Ever feel overwhelmed by all the papers, notices, artwork, and other items your kids bring home from school? Don't be a pack rat!! We'll show you how to "Trap the R-A-T" (RETAIN, ACT, THROW)
1. School flyers: Nearly every day, your child brings home flyers announcing some school activity, bake sale, field trip, or other such notices. Unfortunately, these notices tend to pile up unless acted upon. As soon as practicable, read the flyers and perform the following R.A.T. exercise. RETAIN: All school flyers that you need to keep (class lists with phone numbers, emergency procedures, etc.) ACT: Make sure you have your calendar while reviewing the flyers, and mark any important dates. Once you mark the date, you should be able to "throw." THROW: Anything you suspect you won't need in the future. Don't be afraid to throw, as you can always go back to the school and ask about the content of the flyer if necessary. There should be approximately a 4 to 1 ratio of "throw" to "retain."
2. Art Work: While it would be great to be able to keep all of your childrens' artwork in perpetuity, most of us don't have enough room in the house!! I recommend that you follow the 3 "F" rule.
FRAME: Some outstanding pieces of artwork deserve framing. Buy several acrylic frame boxes at The Container Store and hang the framed artwork around your house, in your basement, or in your child's room. Your kids will appreciate the recognition they get when you go the extra mile to frame their art.
FILE: Not all art is frameworthy. But it may not be trashworthy either! Keep those items which demonstrate talent, and you may someday decide to frame. Make a file box for each child, and let them decorate the box. When they bring something home they want to keep, ask them to file it in their very own keepsake box.
FLUSH: No need to keep random scribble, or works that don't meet your standards. There should be a 1 to 3 to 5 ratio of Frame, File and Flush. And don't forget, much of the "filed" art can be used as gifts to relatives. You may also consider taking digital photos of your child's art, and storing it on disk. Although it's not the same as the original, this is a good way to reduce the clutter of the overwhelming amount of art that comes through the door.
3. Art Supplies: To create a masterpiece, your child needs the proper tools. Everything from markers, crayons, paints, and brushes need to be organized or they will quickly overtake your home. Keep everything in a portable box that they can bring from room to room, and separate the crayons, markers and other stuff into baggies. Make it clear that they are responsible for maintaining order for their art supplies. You may also consider purchasing a small "art desk" and a bookshelf so they can have their own area in the house to do artwork. Put the supplies in separate lined baskets in the bookshelf for them to use.
4. Birthday invitations: To keep track of all the birthday parties, it's best to follow the "GO or NO" rule. Once you get invited try to make a decision quickly. Mark it in your calendar and make a birthday invitation file so you can keep the ones you need (i.e. if there's directions you'll need the day of the party). If it's a "NO," respond within a day or two and "flush" the invitation.
These are just a few of the ideas to help kill the clutter. To go the extra mile, a professional organizer can help you meet all of the above challenges, and more.
About The Author
Betsy Fein is the President of Clutterbusters!!, a professional organizing firm based in Rockville, Maryland. For a free evaluation of your home or office, and to review clutterbusting products, go to www.theclutterbusters.com. Copyright 2003