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.
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.
Since I believe that any system that works is a great one (and for myself, the simpler the better), the process of taming the torrent of school paperwork starts by asking yourself a few questions.
What sorting system will you use?
I have two stacks: recycle and keep. The “keep” pile goes right into the bin 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 will be 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 will 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 bin and it’s not full yet is a testament to how little schoolwork I save.
Getting those counters and shelves cleared off will help you dive into a relaxed summer. So take a few minutes to think about what system will work best for you…and then go to work implementing it! And please, share your answers to the above questions here to inspire readers who are trying to dig out from under their own piles of paper!