Periodically, leaf through your files. Not only will you find items to dispose of, but you'll also find resources you forgot you had. These newly found treasures will spark creative ideas for future lessons.

Use a small recipe box of index cards for short ideas, quotations, games, field trip ideas, etc. One card may list items loaned to others. Another may list locations of seldom-used materials. This card saves much searching. Use it for household items as well as school stuff. Or set up a similar system on your computer. Keep reminding yourself that you don't always need to save the clipping or article; if you only need a Web site address or a few sentences from the page, type the necessary information into a computer file and discard the hard copy.

Household Papers 

What about household (non-school) papers? Avoid using little scraps of paper and sticky notes for important messages. Place a stenographer's notebook or clipboard next to the phone (with pen attached!); teach your family to check the message notebook each time they come home. You may want to invest in a notebook specifically designed for taking messages at an office; it has carbonless paper, which automatically gives you a permanent copy of the message but allows the recipient to tear off the message without taking the whole notebook with him.

Just as important as a message notebook is using a personal planner. Not only will it reduce paper clutter, but it will ease mind clutter as well. Don't you hate it when you have that niggling feeling that you're forgetting something important? A planner makes those thoughts go "bye-bye." This may be a traditional notebook planner or an electronic planner such as a PDA. My children call my planner "Mom's Brain." Don't leave home without it.

Some quick ideas for dealing with mail (junk and otherwise): Process mail once daily. Sit next to a trashcan. Open all letters and bills, discarding all unneeded inserts and outer envelopes as you go. Place the mail in a folder or large envelope until you are ready to answer the letters and pay the bills (are we ever ready for that?).

Place magazines and catalogs in a reading basket. As you look through them, tear out pages to keep. I keep a file folder of just the catalog pages that interest me (with expiration dates) so I can compare them when I'm ready to order. Trash the parts of the catalogs and magazines you have no use for. If you are keeping the entire magazine, consider purchasing vertical magazine holders from an office supply store.

Final Thoughts 

If your paperwork is truly out of control, choose one small area to tackle at a time. Perhaps you will start by establishing a mail-handling routine or using Memory Boxes for your children. Maybe you will implement a central message center or personal planner first. Whatever you choose will diminish the Paper Monster's power to control your life. Chase that interloper out of your home, and you'll have the freedom to go about your daily tasks without dodging piles of papers. Charge! 

*This article published December 1, 2009.

Copyright 2009 by Marcia K. Washburn. Visit for more articles and to receive her free newsletter. Also check out her blog at

Originally published in Home School Enrichment Magazine. Now, get a FREE subscription to HSE Digital by visiting Every issue is packed with homeschool encouragement, help, and information. Get immediate access to the current issue when you start your FREE subscription today!