Welcome to Day 9 in our Clutter-Free Challenge.
Today as we wrap up paper clutter, I’m going to share some tips for some of the papers that sit in a pretty basket somewhere in your home until they overflow. Then you go find another basket and fill that up too. Or perhaps you’ve got little slips of paper taped on the fridge and sticky notes spread around and you have no idea where to put that information. And if you have children … well … enough said.
I find that paper accumulates in my home because I simply don’t know where to put it. However, when I force myself to think things through, usually I come up with a “home” for the paper. And when paper has a home, it’s easier to manage.
Here are some paper practices that have worked for me:
Special cards, papers and letters
If you’re like me, you love to hold on to birthday cards you’ve received, a love note from your spouse or a drawing from a child. Those items hold precious memories for me, such as the self-portrait my eldest son did in kindergarten – it was a rainbow.
For notes and small drawings, I have another three-ring binder with acid-free plastic page protectors. I write the date on the back, slip it into a page protector and it’s done. (Yes, I like 3-ring binders)
For special cards and other mementos, I have a lovely memory box in my closet. For example, I date birthday cards and store them in gallon zip lock plastic bags according to year. I do the same for my children, however, I add information about their birthday party, such as what we did, who attended and what gifts they received. These bags are stored in memory boxes in each child’s room.
As your child grows, you’ll want to save mementos, figurines or special outfits. Purchase storage boxes specifically for these items. As you remove items from your child’s room to place in the memory box, be sure to identify the significance (if it isn’t obvious) and wrap them securely in bubble wrap or clean wrapping paper. Photographs should be placed in acid-free envelopes. Store these boxes in a dry, cool place. If you have more than one child, clearly mark each box and each item to remove confusion in years to come.
Children’s school papers
With our first child we saved everything! Every handprint made into a turkey and coloring page is priceless. Unless you have lots of storage, this may get difficult as the years go on, and as you have more children. To keep your kids and you clutter-free, here are some tips that work for us.
1) Purchase a colored pocket folder for each child.
Every year we get welcome letters from the teacher, classroom rules, student lists and a school handbook. To keep that information handy, yet organized, I put them in an inexpensive colored pocket folder for each child. These folders lie flat in a kitchen drawer, ready for easy access.
2) Create another file for school items you want to save.
In our permanent file drawers each child also has their own hanging file. Because it’s not feasible to save everything, I have some criteria for what gets saved:
- Something that shows my child’s development at that age
- Papers with teacher notes of praise
- Papers that show an area of struggle (but not “failure”)
- Something that shows my child’s uniqueness, such as drawings, stories and poems.
3) At the end of the school year, purchase 9”x12” clear/transluscent expandable plastic envelopes from the office products store. Most school papers fit inside this envelope. Put your child’s school picture in the front, along with a piece of paper stating the school year. Store this envelope in a plastic storage box specifically for school papers.
4) To help out-of-state grandparents or other family members keep in touch with your child’s development, consider sending some of the school papers and drawings to them. To ease the process, pre-address a 9”x12” envelope, and mail every couples of months. Another tip is to write a letter on the back of the drawings, making it into a home-made card.
Phone numbers, addresses and passwords
Because I do most of my work on the computer, I use Outlook to store all kinds of information. I use the calendar for appointments and reminders of things like friend’s birthdays, due dates for bills, and when to call for an annual appointment. I schedule many things to recur monthly or annually so I only enter them once (like birthdays), and I color code special dates like when bills are due and speaking events. I’m thankful to have a smart phone and sync those calendars.
In addition to Outlook, I also have a Rolodex address box. That’s the kind with the removable cards. I use this for business cards and contacts that just don’t work well in Outlook. For example, I have one card for our kid’s college accounts and I have each child’s account number and password listed on the same card. I also keep low risk passwords in this file.
I feel like I’ve just dipped my toes in the pool of paper clutter. I’m sure there are many things I haven’t addressed, like homeschooling, scrapbooking supplies and photos. But I want to move on to other areas of the home since we only have six days left on this challenge to enjoy less clutter in our minds, schedules and homes. Thank you for joining me on this journey.
Grace & Peace,
Heavenly Father, I praise You for your unchanging nature, for Your goodness and for Your faithfulness. Thank You for loving me in spite of my many weak areas, and for seeing my potential when I don’t see it myself. Help me to see that my clutter and disorganization don’t define me. My value is found in my position in Christ and what He did on my behalf. Thank You! In Jesus name, Amen.
If you want more encouragement and tips on how to bring order to your mind, schedule and home, I hope you’ll consider purchasing my book, “I Used to Be So Organized.” It’s available through Proverbs 31 Ministries, Amazon, or wherever books are sold. Thank you.