Command Centre: Schoolwork File Bins & Series Wrap-up | From Overwhelmed to Organized: Command Centre: Schoolwork File Bins & Series Wrap-up

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Command Centre: Schoolwork File Bins & Series Wrap-up

Command Centre:  Schoolwork File Bins & Series Wrap-up |

Is your kitchen table covered with piles of your kids' schoolwork?  Or maybe you have piles in the living room.  Or your kids’ bedrooms.  Somehow schoolwork seems to keep coming into our homes, and no matter how organized we think we are, it has a way of taking over.  

Today I'll show you the system I implemented recently to help stay on top of all the work my kids take home from school.  I love it and it's made a huge difference in our home.  

This month I've been showing you parts of my kitchen command centre.  If you haven't seen the first five parts, here they are:

A bit of background before I reveal the last part.  

I've tried various systems {unsuccessfully} to manage my kids' schoolwork.  They mostly failed because I didn't maintain them.  And that was primarily because I stored everything in the basement since there is so little room on our main floor.  

There were several problems with everything being stored in the basement.

  1. I had to touch the papers too many times.  Once when they come in the door.  Again when I put them on top of the stairs to go down to the basement.  Then someone else would often bring them downstairs before I would and put them in a pile on the counter in the basement kitchen.  Then I'd still need to put them away.
  2. Because I'm not in the basement very often, the papers would build up.  Eventually I'd deal with them but sometimes often they'd sit in bigger and bigger piles on that counter.  Then it became a big project I'd have to set aside time to tackle, which psychologically made it harder to get done (plus there are always other more urgent things to do).  I'd show you a picture of the huge piles but I was honestly too embarrassed to take one :)
  3. I wasn't purging the schoolwork at all so it just made the task of dealing with them even more overwhelming.

        The other issue with my "system" was that I was just putting everything into a bin for each child (always often sometimes labeling the date on the back), but there was no real way of knowing what was from what year and it wasn't practical to look through it (and what's the point of keeping it if you never look at it?).

        So, in coming up with a better system, these are the things I wanted:

        • A place to keep schoolwork on the main floor so I would remember to deal with it regularly and not have to touch each paper so many times (that's just wasted energy!)
        • A system to keep work separated by year and vertical instead of piled in a bin so we could easily look at their work
        • Limits so that the things we kept were more special and could be appreciated more (which meant I needed to purge both the old papers and the incoming work)

        I was figuring all this out at the same time as I was planning out my kitchen command centre, and I decided the best way to handle my schoolwork problem was to incorporate a spot for storing these papers in our command centre.  I decided to use a file bin for each of my kids and have a hanging folder for each year to keep their work in.  

        I measured the TV stand I was going to use and searched around for bins that would fit.  I needed them to be durable since we’ll be using them for many years and also affordable (some file bins are crazy expensive!).  I found what I wanted at Solutions (sort of a Canadian version of The Container Store).

        I had some extra hanging folders and tabs so I just made a label for each year using my label maker. {I love my label maker and this was my first project with it.  I think it turned out pretty well!}.

        Then came the fun part… going through each kids’ work, sorting it by year (this was partially done but there was still a lot that was not organized), and purging a lot of it so each year would fit nicely into one hanging folder. 

        I involved my kids in this, which made it take even longer, but I think it was worth it.

        If you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen this picture a few weeks ago.  I had to share it because it was such a huge day.  My son does NOT like to get rid of things and he had the most work to go through.  But, I talked with him about it a few times in passing and then in more detail.  And then out of the blue one day, when I was sorting work by grade, he asked if we could get started on deciding what to keep!  After I got over the shock, I jumped at the opportunity and we got started. 

        We decided to make several piles:

        • Recycle
        • Take a picture first and then recycle
        • Keep (we sorted them into early in the year, middle of the year, and late in the year so we could see some of his progression)

        He did REALLY well.  Far beyond my wildest dreams {yes, I dream about organizing schoolwork… does that make me crazy?!}.  

        At first he wanted to keep a lot, but then he kind of got into the taking pictures idea so he put a lot in that pile.  As time went on, he started to realize how much of his work was the same and he added more to the recycle pile.  

        We did a grade at a time, starting with grade 2 and working backwards.  He enjoyed looking at how far he’s progressed.  And he worked fairly quickly, which was fantastic. 

        Initially his bin was jam packed full (with a few piles on the side) but after all was said and done this is how it looks now.

        For now we're still keeping his agendas (those spiral bound things that take up a lot of space) because they have interesting notes and show progress in his writing throughout the year.  At some point I may take them out and store them somewhere else.  

        We haven’t done much with his grade 3 folder because he wants to go through it all at once at the end of the year.  But, as schoolwork comes into the house now, I've noticed that he’s recycling or taking pictures of some of it. 

        Here’s my daughter, hard at work {taking her own pics with the DSI}.

        She had less to go through since she’s only in grade 1, but she took a LOT longer going through everything.  She wanted to look at each thing, and had a lot of fun looking back at things she made when she was younger.  She’s usually really good at purging toys, books, and clothes, but she had a tough time with her artwork.  

        She put a LOT in the picture pile.  It took a few sessions to go through her work too {and lots of patience on my part :)} but she got better at making quicker decisions as she went.

        Here’s her bin now (it also started out nearly full).

        I may need to purge a little more from her Senior Kindergarten folder sometime but I'm really happy with the amount she did overall.

        Both kids learned how to decide what was special (things that are unique, created for someone in particular, show progression in writing, drawing, etc.).  And they learned that if everything is important then nothing is important {one of the best tips I've learned from Peter Walsh!}.  The also recognized that keeping everything isn’t practical since they already had so much and had many more years of school ahead of them.  Using these bins and folders helped establish limits for them.

        It was a long process, but WELL worth the effort. And we actually had fun while we were doing it - which I was not expecting!

        Now, when my kiddos bring schoolwork or artwork home, they add it to their current grade’s folder if they want to keep it (or if they want to decide at the end of the year).  If something is too big to fit, we take a picture of them holding it and then throw it out or display it for a little while first. 

        And because the bins are part of the command centre, right below their backpack bins, this system is simple to maintain too.  No more touching papers several times, only to have them end up in piles that became overwhelming. 

        Here’s how these bins fit with the rest of the command centre:

        I LOVE these bins!  And I love my command centre!  

        Here's the whole thing.  It makes me smile :)  

        Every part works together beautifully.  And it doesn't take up much space.  That end wall was not used much anyway and the floor there often ended up as a dumping zone for things so we were used to walking around stuff in that spot.  

        I hope this series has inspired you to create your own command centre if you don't already have one.  Decide what elements are going to help you the most and figure out the best way to incorporate each of them.  There are lots of tips scattered through each post to help you out.  

        I was going to do a wrap-up post to the series with tips but most of it would overlap with what I already said in the command centres post that I wrote as part of the 31 Days of Organizing Tips series.   

         You can also check out my on Pinterest for more inspiration.

        How do you organize your kids’ schoolwork and artwork?  What do you feel is the most overwhelming part of dealing with it?  What elements do you think are most important in a command centre?  Please leave a comment with your tips, comments, or questions!

        Happy organizing!

        I link up at these great parties - Check them out!

        Here are all the posts in this series: