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Use letter trays to prioritize school papers

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Too many children's school papers are enough to drive any mother crazy. They come in droves from the school, it seems, and clutter the home here and there until you are frustrated and angry. But there are easy solutions to this problem. Would you like me to share some ideas?

Plan on having three progressive "homes" for all paperwork, including children's school papers. The "first home" is where papers are put when the children come home from school. My favorite setup includes stacked letter trays, which accommodate the papers nicely if one tray is established and labeled for each child. This home keeps the papers safe until Mom or Dad can review them.

The "second home" for papers comes after a sorting and decisionmaking process. "Yes, I think I will keep this autobiographical paper by John. No, I won't keep that poor spelling test. Yes, I will keep this painted picture. No, I won't keep that mediocre history test." The papers that merit saving at this point are filed and "seasoned" for a bit until final decisions can be made about them. Of course, some papers are signed and returned to school, some papers are homework that need to be completed and returned to backpacks, but the papers which have been brought home and are planning to stay, should be sorted through by a parent and then filed in this "second home," this time using one labeled file folder per child in your handiest file drawer or box. I have found that if papers are allowed to season for a month, we are more likely to make good decisions about whether they deserve to be kept forever.

Lastly, the final resting place for papers that are precious enough to keep as part of your children's personal history can, after a month's seasoning, be put in the "third and last home," their individual journal binders. I suggest that when the school year begins (or even better when a child is born) a 1-2" wide, sturdy binder be purchased or designated for each child, labeled with his or her name, and put on a shelf near the homemaker's desk. Inside the binder are dividers labeled with each succeeding year from now until the child will be 20 years old.

When papers are seasoned and you are sure they are precious enough to be kept forever, punch them and put them in the appropriate child's binder behind the appropriate year's divider. This will keep the papers neatly arranged chronologically, make an automatic journal of sorts for the children, and keep the precious papers safe for posterity. A second, third or fourth binder can be added as the first binder fills up with the remaining, unused dividers moved to the new binder.

So, think in threes:

"First home" (letter trays),

"Second home" (file folders),

"Third home" (journal binders).

This keeps children's school papers flowing through your life and home with order and proper confinement. Your life will be easier, your children will learn some discipline, and when you get that long-winded friend on the phone, you can sort, punch and store those papers you want to keep quite nicely.

Marie C. Ricks is a motivational speaker and the author of the House of Order Handbook and other home management materials. To order her products, offer comments, suggestions or questions, go to www.houseoforder.com. © Marie Calder Ricks/House of Order