Dear Jo the Clutterbuster:
Since the first day of school, I have been inundated with paper and to do’s. There are permission slips to sign, notes from teachers to read, after-school activities to arrange, cookies to bake, costumes to make, homework to check, backpacks to empty and lunch boxes to clean.
How can I be sure that I get an A+ for parenting?
Even if you don’t have children living at home, you may want to read this blog entry. You might have friends or relatives who complain about how the paper in their children’s lives makes them crazy. In this blog, I will encourage you to establish specific systems. Then you will learn how to use these systems in the next part of this blog.
Prior to the start of school:
With your child, clean out under their bed, the toy box, bookshelves, etc. Discard or donate any items that are broken, unwanted or unused.
Clean out the closet. If necessary, try on all clothing to determine what still fits, needs repair, should be donated or discarded. Divide the closet and chest of drawers into ‘clothing for school’ and ‘clothing for play.’ Label the drawers and designated areas. This not only expedites getting dressed, but makes it easier for them to put away their clothes. (Yes, they can learn to hang up their clothes.)
Set up a Communication Center.
A basic communication center consists of the following:
- Calendar on which to record deadlines, upcoming events, commitments, appointments. This can be paper based or digital. Everyone should be able to read, access, add or delete information using the system.
- Pens, pencils, paper, erasers, computer and printer, print paper
- Petty cash and small change
- Bulletin board for emergency information, list of teachers and their email addresses and telephone numbers. (Do not use this bulletin board for pizza coupons!)
- In Box/Basket for you
- In Box/Basket for older students who may receive personal snail mail or with whom you only text and leave written messages.
- Specific place to keep backpacks. It may be on a hook near the door, in the coat closet, next to their bed. It just has to be “the” place where it is always kept.
Create communication procedures that everyone agrees to and can follow. (See School Dazed – Part 2)
Set up a Homework Center.
Whether in the kitchen, dining room, bedroom, basement, it is important to identify one specific place as the Homework Center. Include your student in the decision making process. Some young people like to be close to parents while they are working; others want solitude. Like adults, we have preference for where and how we work.
Stock the space with materials they may need: pencils, paper, rulers, stapler with staples, computer, printer, clock. Adequate supplies insure that your child will not waste time searching for what they might need. Be sure everything is put back where it belongs after they finish their work.
Establish a homework procedure. (See School Dazed- Part 2.)
Set up a Display Center.
The refrigerator (or a bulletin board) is often the display center for artwork or exceptional school papers. Frequently, the “gallery” becomes so cluttered with old work, there is no place to display new achievements.
All art galleries rotate their works. You can do the same. Place an empty 8x11 inch magnetic picture frame onto the refrigerator. Each week, ask your student to select their favorite school paper or art work from the week to exhibit in the frame.
What do you do with the other papers? The answer will appear in the next blog. (School Dazed blog – Part 2) so for now, collect them in one place.
Set up School Memorabilia Boxes.
Most children attend school for 12 years. They generate a great deal of paper and projects during those years. Not all of that work is dear to the heart. It is important to keep those things that have special meaning to them. These items should be kept in boxes. They can be plastic boxes or cardboard boxes. The advantage to the plastic containers is they are waterproof and clear so you can see the contents. The paper boxes can be obtained for free and are often made of recycled cardboard.
Label one box: School Paper. Divide the box into 12 sections using expandable file folders – one for each year of school. Label the second box: Projects and Objects. Locate a place in which these boxes will be stored. Because they are of an archival nature, they should not be stored in a bedroom. Because they must be accessed yearly, they should not be kept in Siberia.
For ways to use these systems effectively, read School Dazed – Part 2.