Do it now: tackle the end-of-school-year paperwork avalanche

end of school year papers

This morning on Twitter, I announced that I was declaring an official “Stack up all random piles of paper and deal with them-NOW” day.

If you’ve got school-age kids, they probably just had their last day of school, or are about to. Either way, chances are good you’ve just had a huge influx of paper, or are going to within a few days. (And if your kids are still little, you can use this time of year as an excuse to deal with any of your own paper piles).

While I’m usually ruthless about excess paper, banishing unneeded stuff within hours (sometimes minutes) of it entering the house, the end of the school year often throws my system into a tailspin. There’s just so MUCH of it, all coming home at once: nine months’  worth of tests and research papers, mixed with registration forms for summer camps and sports, art projects, half-full notebooks, random folded and wadded papers. (Let’s not even get into the items you might find in a particularly sloppy child’s backpack, like mummified apple cores and crumbs of all sorts). The above photo is what’s become of my usually scaled-down “pending” paper file over the last week.

It’s tempting to just throw it all in a closet to deal with next year, but do I really want to bog down my start-of-summer mojo by looking at piles of paper haphazardly stacked all over the house? I think not. I don’t know about you, but I like my summers to be breezy, easy, and unencumbered by clutter. Plus, let’s face it: if you wait too long to deal with the school paperwork then it just ends up getting mixed with mail and before you know it, it’s September again and you’ve got start-of-year paperwork coming home…

Since I believe that any system that works is a great one (and for myself, the simpler the better), I want to hear from you (and I’ll share my own thoughts and process after the questions:)

  • What is your sorting system for schoolwork? I have two stacks: recycle and keep. The “keep” pile goes right into the tote I have for schoolwork and other memorabilia. I tell the kids all the rest is going in the recycle bin and they will have a few days to glance at it and make sure I’m not tossing a treasure. They very rarely bother to look…obviously they are less attached to the idea of schoolwork-as-memento than I am.
  • What are your criteria for keeping kids’ schoolwork? My criteria is that the paper must make me smile. That means that the “A” spelling test is far more likely to get tossed in the recycle bin than the B- research paper with the clever title or endearing misspelling. If it doesn’t feel like it represents my child’s unique personality–something we’ll treasure down the road as a snapshot in time–it goes bye-bye.
  • What do you do with things you want to keep? I usually manage to scale it down to a pretty slender stack of “keepers” and those all get tossed in a tote together. One day, I’ll sort them out by child. But right now, I’d rather save the space by storing them all together-labeled with their names, of course. Perhaps the fact that I have several years’ worth of three kids’ schoolwork stored in one tote and it’s not full yet is a testament to how little schoolwork I save.

Please share your system…and then go to work implementing it! Get those counters and shelves cleared off so you can dive into a relaxed summer. I took care of my stack today…and I promise, I felt happier once it was done.

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