Aug 182014

Back to school orgI have a confession to make.

My son is starting kindergarten in just a few days and I’m petrified.

On the positive side, I’m not going to be going crazy trying to plan activities for him or waking up at 5 am just to get things done because he’s home all day and needs constant attention.

On the other hand, I’m going to miss him terribly.

I know it’s a cliché, but they grow up so fast!

And then there is another less important yet really annoying fear, the fear of being overwhelmed by papers.

You see, a couple of weeks ago I gathered my son’s school supply list and went to the store. After an hour or so I got almost everything on the list. Some items I flat out had no idea what they were, like xerographic paper (which it turns out that it’s just paper).

Some items where really hard to find. That was the case of the made in the USA #2 pencils. Really? Don’t teachers know that everything comes from China these days? I was left wondering if that list had been unchanged since 1980s. Luckily Amazon had the gosh darn pencils, for triple the price.

So, Pencils, #2, made in the USA – CHECK!

After getting the backpack ready I thought it would be a great idea to get some more insight on getting organized for school.

That was when I learned about the mountain of papers kids bring home from school.

I was less than thrilled about that because, though I’m a pretty organized person, papers are my nemesis.

We mothers already spend a ton of time going through junk mail, important mail, and bills to now have to go through our kid’s backpacks every day!

So I went online and spent hours reading every article you can imagine on how to keep up with school papers.

Why you need to have a system

How much free time do you have for yourself during the week? Let me guess. Not much.

If you have kids after dinner, dishes, showers, brush teeth, night stories, etc., by the time it’s your time to relax you are totally drained.

So now you have to add going through your kid’s backpacks and sorting papers and artwork every day?

Just what I was looking forward to!

What are the options? Well, you either process those papers or risk your kid not having the authorization to go to that awesome field trip all his friends are going on.

It’s safe to say that if they miss that trip, you can kiss your Mommy-Of-The-Year award goodbye.

How can you make sure you don’t miss important stuff while keeping it as little time consuming as possible?

You need a strategy. You need a simple fast one. You need a plan that will keep you from having the occasional slip, right when you are the busiest and your head can’t hold any more information.

Let’s first make a list of the things that will be coming in that backpack. There’s going to be:

  • artwork, tons of it, much more than what you can store
  • homework and projects
  • graded papers
  • notes from the school
  • things you need to buy or authorize or prepare for
  • dates of tests, field trips, project deadlines, etc.


What can you use to stay organized and clutter free?

When you can’t let things slip, there’s nothing like Outlook, or one of its competitors. No, sticky notes on the fridge are never as effective as a reminder in your laptop or smartphone that never goes away. After several years as a Project Manager I know what works to stay on top of my schedule.

Seriously, you can customize it, set reminders, and keep the activity open until it’s completed. You can have the info of the teachers, bus drivers, and your kid’s best friend’s mom’s number in case you need an emergency favor.

You are also going to need a couple of folders.

Remember the tons of artwork? You need to put that somewhere. I put the glitter pieces quickly in the trash as I’m not a huge fan of glitter on my sofa or all over the floor. Then I decide what I’ll save for years and what can be tossed.

Lastly, after reading a ton of articles on this topic, one idea stuck with me. Make your kids help you with the organization. Have a calendar where they can check what is coming up for them.

What goes where?

So this is what I’m planning to do every day after my professional mess-maker gets home from school.

  1. Take all the papers out of the backpack
  2. Separate any homework that needs to be done immediately and give it to your child
  3. Artwork: either toss it or save the nice ones in a folder
  4. Same goes for graded stuff (save what you may need later on or want to keep and toss the rest)
  5. Special projects or papers he’ll be completing later on can go in a separate folder
  6. Sign and put back anything that needs to go back to school
  7. Set reminders in Outlook for trips, plays, birthday parties, book returns, school vacation or any other event. Since I have plenty of room in the Outlook event I can make the necessary notes and toss that paper. I can even take a picture with my phone of the piece of paper, send it to my email and from there attach it to the event (again, more papers go to the trash).
  8. Enter in the weekly groceries event (also in Outlook) anything you’ll need to buy for school
  9. Together with my kid, make a note in the wall calendar with his favorite color marker, of any activity he needs to know

Wow! Those are a lot of steps. Hopefully we won’t have to go through all of those every day.

In any case now that there is a plan in place it should get faster and faster. Plus, the clutter level will be very controlled, just how I like it.

Did I miss any major clutter source? Leave a comment.


  • Ani Satos

    Loved the part of involving your kid in the organization. That activity will help him get motivated to organize his stuff. And maybe maximize mom and dad’s quality time with him (as oposed to you organizing while he is off somewhere else )