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Organization at home saves time and money

August 31, 2007|By LISA PREJEAN

A trail of paper is making its way into our homes.

It tumbles out of book bags, folders, lunchboxes, pants pockets and wherever else our children decide to stick it.

It comes in the form of homework, sports schedules, health forms, invitations, field trip notices and other school-related announcements.

Our kids have started bringing it home. Now we have to decide what to do with it.

Handling all that paper can seem overwhelming, but if we stay on top of things from the beginning, all will be well.

Where can you start? First, if you don't have a current calendar, pick up one this weekend. You'll be glad you did.

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Put the calendar in a place where everyone can see it. As soon as your child brings home a schedule or a field trip form or an invitation, write the date(s) on your calendar.

After recording the dates, file that piece of paper.

I typically keep several folders in a vertical file on the desk in our kitchen. The folders are labeled so anyone in the family can find what they need. Soccer schedules, team photo information, copies of the medical permission form, etc., are placed in the soccer folder. Piano lesson information goes in the piano folder. Church activities and schedules go in the church folder.

Things have to be easy to find, especially at this time of year, when activities are kicking into gear.

This file is also where I keep the recipes or the list of meals I have planned for the week. I look at the activities on the calendar and plan meals around what we have going on. Then I buy groceries based on what I'm planning to fix. It saves time and money to plan ahead.

Perhaps the most challenging papers to deal with are the ones our children do in class. Should we toss them? Should we keep them? Will our children need them to study for the next test? I typically keep papers for about three weeks in folders labeled "School papers for (Child's name)." Once a class topic appears to have changed, I figure the teacher has moved on, and so can I.

What about those library books that seem to accumulate in corners, on the floor and up the stairs? Keeping track of due dates is not easy.

It helps to have a place for all library materials. My son keeps all of his beside the bookshelf in his room so he doesn't get them mixed up with his own books. I keep my library books on top of the nightstand in my room.

One of our friends has a shelf on her bookcase that is just for library books. Find a space that works for you.

One of the best library services I've found in recent months is available for free at www.libraryelf.com. This e-mail reminder service lets you know three days in advance when books are due. It also keeps track of multiple library cards. Each e-mail reminder lists the books checked out, reserves placed and overdue books for every person in your family. It saves time and money for families who depend heavily on the public library system.

Another way to keep organized during the school year is to establish evening and morning routines.

In addition to completing homework, a child's evening routine should include packing his lunch and selecting clothes to wear the next day. Your mornings will go much more smoothly if you train your child to get these two things done before bedtime. A child as young as 7 or 8 can be taught to pack his own lunch. You will need to help initially and supervise so the lunch is well-balanced. A good time to do this is while dinner is cooking.

If your child selects an outfit for the next day, there won't be a mad scramble for the missing sock as you're trying to get out the door in the morning.

The evening is also a good time to look at the calendar to see what's going on the next day. Gather anything that you need and place it by the door. Think of that place as your launchpad. Our launchpad is a bench by the door. That's where we place book bags, music books, gym clothes, sports uniforms, etc.

Best wishes for a smooth beginning to your school year.

P.S.: Don't forget to start with a calendar.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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