Picture this: you’re on your way to work when your child calls your cell phone nearly in tears. There’s an excursion today and the permission slip has been sitting underneath a stack of papers on the kitchen counter, forgotten every day since your child got it two weeks ago. Now the bus is boarding and your child’s teacher is still missing the permission slip. What now?
No parent means for these things to happen, but when you and your child are balancing school, homework, extracurricular activities and work schedules, it’s easy for important papers to fall through the cracks. Your child might miss out on a field trip or you might miss out on an important parent-teacher conference if you aren’t careful with your family’s paperwork.
So how can you better organise family paperwork and prevent scenarios like the one above from happening? Follow these great tips and you’ll be less likely to miss important dates and permission slips again.
Have a designated inbox
When your kids come home, they take off their coats, set their backpacks on the ground and forget all about school until homework starts. By the time they begin their homework, all thoughts of permission slips and newsletters go right out of their minds.
Implement a new step to this process. Have a box or a place on a shelf where your children can put their permission slips and any other paperwork they get from teachers. Before you go to bed that night or whenever you have a free moment, pull out the box and go through its contents. Sign anything that needs your signature and mark your calendar with any important dates.
Be sure to handle all your family’s paperwork only once. If you find yourself too distracted to concentrate, don’t touch the paperwork until you have the time to look at everything. This will keep you focused and stop you from forgetting papers because you set them down in one room and forgot about them. Do everything at once so nothing is missed.
Keep systems simple
Blackboards, whiteboards, post-it notes, calendars, where does it all end? You’ve probably seen a plethora of different filing systems and mechanisms to keep you and your family organised when it comes to paperwork, but how much organisation is too much organisation? Do you really need an elaborate filing system or is there an easier way to get things done and organised?
A simple three-ring binder and a few folders might be all you need to stay organised. They may not be the fanciest filing systems ever created, but if they work, they work. Don’t try to overcomplicate the process.
Even if you’re looking for a prettier, more expensive method of organisation, don’t let that stop you from getting organised. Use what you have and plan out a system that will work best for everyone.
De-clutter your spaces
Have you ever opened up a junk drawer and been overwhelmed by the amount of random items you’ve accumulated? Bobby pins, balloons, half of an old photo, paperclips, how did it all get here?
The truth is that once you allow miscellaneous items to pile up on your shelves and in your drawers, your family will pick up on the cues and start treating those places as ones where they don’t have to be organised. If the spot where you keep your family paperwork is always looking messy and unorganised, you’re going to be unorganised, and the clutter will continue to build.
You don’t need a large filing cabinet for the paper. It’s the rest of the items you need to handle first. Consider purchasing a few plastic bins or boxes to help de-clutter these spaces and be liberal with what you throw away.
If you have the space and a little money to spare, pick up a small wired rack, something that doesn’t hold a lot and can stand out from the rest of your shelves. If the space is too small, your family won’t have room to put anything else on the rack, none of the items that commonly end up in the junk drawer. There will only be room for papers and that’s all the rack will hold.
Get the family involved
Try as you might, you can never quite get inside your child’s mind. There’s no way for you to be with them at every hour or every day and remind them about homework that is due or papers that need to be signed and returned to school. Though you don’t want them to miss out on fun activities, you can’t baby them forever.
Handling paperwork is a great way to help teach your children responsibility. Once you implement a system, it is your child’s job to stick to it. If they can’t remember to put permission slips in the box, file or folder, remind them that there might be consequences. They also need to give you any birthday party invitations and newsletters about upcoming school events.
This can also be a good lesson about consequences. If your children don’t get paperwork to you on time, tell them they might not be able to attend the party or go on the field trip. It’s a tough lesson, but it’s one they definitely won’t want to learn twice.
Make sure your spouse or any other parental figure living with you is aware of the filing system and its consequences for failing to get paperwork in on time. You want to be a united front, and if one of you takes a relaxed approach to the filing system, your children probably will too.
Maintaining organised family paperwork is a challenge for any household. It takes cooperation and participation from all members of the family for the system to work efficiently. Remember that if one system isn’t working, use what is working and try something new.
Keep the paperwork filing process as simple as possible and you’ll have an easier time keeping track of your family’s busy schedule.