Organizing Your Paper, Spaces & Time 

Organized & Productive 
April, 2015    

Spring has finally sprung, and with it comes spring cleaning (or what I like to call
Lisa S. Griffith
"spring flinging!") Our area offers numerous opportunities to safely let go of unwanted items of all kinds, from documents to clothing and household goods, to electronic waste. One event that is special to me is the annual East Bay Chamber of Commerce "Earth Day" Recycling Event. On Saturday, April 25th, from 9 am to noon, the Chamber provides free electronic waste collection
(anything computer or cell phone related, but no TV's, please!) and document shredding. Come to the East Bay Chamber at 16 Cutler St. in Warren, RI (facing Child St., next to Tom's Market) and start your spring flinging in a way that helps the environment, both in the outside world and in your own world in your home or office!


Conquering Kids' Paper Clutter


One of the questions I'm asked most often at the end of all of my presentations on dealing with paper clutter is usually from one of the parents in the audience. "My kids bring home so much paper from school every single day. What do I do with it all?"  While they may or may not necessarily struggle with controlling their own paper pile-ups in their offices or homes, almost every parent is frustrated with dealing with the huge amount of paper that their kids accumulate, especially when they hit those elementary school years. The amount of paper a child brings home throughout the year (and especially at the end of the year when desks and lockers must be cleaned out) can be overwhelming. Having a regular system in place to deal with it helps a great deal. Some of the suggestions below might be just what you need to get it all under control, and help teach your children the organizing skills they will need throughout their lives.


As you sort through their stuff, think about how much you really need to save. Keep only papers that are unique and special (every weekly spelling test doesn't really qualify!) Acknowledge that your home doesn't have unlimited space and that space should be reserved for things that are meaningful. A few, carefully chosen mementos mean much more than box after box of papers and projects that are left to molder in the basement or attic. Keeping less also makes it easier to access, making that occasional walk down memory lane much more fun.


As parents, we save all those papers, art projects, toys, clothes, and childhood stuff because we look at our growing children, realize the time is going by so very fast, and we want to be able to hold on to those fleeting childhood years! But again, do those boxes and boxes of spelling papers, coloring book pictures, book reports and certificates for "the third-best math homework paper in the class for the second week of October" really help us hold onto those memories? How about just keeping the very best and putting it into a special memory box, or a scrapbook, that brings back those really special times? Trust me, your kids really don't want all that stuff! They may want the best of the best - the blue ribbon, the A+ research paper, or even the C+ calculus test that symbolized the hard work they put in just to be able to pass an impossibly difficult class. Teach them that memories are in our heads and our hearts, and not in our stuff.


Here are few organizing tips and systems to help you get started. The papers and pictures that you save can be stored in a number of different ways:

  • The simplest is to designate a plastic bin as a "memory box", labeled with your child's name and added to at the end of each year. Again, before you buy the largest, 50-gallon bin available, consider how much storage space you have to dedicate to keeping things that may never see the light of day again.
  • Another option is to use an artist's portfolio that will hold larger projects more easily.
  • A popular choice is to make a memory book. Use that smaller, easy to access plastic bin to collect things throughout the year. Then, at the end of the year, after you've culled through and narrowed it down to the best of the best, fill a 2" clear-view binder with heavy-duty sheet protectors. Slide papers, pictures, ribbons & medals, cards, etc. into the protectors. Label the spine of the binder with the child's name and years included. You can also slide a picture of your child into the front cover. Consider one book for each of the following categories: pre-school through 2nd grade, 3rd through 5th grades, middle school, and high school through college (more space for those prolific elementary years.) This is a great way to make those special mementos easy to look through in future years, and to really mark their progression from kindergarten finger-paintings to their most sophisticated term papers and awards.
  • A file crate can also make a great container for storing those childhood mementos. Use some sturdy, colorful, hanging file folders that will hang inside the bin, using one folder per year. Use the plastic tabs to designate each year, kindergarten through 12th grade, with perhaps just one more marked "college years". One file crate per child.
  • When your children are in those elementary years and bringing home numerous art projects and special papers, it's wonderful if you have the space to display them for a short while. Choose only the most special stuff to show off. Allow your child to help decide - this helps teach them discernment for the quality of their own work and helps them to learn how to set criteria for what to keep and what to let go (the hardest part of any organizing project.) Many folks do this on the fridge, but a large bulletin board hung in the back hallway or on the back of the door will display things so much better and not run the risk of falling off every time you open the fridge door! One of the most interesting display ideas I've seen is to run a metal cable or a clothesline across the top of a wall and use clips to hang pictures. The key to making all of these displays work is to PURGE items on a regular basis. Allowing ancient, acrylic paint pictures to hang forever while the paint slowly crumbles off and multiple pictures get pinned or hung on top of them doesn't really accomplish the goal of displaying ONLY the special stuff. Teach your child that, as their life evolves, the display of their best stuff should, too.
  • For large projects, instead of saving that huge "Pilgrim village", snap a photo of your child standing next to their masterpiece. This way, you have a wonderful memento not only of the project, but also of your child at the age that he or she actually did the project, and it doesn't hog precious storage space. Print out the picture and store it in their memory box, binder or crate for the appropriate year. Then you can let go of the project with memory preserved and NO guilt!

Don't forget that the amount of paperwork that will come home will diminish as time goes on, so it should get easier and easier to decide what to save. Also, if you've set up an easy-to-use system early on, your child will be able to make those decisions on their own as he/she matures.


Questions to ask yourself (and your child) as you make decisions about what to keep:

    • Is this unique to my child, or is it a sheet that every kid in the class did?
    • Does it show my child's personality or special ability (writing, drawing)?
    • Does it tell about a special memory?
    • Will they want to make space for it and look at it again when they are 30?
    • What's the worst thing that would happen if you threw it away?

Remember that most of this stuff is probably way more important to you than it is to your child. When they are grown and living in their own space, they are probably not going to want to drag around, store, and pick through dozens of boxes of their childhood stuff. However, if there is one special box, binder or crate that holds their most significant and precious memories, they will probably truly enjoy keeping it and taking that walk down memory lane someday, perhaps even with their own children!


Teaching your kids how to make decisions, figure out what's important and what can be let go, and treasuring their space, time, and relationships with people rather than stuff are invaluable lessons that your children will benefit from for their entire adult lives.


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Hear Lisa Speak
on Organizing & Productivity


Conquering Paper Clutter at Home 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Noon - 1 pm

Brown University - College Hill campus

Providence, RI

(open to faculty & staff only) 


Dealing with the constant influx of paper into your home is crucial to maintaining an organized, uncluttered living space. Countertops, dining room tables, all horizontal surfaces can become inundated with paper piles. In this presentation, you will learn how to set up a household command center that will give you quick and easy access to current and important family papers. You will know what to keep and how to store your kids' artwork and school papers so you can preserve the most significant mementos in an accessible and enjoyable fashion. Come and discover Lisa's signature "5 D's" system for making quick decisions on the daily influx of mail and other papers. Find out how to set up a mail sorting station to keep those mail piles from cluttering up your home, and finally reconnect with your family over dinnertime at your paper-free kitchen or dining room table!



The Optimized Office
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Noon - 1 pm
Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University
222 Richmond St.
Providence, RI
(open to faculty & staff only)

Turning your cluttered, disorganized office into a functional workspace is crucial to maintaining your productivity and keeping stress at bay. This presentation will offer organizing techniques and tips to help you deal with the most common source of office clutter, wasted time, and reduced productivity - paper! Learn how to set up an easy-to-maintain desktop center that will keep important papers at your fingertips, make quick decisions about how to deal with incoming mail and other paperwork, and turn your cluttered desk into an efficient place to work. You will walk away with tools that will enable you to reclaim your desktop, filing cabinet, office floor, or any other place that has become overwhelmed by paper clutter.


In order, in joy, 



Lisa S. Griffith, CPOŽ 
The Organized Way
Organizing & Productivity Specialist/Speaker 
Phone:  (401) 289-0042
Website: www.organizedway.com  View our profile on LinkedIn  Find us on Facebook