professional speaker and professional organizer. She can be reached through the Daily Journal at