With back to school finally underway for us (we didn’t start until September 9th due to construction), I thought now would be a good time to share what we do in our house to organize the endless sea of papers that come in from school, sports, and mail OH MY!
This command center lives right across from our kitchen desk and has evolved over the years as the kids have moved into and out of preschool, then into and out of the upper grades where there is less art and less of a need for a place to keep homework that needs to be re-visited over the course of the week like spelling and vocabulary words. Another problem we were having was dealing with chargers and devices and having a central place to “re-charge” them all at night. (Oh, and by the way, I am currently not affiliated in any way with any of the stores or links I am providing in this post… just a huge fan!)
So, a few years back we purchased a Hemnes bookcase from Ikea.
This allowed us to use the bottom shelf for a basket that we could use for all of our paper recycling that could not go in the normal recycling bins. When it filled up (more like, started overflowing because it could happen in the blink of an eye), we (and by “we” I mean “I”) would take it to a local paper recycling bin and dump it in. The remaining shelves needed to house the following: an “inbox” for our incoming mail, each child needed a place for weekly papers (that didn’t get turned in until the end of the week), as well as a few supplies like a ruler and pencil or two to have at their disposal during homework time and a place for devices to rest while charging… oh, and ALL.THOSE.CHARGERS.
So, what I decided would work best were these double drawer units from The Container Store (aka Paradise). If each child had his or her own, they could use them for
- Weekly spelling and vocabulary papers due at the end of the week
- Devices or cords and misc. parts that belong to each child’s devices (these things drive me nuts!)
I love these drawer units because the drawers can also come completely out and be carried over to the island or table where said homework is being done. IDEALLY, this means the kiddos should be ready to go with pencil and papers without having to be told umpteen times to go get all those things. IDEALLY, this means homework time goes smoothly and without tears. IDEALLY is not always REALITY but we can certainly try. And try. And try.
We drilled a hole in the back of the unit big enough for a power strip that could hold all of the devices, and started configuring. I found this organizing unit at Homegoods that was just a little too long to fit inside the shelves, so Mr. Home Matters shaved off the lip on each side – BOOM! It fit LIKE A GLOVE! The larger sections were good for iPads and the flat sections good for phones or iPods and the little drawer was great for extra parts or plugs that did not necessarily belong to any one of us.
We made the inbox sit on the middle shelf for easy access (and everyone could reach it). And we made the distance between that shelf and the next one above it tall enough to fit a binder standing up. This binder is where we house all of the important class papers for each child, the bus garage contact information, student numbers, and so on. If Mrs. Strictly said to hang on to the handwriting sample sheet – this is where it went. If Mr. Betternotloseit says we needed to keep the online textbook links at our fingertips, this is where it will go!
Now, what about all of those other papers… because despite the school’s best attempts at going paper free, there are STILL papers. Papers for days. Papers upon papers. Upon papers.
There are school photos, there are dance recital newsletters, there are doctor’s forms that need saved over the summer or physical forms or prescriptions for that mammogram, or paperwork to take to that new dermatologist. It NEVER ends!
For these papers, I purchased this wall set of Kvissle folder and magazine holders also from Ikea. I hung it on the side of the bookcase so as to have it right there at our fingertips…again, right by the kitchen desk. I got pretty yellow designed folders and put each person’s name on one, including PETS. Because even pets have papers, right?
The only problem with this shelf unit now?
Despite our best attempts at making this the most organized and well-oiled machine of a bookcase, there was no hiding the fact that there was still too much visual clutter – perhaps I’m the only one it bothered (perhaps? I’m 100% certain this was true) but after working in a basement that has constant projects for doing all things crafty and creative, I needed desperately to NOT have this clutter starting at me every time I was making dinner or lunches or eating dinner at the dining table. It just kept getting louder as it spoke to me.
That was it. I couldn’t take being spoken to like that by a bookcase. It was time to put the proverbial soap in it’s mouth for being so disrespectful. It was time for…. A DOOR.
Wait… but how? A door? Did Ikea make doors for this unit? Ummm… apparently at one point in time but, in my best Inspector Clouseau voice (I’m dating myself here)… NOT ANYMORE.
Time to bring in the big guns. Insert “Mr. Tom.” Mr. Tom is our go-to guy for all things out of our league. Mr. Tom has done everything from putting an addition on our house to finishing our basement to building a cute pergola over our garage door to making the perfectly round grooved clock backgrounds we use for our workshops. I needed a door STAT. I knew what I wanted which was a door that had a chalkboard on it so that I could leave chore lists in the summertime, or reminders for this that and everything. Tom not only made us a door, but he made it with soft close hinges! All I had to do was the painting. (It’s really too bad I had no idea I’d be writing a blog post about this back when we were doing this project or I’d have more photos…Soooo, you’ll have to just imagine what all that clutter behind this not-yet-hung-door looked like. )
Once that door went on, it was instant relief. Clutter be gone!
On the inside of the door, we hang the school calendar for easy reference and hide-ability. (And, yes…that’s last year’s calendar if you’re really observant…we haven’t received this year’s yet as each kid says their teachers said another sibling should have received it. So, we tracked one down and child number three should be bringing it home today.)
One last thing this set of shelves holds for Mr. Home Matters and I is our catalogs and magazines we want to read. I purchased these wall baskets from World Market and hung them off the side under our folders. (Sorry, folks… I was unable to find the link for this online at the time of this post.) Judging from this photo, can you guess which one of us caught up on all of our magazine reading over the summer?
I guess, in summary, this shelf had to be able to hold the majority of paper-type items that enter this house. When papers come in the door from the mailbox or school or even the printer, I wanted to be able to quickly sort everything right away. It’s definitely not fool-proof. But it’s a heck of a lot better than letting it all pile up on the kitchen island!
How has your year started? This is how my middle child felt about school about a whopping six days in!
Do you have a command center?