Home Organisation – 4 Tips For Handling Family Paperwork


Back in March I posted about the decluttering I had been undertaking to improve the level of home organisation. I think one of the bigger challenges of family life is managing all the school/kinder paperwork.

All five of the kids attend a place of education and we have three separate organisations sending information home, on top of sports and other extra curricular activities. Having a system that keeps this under control is critical to make sure everyone turns up at the right time, right place with the right gear!

Home Organisation - Family Paperwork
After I had decluttered, I added a school paperwork area to what has become our central hub. It is basic and I have been testing it out for a couple of months now and am happy with the way it is going. Always room for improvement, but the area has stayed tidy and I haven’t missed any key events – both good signs!

Here are my key tips for handling family paperwork:

1. Handle paperwork once

Or least number of times as possible! As I have noted on the blog here, one of the biggest tine wasters with paperwork is the way we handle items multiple times. When the kids come home from school, they need to bring the notices out of their bags and leave them on the kitchen bench.

As tempting as it is to go and have a read of them straight away, then is not the time I am going to be able to fill in the forms etc. By the time the kids have gone to bed and I do have the time to do the paperwork, I will have to reread it anyway to make sure I know what I am filling in.

Better of just to read it and action it once I know I have the time to do so.

2. Don’t rely on fancy systems

Decluttering - Phone Lists
I have to admit to completely loving stationary and organisation type stores. I could wander around in them for ages and imagine all the different types of systems I could put in place. I find I particularly do this when things are a bit disorganised at home.

Often I am looking for “the system” which will sort everything for me, when really it is often my behaviour and sticking to a process that will make by far the biggest difference to how organised things are around the home.

There are definitely a few more things I would like to have and I could easily do with more “prettier” systems than what I have, but it is important not to let not having those things, be an excuse for staying disorganised.

The folder above contains a section for each child. Each year the kids change classes and they receive a class list of names and phone numbers. I like to keep those as the kids stay friends with kids who are no longer in the class and it is good to have the names and numbers for reference.

The set up cost was less than $5 for the three ring binder, dividers and plastic covers to slip the lists into. It may not be pretty, but it is much better than the collection of papers we previously had and the phone lists are now organised in a way that the kids can easily access them by themselves.

3. Less is best

I took away the above bowl when I decluttered. As long as it was going to be on the shelf, it was always going to fill up with stuff. It is similar with filing trays, folders etc. The more options you have to store papers around the house, the more you will store stuff you don’t really need to.

Hence me opting for the small wire rack to file the current school paperwork. It is simply not possible to keep much in it. I have to admit to cursing it sometimes as I would love to be able to just file some stuff away, so I have it “organised”. In reality that means postponing the real action for a later date. I just have to do it sooner rather than later now.

4. Involve the family

It is the kids responsibility to retrieve the notices from their school bags. I place completed paperwork in their opened lunch boxes and it is then their responsibility to make sure it is returned safely to school.

I also expect the kids to handle birthday party invites and the like themselves. Once we have determined if they can attend, they need to place details on the calendar, RSVP to the party and place the invite on the fridge.

It is way too much work for me to be responsible for all of the paperwork coming. Making sure I delegate age appropriate activities to the kids helps reduce the amount of work the school forms etc require from me.

What tips would you add to help make the challenge of handling the family paperwork easier or more efficient?


  1. says

    Great tips! I’m training my kids to put all school notes in a pile on top of my laptop so that the next time I sit down, I deal with them before I open it. I’m a big believer in only handling paper once too.

  2. Vanessa says

    I’ve started using an expanding file folder as a simplified ‘tickler’ file (there is lots of info out there on the net about ticklers eg 43 folders). There is a section for each month of the year. For example, I’ve got to take my daughter to an allergist appointment in July, so I put the related paperwork in the July section and mark the appointment details on the calendar with a T, so I know to check the tickler file at the appropriate time.

  3. Kirsty Martin says

    THat’s a great idea.
    I’ve never come up with a good idea – they’re only good for a bit then I lose control of everything.
    My idea right now is just putting it all in a nice looking basket on the bench so it looks wonderful & then I lose what I need or what I need is always down bottom of the pile.
    Where did you get that black divder thingy?


  4. Carli says

    The system that I use is to fill in the paperwork, write it on the calendar and place in date order in a giant magnetic clip on the fridge so when I check the calendar and see a notation, the corresponding note should be the next one in the clip.

  5. Kym says

    Great tips and advice Nicole. I must admit I’m guilty of handling paperwork more than once, so I like your idea of not reading it when it’s handed to you. I guess I’m worried I’ll forget to get back to it after the kids are in bed, or get caught up with other things. I have a desktop hanging file on my kitchen bench but have to admit I don’t regularly cull it as often as I should. Keeping artwork and drawings from not taking over the house can also be a mission in our house!!

  6. Catriona says

    I also get the kids to take the notes out of their bags and out them in a designated spot, and always aim to deal with them on the same day.
    I bought a large A4 diary and put the notes/ invitations in there on the appropriate date after putting it on the family calender and replying, so it is easy to find when the event comes up, and the front of my fridge is tidy!!! I put bills in there too so I can always find them.

  7. Lulu says

    I laughed in recognition of a fellow stationary ‘addict’ -I could spend hours in those shops too! You are so right though in pointing out that the behavior is key to organisation rather than gorgeous boxes. I don’t have any school-aged kids yet (now there are 3 under 4 years) but I try to limit what paperwork comes into the house(i.e open the post at the recycling bin), have as many bills online as possible and be ruthless about what gets kept/filed.Happily, this seems to get easier the more you declutter!

  8. Kelly says

    I have recently taken to highlighting dates for the diary as I read the school newsletter so I don’t miss any important dates. Then I only have to look for the highlighted stuff when I write it in, I was always missing something!

  9. pakeha says

    > i like to use the “prettier” of the artworks as wrapping paper. more recently I’ve cut the more colourful ones into strips and used them as labels for home made jams or tomato sausces

  10. says

    My girls like to play in the school playground for an hour or so after school. I tend to check their bags for notices then and write any important dates straight into my iPhone calender.

    If I can I fill in forms there and then and return to the school office on our way to the car.

    Not perfect, but it mostly works. I do have a massive mountain of paperwork at home from various therapists that needs sorting. So thrilled that some have started emailing their reports, much easier to handle.

  11. says

    ALWAYS great ideas on your blogs Nicole but I particularly like the bit about the kids RSVPing to the parties. This is a stroke of genius…now we just need an invite to put that one into practice!!