by Susan McCarthy
Everyday practice: Create one location for each child's paperwork to gather during the schoolyear.
With the end of the school year comes some relief, at least until summer camp or vacation plans start. You may want to hold off going through the school stuff; but, look at it this way, it will be easier to do while your minds are still in school-mode than on some rainy July afternoon.
You don’t have to do this yourself. Involve the kids – they did the work, they can decide what to do with the results. Remember, test papers, book reports, and artwork aren’t your child’s memories of school. When in doubt, scan a paper or take a photograph of an item.
Empty the Backpack – Remove everything from every pocket, then tip the bag upside down so to shake out crumbs and anything that’s been overlooked. Check the condition of the bag – do all the zippers work, can it be used for another year?
Gather All the Papers - Have the kids help you on a scavenger hunt by gathering all the papers from the past school year. Look in their bedrooms, your home office or near your command center/family calendar, the dining table, kitchen counters, or anywhere else papers may have been dropped. (And, next year, set aside a single location for school papers to collect.)
Sort the Papers – You can sort through the papers as you gather them if you have no plans on keeping any of the quizzes or reports your child did over the year. In fact, unless an item represents a turning point in your child’s education (this was the first 100% you got!), it isn’t necessary to hold onto these papers. Instead of holding onto the actual paper, consider scanning it into the computer.
No, when your child is 22 they won’t be devastated to discover you tossed their math quizzes from third grade.
Curate Artwork – I’ll include science projects, dioramas, and poster board displays in this category. Have your child select their favorite 3-to-5 pieces to scan, photograph, or display in their bedroom through the summer. If you have your own favorites, scan them and then turn them into your phone’s wallpaper. Don’t force your favorites on your child.
Curating these pieces helps a child notice that not everything they create has the same value for them. The coloring page done on rainy day recess won’t have involved the same amount of thought and effort as the poster they created for a favorite book that they read.
Release the School Year – If you have an outdoor firepit, you could ceremoniously burn the papers from the previous school year. Let the smoke carry away any bad feelings or frustrations while clearing the way for the new school year.
Even tossing all the papers in the recycling bin creates a clear space for new things in the upcoming year.
Deal with a Child Who Wants to Keep Everything – Instead of asking why they want to keep their stuff, consider asking what they will do with it, which requests a physical plan instead of an emotional response.
Create a compromise. For example, the child can keep everything that fits in a file box. Allow the child to take photographs of anything too large to fit in the box. Don’t just photograph the item but include the child in the image. Explain that the box must be emptied on the eve of the new school year, so the box will be ready for the new grade.
Prepare for Next School Year – For next year, toss all flat papers in a file box or milk crate when it comes into the house (if they can’t be immediately recycled). Have a rotating display of current artwork or highest test scores. When your child comes home with a new piece, they need to decide whether it is nice enough to replace one of the pieces on display.
I’ve heard stories of parents who felt the need to hold onto every spelling quiz and report their children created – entire rooms would be devoted to nothing but warehousing schoolwork. When the parents asked their adult children if they wanted any of this stuff; the adult kids responded that they didn’t know why their parents held onto everything, they didn’t want it.
If you have a difficult time release all this stuff, ask yourself, ‘what do these quizzes, reports, dioramas, and posters represent to me?’ and see if you can better understand why you feel you can’t toss any of this stuff. Remember, these aren’t your or your child’s memories.
Know some other parents who are wondering what to do with all their kids' school papers? Please share this article.
Sign up for emails from A Less Cluttered Life and learn how simple, everyday practices can eliminate the scattered feeling of trying to do too much. Join the free program, A Year of Decluttering, at any time of the year and get access to the 7-day e-course, Distraction-free Decluttering.
The Organized Squirrel, Susan, shows you how acorns (small habits) can grow into oak trees (a better life).