Anatomy of an Organizational Project, Part 2

Deborah Health Guide
  • As I said in Part 1 of this examination of an organization project, I thought it would be helpful if I shared the tale of my recent organizational project, figuring out what to do with all the papers generated by school that somehow end up on the dining table and making a big old mess.


    Last time I went through the first step, identifying the problem. In this case, what was a relatively minor problem of stuff being dumped on the dining table and staying there exploded last year when my son started elementary school. Suddenly I was dealing with about 15 new pieces of paper a week, which can really add up. My next step, since I had identified the problem, was finding a solution.

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    Find a solution.


    Since tossing everything as we got it out of Lawrence's knapsack was not an option, I needed to find a way to file the paperwork that would be quick and would also allow us to retrieve something easily when we needed it. If it was just a matter of keeping the papers, just in case, I could throw it all into a box in the closet. But I knew that occasionally we'd have to review the papers, so that wouldn't work. We'd spend too much time looking for a specific paper.


    Last year my husband put everything in a three ring binder. While it was easy to retrieve papers when we needed them, it was a pain to put them in, and it meant we had to have our huge three ring hole punch on the table or nearby.


    I thought of using a file cabinet and hanging folders, but I had a suspicion that the filing system had to be in the dining room, or it wouldn't be used.


    Set up the system.


    I wasn't sure what the best tool for organizing the papers was, so I went to Staples and stared at the wall of accordion files, my best guess for the solution, for a while. I ended up buying a letter size accordion file that stands up. I picked one that was attractive, since it would be out in the open in the dining room.


    Back home, I decided that the sections in the accordion file should be organized by month of the school year, with August at the back. The school papers fell into five categories or types: homework that has been done, graded and returned to us, spelling tests that have been done, graded and returned to us, stories that Lawrence has written and illustrated in class, class exercises in which he comes up with words that rhyme with that week's spelling words and some hybrids of art and schoolwork that they do in class, usually right before a vacation period. I decide that we don't need to hang onto the exercise in which he rhymes spelling words. It's not graded and I don't think we'll ever refer to it.


    Everything else I filed by month, except for the artwork/classwork hybrids, which wouldn't fit in the month slot if anything else went in there. I put them in an empty slot at the back. I spent the rest of the day beaming at how nice and neat the accordion file looked.


    I decided to tackle separately the drawings that either Lawrence had done or a friend had done for him. I need to find some kind of file that's bigger and capable of holding more not only in terms of size of the paper but because it needs to accommodate mixed media (like uncooked pasta used in a project, for instance).


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    Live with the system for a while - put it to the test.


    Sure, I'm really excited when I look at the accordion file holding all the homework and my clean(er) dining table, but we've been on vacation since I set this up. Who knows how well the system will hold up once it's actually being used day to day?


    Identify any issues with your system and refine it.


    Even before using this system while school's in session, I know that I definitely need to get a legal size accordion instead of a letter size. Otherwise it will just become such a pain to jam papers in that I'll start putting it off and making piles instead of filing right away.

Published On: January 14, 2010