From preschool to high school, whether you have one child or four, back-to-school means PAPER.  If you do a quick Pinterest search, you’ll find so many different ways to organize your child’s papers – there are solutions for every budget and every style. I’ve tried a few different strategies, from a binder to bins to a file box, but haven’t found the right solution yet. Until now. I think I’ve finally conquered the paper piles!

Be honest, how many of you have piles like this at your house?

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Look familiar to anyone? Our dining room table is the landing pad for pretty much everything that goes in or out of our home. This pile includes work papers for me, Molly’s back-to-school paperwork, catalogs for fall shopping, recipes that I tore out of magazines, and pictures that I ordered that need to be framed or put in an album. This is actually a tame stack, but I knew with school starting back in a few weeks, that it would get worse before it gets better. {Confession: I didn’t return my daughter’s school paperwork until October last year. October! How embarrassing. I had misplaced it and had to finally ask for another set, then it took me weeks to finish it up.} Anyway, I decided this would be the year to really tame the paper clutter around here! I started brainstorming what would really work for me.

A few key features of organization for me include:

  • style
  • accessibility
  • function
  • cost

Basically, if it’s not pretty and easy to use (and within our budget), then it won’t work. I’ve used incredibly inexpensive methods that aren’t easy on the eyes, so then I hide it away and it’s not longer easily accessible. And I don’t know about you, but if it’s not easily accessible, it doesn’t get used. Then, I’ve seen some beautiful solutions that would require oh, an entire home renovation, which isn’t in the budget right now.

So, using the space that I have, I brainstormed what we need organization-wise and made one purchase: a pretty file box from The Container Store. Yes, I could have gotten a plastic one anywhere, but the pretty file box was relatively inexpensive and I just needed one. And it was going to be sitting out in my kitchen or on my dining room table most of the time, so pretty won.

I looked through my paper piles and sorted everything that comes in daily and/or I need in the immediate future. {We have a larger file cabinet upstairs that holds more permanent paperwork.} The folders don’t all match and some have handwritten labels and some have labels from my label maker. I thought that would really bother me, and although it would be fun to have fancy, colorful folders with consistent labels, it’s not a necessity right now.

These are the folders I created:

  1. one for each child
  2. Molly’s school
  3. recipes to try
  4. to-do (includes papers to be signed, mailed, passed on, etc.)
  5. gift ideas (when I see something in a magazine or catalog that a friend might like, I tear it out and put it here)
  6. house ideas
  7. things to buy
  8. coupons
  9. receipts
  10. pictures
  11. Junior League committee papers

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So far, so good. The file box usually hangs out on our washing machine, but is easy enough to move around the kitchen and dining room as I need it. I have to be diligent about actually putting the papers IN the file box, but I’ve found it only takes a few minutes of my day. And I’d much rather spend a few minutes putting the papers where they go than moving a pile of papers from the table to the sideboard to the table to the counter to the…well, you get the idea.

I realize that as Molly gets older, I’ll need to have a place for her to be accountable for some of her own papers (field trip permission slips, etc.) but for now, this works for our family. It’s pretty, functional and available right where I need it.

The best strategy is to look at how much paperwork your family has on a daily basis, where it accumulates (if your kitchen counter is the landing spot, create storage THERE, not in an upstairs office), and how to make it accessible/easy to use for the ones who need to get to it. As I mentioned, Pinterest is chock full of ideas and there are several blogs that focus on pretty organization. A quick search should turn up a lot of options!

Tell us, how do YOU organize your daily paperwork?