Friday, March 18, 2011

Project 365 - Day 76

This week's Simple Mom Project Simplify challenge was paper clutter. Those very words made my blood run cold. There are many forms of clutter in my house, but paper clutter is by far the worst. The problem with paper clutter is its breadth - it's not just one "thing," like clothes clutter. Clothes are clothes. But with paper clutter you have mail clutter, receipts clutter, photograph clutter, magazine clutter, kids' art work clutter (sorry kids); catalog clutter, bank statement clutter, investment prospectus clutter, bills clutter and on and on. When I first saw that this was this week's challenge, I almost didn't see how it could be done in a week. But Simple Mom had some great strategies for approaching this, and (thankfully) I was not starting at square one, as the alien who took over my formerly disorganized body a few months ago began implementing a paper management system for our house at the beginning of the year.

Because paper is so ubiquitous, it's harder to post one "after" picture that captures the paper organization. The best after shot of a workable paper management system is really the absence of piles of paper where they're not supposed to be, as Simple Mom alluded to. I chose for my Project 365 photo the "end" spot for our paper, the file cabinet, where the select few keeper papers ultimately land after a long, arduous journey and many stops along the way.

So many kinds of paper, so little time! I guess I'll begin with a before shot of some magazines that had started to pile up in the den:

Honestly, those magazines should ALL get recycled. I know I'm not going to go looking for the hard copy of the March 2010 Family Fun if I want some St. Patrick's craft ideas -- I'm going to jump on the website. But I LOVE magazines, and I like having them around, so while I have recycled stacks and stacks of magazines so far this year, I couldn't help but keep some bookshelves in our basement:

I'm not completely reformed yet, but I'm okay with it. At least I made room for some new magazines in the baskets in our den. And I promise I'll eventually get rid of these too -- pinky swear!

The key to our paper system lately has been this secretary:

It serves as a temporary holding ground for a myriad of papers. One drawer holds three 2" three ring binders that I bedazzled with scrapbook paper, one for each child:

(Jacob's is the manly-manlier green gingham). This is where I keep all of the school papers that are not too big for it -- and in the case of my preschooler, most papers are in fact too big for it. But it works quite well for the majority of my 8 year old's and 6 year old's papers, holding all kinds of school work, class schedules, Good Library Manners certificates, school program flyers, (smaller) art work, report cards, etc. etc. Confession (if not obvious from the previous sentence): I way oversave.

I may have to clear these out a bit to make it through the end of the school year. I'm okay with filling one 2" binder per kid per school year, even though I can already hear the "mom always was a little -- what's the word I'm looking for? -- insane." whispers in 20 or 30 years when I deliver a truckload of polka dot binders full of spelling tests to each child's attic). Again, I'm not quite where I want to be, because I know I'm holding on to too much, but I feel like I'm making progress just in figuring out a somewhat deliberate way to contain things.

Overflow kid school work/art work gets thrown into a bin in the bottom drawer of the secretary:

along with any other papers that need to make their way to the basement filing cabinet, until I get around to moving them. Which is theoretically supposed to be every Friday. Once they actually make it downstairs, they pretty much land in one of two spots: the kids' art that is too big to fit into the binders go into these Sterilite bins:

Each child has a bin, and David and I share one (not for our shaving cream art, sadly, but for drawings/notes the kids made especially for us, greeting cards, etc). Simple Mom is trying to follow the "three pieces of art per child per year guideline" -- one handprint, one handwriting sample, and one drawing. I love that idea, but there is no way I could limit it to that. I feel like I'm doing well to limit myself to 300 pieces per child per year! I can triumph over sentimentality when it comes to clothes, but not my kids' art work. That said, I understand that no piece is quite as special if you have 10,000 original masterpieces, so I really am working on paring it down. I find it gets easier with time -- I might not be able to throw away a drawing someone came home with yesterday, but after months/years go by, I gain some perspective and can let some more of it go more easily. Once these bins fill up, I know I really need to go through them and thin them out (although I am on bin #2 for Jacob and Elizabeth - doh!). Once again, baby steps. At least it's all in one place (for the most part!)

The non-kid papers that need to get filed or shredded go into this lidded basket on top of the file cabinet until I can file/shred them, which is theoretically supposed to be on the last Friday of the month.

And there you have it - a paper hoarder's paper management system!

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