|Dodgerton Skillhause via Morguefile|
While your styles should dictate what this long-term reference spot should look like, function should lead this charge. Because most of the information that goes into this reference spot will be rendered obsolete in a short time, what matters most is ease of access.
Here are a few things to consider as you create this sanity-saving system.
Who's the primary user of this system? If you are, then your styles trump everyone else's. Like binders? Use one. Prefer accordion folders, a fancy clipboard or a family bulletin board? Go for it.
Be careful, though -- this also makes you the disseminator of information. If you want others to contribute to and access this storage, you may need to make it friendly to other styles as well. Want to have it both ways? Create a system that works for you and a drop spot that works for everyone else.
How will you manage the flow of papers? Are you a keeper or a tosser? Not you personally, but your style. If you write information down, then toss the form or flyer, you won't need much paper storage, but if you keep the original as a reminder until its date has passed, you'll need to make provisions for filing or posting the paper. Function is key, but let your styles be your guide.
Where will you put it? This goes back to who's using the system. If you're a Type A organizer, you probably have a nice file drawer somewhere with all of this information tucked inside and labeled, but if you're an I need to see it or I know I put it somewhere person, the words "drawer" and "inside" just made you cringe. If you want your family members to look up their own information, your system will look different than it will if you want to be the information clearinghouse.
No judging here--I can identify with the information clearinghouse model. If I know where things are at all times, they don't get lost. Be honest with yourself about how you want this to work, not how you think it should work. If you're most comfortable being the keeper of the originals, then use that part of your style to make yourself the back-up--an external hard drive of sorts. Encourage your family members to create their own parallel systems, with you as their safety net. This can be a great way to help kids build organizational systems of their own.
If your child's school has gone paperless, the solution is even simpler. Bookmark key locations on your phone or computer or, if you prefer, designate a home for a cheat sheet where you can write all this down. You can use a white board, a single sheet of paper (on a clipboard or bulletin board, perhaps) or, especially if you have kids in different schools, a tabbed notebook.
One last note. This is not the time to create the be-all, end-all stylishly perfect system. If you've done it before and it works, you're all set. If you haven't and are just getting started, it will evolve over time. Either way, all of this information will be in and out in a year or less, so don't spend a lot of time creating a system that should serve you.
Have a great idea to share? Post it in the comments below.