I often tell the Coach that our family is personally responsible for the destruction of several trees each week.
With five children in elementary school, the amount of paper that comes home with them is insane.
Over the years, I've come up with a simple system that helps me keep it all straight.
1. If it needs a response (signature, money sent, etc.) I do it THEN and return it to them or their folder or backpack (for the younger ones). The FIRST thing we do each afternoon is sit at the table and go through folders, sign papers, and get things organized for the next day. I if I try to wait, it doesn't get done.
2. If it's already in the past, or doesn't need any action, I throw it away.
3. If it's in the future, I put it on the calendar. Every child has a letter (for their name) - followed by the activity or what is needed (ex. T-sack lunch, or B-school shirt) on the appropriate day. Sometimes I use a sticky note on the top of the calendar if it needs more of a discription. Like this:
Day of the Week
After they leave for school WITH it that day, I throw the note away.
4. If it needs to be saved for reference at a later time (study sheet, list of requirements for a project, etc.) I put it in their folder.
Each child has a pocket folder, labeled with their name. ALL school stuff goes in these folders. Papers they bring home, pictures they draw, notes from teachers, report slips, etc.
5. Each week or two, I sit on the floor with all five folders and clean them out. If it's something I need to save for them, they have a file in the filing cabinet with their name and school year. If it's past, I throw it away. If it needs further action, I put it on my list. If it's not finished yet, back in the folder.
For the last 6 years, I've used this system with great success. Without some kind of organization, I know I would miss a lot!
Hope it helps you, too!
Be sure to check out the other great ideas at Rocks in My Dryer, WFMW!