Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Kids' Papers, Artwork, and Keepsakes

Need a better way of organizing your kids' papers? From art projects to cards to report cards, this is what has worked for me.

1. Invest in a horizonal filing system. I have one slot for each child. I use post-it notes folded over to label them. This one is chock-full of last year's papers because I haven't yet gotten to steps 4-6.

2. As papers come home, decide what's worth saving. I don't keep many of the math papers or coloring pages. I do keep every report card and a representation of their best artwork. If in doubt, I keep it, because I have another chance to purge it later.

3. As the year goes on, put the papers you are keeping in the horizontal file. Keep up with it all year long and it's not hard at all.

4. At the end of the year, pull out sheet protectors and a binder. Here's one I've made for Joey several years ago (at some point, I'll fancy it up with a nice title page, but for now, this is what it looks like. I have a divider for each year so they can be kept in one binder but stay separated).

5. Pull out the stack of papers you've saved the whole year long. Because you've been putting things in the pile all year long, they are in chronological order already. Just turn the pile upside down, and start putting everything in sheet protectors and into the binder. Now is also your chance to do a final purge of stuff you don't need to keep.

6. Enjoy looking through your child's papers or letting them look at their scrapbook from that year!

Notes like this make all this mothering stuff worthwhile:

Translation for those of you not up on kinderese: "I love you Mommy because you take me on rock hunting."

What do you do to manage your kids' papers and keepsakes?

(also posted on my blog, Hands Full & Loving It (mostly)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Back to School Organization

Five kids in school means five backpacks, lots of papers, dozens of pairs of shoes, lots of socks. Without a plan and some basic organization, that can mean a huge amount of mess every day. I'm lucky enough to have a mudroom to contain some of the stuff, and here's what I've found works well for us.

Last year, I bought these stacking bins to hold each child's backpack. After they do their homework, the backpack and lunch bag goes in their little spot. It was meant as a temporary solution until my husband had time to make more permanent lockers or cubbies or something, but a year later, it's worked so well we've kept it.

(It's mostly empty right now because I took the picture after the kids had left for school)

Recently, I decided our shoe organization needed some improvement. We've always kept all the kid's shoes and socks in our mudroom. We have these great slots underneath a bench that we've been using for nearly four years. We used one each for socks, school shoes, sandals, and closed toe shoes. The problem? Every day, the kids would pull out everyone else's shoes in order to find their own, leaving a big mess. We sort of solved that problem by assigning cleaning the mudroom as a zone to Michael every day. It worked, but I decided this year we needed something better. I originally hoped to find more of the stacking gray bins and to use one for each child's shoes. I couldn't find any like them anywhere. I scoured Lowe's and Home Depot with no luck.

So I improvised.

I found that four of these bins from Shopko (on sale last week for $5 each) fit perfectly on these wire shelves from Costco. Now I have eight bins, one for each child, and the shoe mess has lessened considerably, since the kids only have to pull out one pair of shoes for each of them.

The shelves fit nicely on the west wall of my mudroom. One of the doors in the background leads to the entry way (and therefore, the front door); the other to the garage. I love where my mudroom is located.

And the slots where we kept the shoes? I found these bins fit perfectly inside them and now I have one for swimming gear, one for hats, one for gloves, and one for bags, and of course, still one for socks. We keep everyone's folded socks in one bin. It's simple for the kids to reach in and pull out a pair that fits them and I don't have to worry about sorting socks into eight separate piles.

Next week, I'll share how I handle all the school papers and kid's artwork.

What are your best back to school organization tips?

(also posted on my blog, Hands Full & Loving It (mostly)