Paper Management for Evolving Humans (Summer Project #4)

We are all evolving humans, isn’t that cool?  But I am referring to paper management and kids.

I spent a few hours on Sunday organizing papers.  More importantly, this time I involved my evolving humans (my kids) in the process, since they will need to manage their own papers some day.  My boys are tweens and teens, but even little kids can get in on the process, sorting last year’s school papers, using the shredder (with guidance), or taking out the recycling!  We just have to set the example!

There are three main types of paper – Active, Archival and Passive. Each requires specific handling and storage.  One of my sons had the the opportunity to touch all three types of paper this week, this is how it went.

Active Paper: Definition

     Active Papers Require Action.  Mail to open, forms to complete, bills to pay, phone calls to make, etc.

Active Paper: Everyone needs an In-Box.

     As I reviewed papers, I established an in-box for each of my sons.  Each of them now has a 851604_scene7labeled folder in the command center in the kitchen.  I shared the location and purpose with them, I will add to the folders as mail or info comes in, and they will check the folders every couple of days (at least that is the plan!!).  No more counter piles – yeah!!

Active Papers: Even I Need an In-Box.
There is also a folder for me, containing active papers pertaining to my sons that I need to act upon.  For example, it now holds registration info for the middle schooler (8/1), and the photo order form for the high schooler (that he will need on the first day of school 8/18).

Active Papers: Need a Process for Action.

     Establishing a home for active papers keeps them from getting lost and ensures the “action” actually occurs!

Active Papers: Technology is changing how we handle papers.

     Technology is increasingly useful and pervasive in managing paper and information, and our kids are on the ground floor.  Last week, we ordered the high school text books on-line, including the digital texts for my son’s Chromebook.  Few papers come home from school anymore, and much of the kids’ work is completed and even submitted digitally on their tech devices.

Archival Papers: Definition.

     Archival papers are a very important, small and specific category of papers.   Very few papers become archival items.  Archival papers are the papers that we will need today or in 20 years. Birth certificates, sacramental certificates, social security cards, passports.  As we grow up, we may add items like car titles,  mortgage papers or insurance policies.  Again, a small and specific type of paper.

Archival Papers: Safe Storage and Retrieval. 

      One of my sons got his drivers license last week.  The Secretary of State required his SS card  256564_p_open_leftand birth certificate, so he learned where we keep them (a small fireproof portable safe) and how to access them.  The very nice lady at the Sec of State also reminded him that he needs to learn his Social Security # (we’ve told him this, but it means more coming from someone else!!).

     I also cleaned up everyone’s academic binders over the weekend (click here for info).  I weeded out old school news and duplicate event programs, filed each kids’ papers by year in the binder pocket, and generally cleaned up the cabinet where the binders live.  We’ve added to these binders every school year since preschool, and we can refer to them as academic and achievement record.

Passive Papers: Definition.

      Passive papers don’t require action (Active Paper ) nor will they stand the test of time (archival). They just require retention for a certain amount of time, for reference.

Passive Papers:  Keep them for Reference.  

     Passive Papers are the ones that tend to give us the most grief, as this is the biggest category.
We keep passive papers around because we might need to refer back to them, at least for a certain amount of time.   For example, the Sec of State requires two other documents for a driver license, recent mail with a home address on them (we brought a savings account bank statement and a final grade report).

     My high schooler also went through all the papers in his room.  128585_pHe mentioned that he had thrown a lot away (hooray) and sorted the rest into broad categories, like school and music and college.  I suggested 2 other categories, Boy Scouts and bank statements.  We went to Office Depot, bought a $15 file tote, and made hanging file holders for each of his categories.

Decision Making Made Easier.

     There is great power in knowing what papers to keep, because we then know what we can toss.  When you look at a piece of paper, and it doesn’t fall into the three broad types of papers above, or the categories within your Passive Papers, its likely that you don’t need to keep it at all.
 So, tackle your papers this week WITH YOUR KIDS, and let everyone learn from the process!

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