Every Tuesday my kid’s elementary school sends the equivalent of one phone book’s worth of paper home with my kids. Times two. No, seriously. Actually they are the collection agency for “Lots of Paper Without Homes”, then they divide the paper by the students and send those papers home. Really. Ok, all joking aside, the school is actually a recycling plant for paper and they recycle millions of pounds a week using secret people and the kid’s backpacks.
25 sheets = 1 quire
500 sheets = 1 ream
1,000 sheets = 1 bundle
5,000 sheets = 1 bale
We should just familiar ourselves with these measurements so we can communicate more efficiently with one another. “I had about one bale in little Johnny’s backpack today.” “Oh, you did? We have been only getting 3 bundles lately.” “REALLY?! I heard that that other school is only sending home 2 quires!” “NO!” “YES!” “Stop it!” “I know, right?!”
My kids are in on it too. They take a piece of paper and scribble a line on it and tell me I need to keep it forever.
And then there is their finished school work. It feels wrong to throw it away. What if they need to reference it? What if the teacher asks me to recall an old assignment (which has happened.) And what if, horror, upon horror, my child feels his hard work is not valuable because he sees it in the garbage?
All parents know that Spring is to parents what Mother’s Day and Christmas are to postal workers…Paper Purgatory.
I have almost won it, or at least am putting on a good show. I will show you here.
If you are raging any kind of war on clutter it is important to understand two things.
One. That’s it. You can only have ONE step involved in dealing with it. If it has one step but it involves walking into another room then that becomes two steps, and you probably won’t do it. It has to take less than 3 seconds to manage it. Unless you are gifted in the art of living with minimal things and have lots of time and like complicated systems and have live in help…then this does not apply to you.
Two. It has to be in a container. Look I show you. (I’m drinking coffee. For those that read regularly you know that when I drink coffee I speak and sometimes write with a Colombian accent.)
This was real time. I just did that. And when I was putting all the papers back, yes, I was stymied. I don’t know if I want to order a second set of school pictures, and I missed a deadline on something–is it too late? Does my son still plan on making me, and make us, make play dough from scratch using peanut butter? I better hold on to that piece of paper a bit longer. Am I signing them up for that summer camp or not? I already put all the sports schedules on the calendar but what if I need to double-check one? I better keep the hard copy the coach gave me. And is that book points reward coupon still redeemable? The point is they are all in one place looking purposeful until I have the presence of mind to act, or not.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back. And simplify.
One step to deal with it– and it must be contained. Purposeful clutter.
We have one hanging bin where my kids do homework where the homework in action is kept. Spelling words, unfinished homework, upcoming test prep. NOTHING else can go in it.
We have the stand up file pictured previously where the parent in action is kept.
And then we have this:
The holding basket. EVERYTHING they finish goes in this basket which is hidden–finished art work (4 out of 10 times it is unfinished and I did not know this and they are looking for it to finish and I can smartly reply it is here instead of the garbage/lost/floating in middle distance on the kitchen counter) and finished homework. It’s the dead zone. Then when I feeling energetic I go through the basket and pull out what I want to keep as a memento, or what I want to give to Grandma. I “recycle” the rest except for any schoolwork that looks really important? I throw that back in the basket–if we haven’t needed it by the end of the school year then it will be “recycled” too. (I still keep random school work for their Memory Boxes–which is just a box in their closets separated inside by age/school year in extra large ziplock bags.)
There use to be a binder. But it didn’t take. There were folders inside for School, Sports, Church, etc… All the reference items were kept in it–school ID numbers, schedules, important dates. It involved 4 Steps to contain and I couldn’t deal with it. One to open the closet, two to get the binder, three to open the binder, four to put the paper in appropriate folder. Who has time for that? Now all that stuff goes into the stand up file where all the parent in action papers are. It’s a one step action.
Seriously, I am committed to abolishing paper clutter but I recognize my limitations. Time. And the paper is stronger and faster than I am. Sometimes there is a stray piece that just doesn’t fall into any one category and so I leave it on the counter in defiance of all that is important to me in the fight against this war, until my husband comes along and throws it away. God Bless Him.