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Coping with end-of-the-school-year clutter

Categories: Hacking Life, Parenting, Uncategorized, Working? Living?


School is out in my town, and on her last day of Kindergarten my girl had a backpack full of precious papers. Not just her own drawings and worksheets and notebooks, but stuff her entire class had created together: Wall-size poems with six-inch-tall letters, spiral-bound storybooks illustrated by everyone. It’s a genius way to declutter the classroom at the end of the year, I grant you that. But as she proudly pulled paper after laminated paper out of her backpack, I began to wonder: What am I supposed to do with all this stuff?

As I’ve confessed here before, I have a tendency to clutter. Around this time each year I attempt to reduce, reuse and recycle the vast mountains of stuff that accumulate in my home (not mail, though, oddly enough; that I always manage to open or pitch immediately). And while my house never ends up looking as tidy as the ones tired women are always cleaning in commercials, I can usually get by—until the end of the school year, when the paperwork piles up.

This year, with both little kids bringing home anywhere from three to six projects each week, I had to set up some rules (for myself). I keep anything with hand prints—I know, from my big step kids, who are teenage giants now, that time passes far too quickly and those little hands will be huge before I know it. And I keep anything of which the kids seem especially proud. Those things get holes punched up the sides and slipped into a massive three-ring binder; everything else goes into the recycling bin.

Every few months we flip through the binder together, and anything they can’t describe or I can’t decipher gets taken out. Things that are too big for the binder, or things that they’re on the fence about keeping (or, frankly, I am), get piled, with apologies to my husband, on the dining room table. I wait a week—OK, usually two—and then sift through the pile, pitching and keeping; anything the kids haven’t retrieved or 3-D projects they haven’t played gets thrown away.

Ideally, I think I should be snapping digital photographs of my kids holding their creations; the digital copy would get printed out or filed away, and the original would be recycled. But there’s something about holding the brittle paper and measuring their growing hands against those painted prints that doesn’t translate to a digital photo, and I’m loathe to give all of it up. So for now, my imperfect and still-clutter-filled system will have to do.

How do you handle all of the end-of-the-school-year paperwork?

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2 comments so far...

  • You’re doing much better than I am!

    I am completely overwhelmed by school clutter. My kids’ creations get put in a big box to deal with later, much later! I try to only keep the best ones, but I know there’s stuff in there that I shouldn’t have kept. I don’t have any sort of organization for them, just the big box. As far as the other things, like journals, stories, and such, if they are worth keeping, they get thrown in the communal dump box. Some day, I’ll have time to sift through it again, and sort by kid, so they can keep some of their work throughout the years..

    D.  |  June 28th, 2011 at 2:35 pm

  • Great post! I, too, struggle with this and feel guilt when I get rid of anything because I want to remember his handwriting or how he first wrote his name and see the actual ink or crayon he used. Now that I have 2 kiddos who both have art projects at their daycare beginning at age 1, I have stacks and stacks and just havne’t been able to bring myself to really going through any of it, but I know I must.

    Great suggestions. I think I might just implement what you described. Thanks! :)

    Stacey  |  June 28th, 2011 at 8:22 pm