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

by Meagan Francis on June 7, 2010

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.

Want more ideas
for creating a happier home life?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Christine LaRocque June 8, 2010 at 8:12 am

Blessedly I don’t have this problem yet. (Though my guy starts in September, so the reprieve at this point is short lived)But let me tell you, he comes home with his fair share of artwork from daycare, and the baby brought home his very first just the other. Beyond the sentimentality of that piece, I tend to display for a short time and then toss. I only keep those that which demonstrate a new skill, or things of sentimental value (cards for me). I suspect even that will have to be revisted soon.

What I really need is help dealing with all the household paperwork. It’s the first thing I skip doing. Like you I do a major filter and toss when it comes in, but then I’m never good of actually filing the stuff I have to keep. My office is out of sight, so the pile is easy to ignore.


Dee June 8, 2010 at 9:17 am

My system is almost exactly like yours right down to the not yet separated by child tote! One more thing I do is ask my kids what they would like to keep. This year, there are very few things that they have wanted to hold on to. The older they get, the less attached they are to paper stuff. I’m thrilled about that.


Jennifer Bingham Hull June 8, 2010 at 11:31 am

This is such a timely blog post!

I am ruthless when it comes to the paper avalanche – I throw out almost everything, including the A+ tests. I do save anything the kids have written that is meaningful including journals and creative stories (probably because I’m a writer.) We also save some texts in hopes of reviewing material over the summer (ha, ha!)

Years ago I purchased huge “timeless treasures” accordion-type files for each of my girls. They’ve been great for storing some of this stuff. The girls love to pull them out and review their memorabilia.

My younger daughter just started summer art camp so we have another avalanche. In the past, she’s turned the master bathroom into an art museum, putting her stuff on the walls. That works for me, though I have to pay $1 admission on occasion. . .


cagey (Kelli Oliver George) June 8, 2010 at 1:10 pm

My goal is that each kid gets one (maybe two) plastic tote(s) to take with him/her as they scoot out of the house for good. This tote will include baby things and school things. I am hoping it will calm my sentimental/hoarding streaks.

Good post for me to ponder!


TheKitchenWitch June 10, 2010 at 2:04 pm

I’m pretty ruthless. I only keep really special projects. And of course, I sneak the rest into the recycle bin because my kids would be outraged!


Maman A Droit June 16, 2010 at 10:26 am

Great to read these ideas! My baby just started coloring so now I’m having to start deciding what my criteria fit keeping art will be! I’m leaning towards throwing most of it away once we enjoy it for a few days or weeks!


English Learning Center February 17, 2011 at 2:50 am

Yes i also looking and work on it ,like this Article Said ,every child starts with primary work e g coloring a paper.


Julie M. May 30, 2013 at 10:14 pm

I try to scan as many cute papers as possible to clear out the mess but still have the memory :)


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