Recently, I saw an Instagram post of a family participating in an annual burning of their children’s many worksheets, workbooks, and unnecessary papers to celebrate the end of the school year. I was quite proud of the paper-burning mom’s attempt to declutter and to rid her home of paper clutter. It reminded me of questions that I am asked often by overwhelmed parents, “What do I do with all of the ‘stuff’ that my kids bring home from school? Do I throw it away? How do I know what to keep? Is it possible to manage it all?”
Here’s the 5-step reflective process that our family implements each school year.
Step 1: Purchase a 12 x 12 scrapbook case for each child. These cases are large enough to hold standard worksheets, several art projects, and memory items.
Step 2: Each week during the school year, go through each child’s weekly folder/backpack and determine papers to keep. In our home, we keep all graded work (because teachers sometimes make mistakes, I know because I am one). All papers to keep are placed in the the scrapbook case.
Step 3: Consider placing holiday cards, memory items, and celebration programs in the scrapbook case throughout the school year.
Step 4: Once the school year ends, pull out the scrapbook case WITH your child. Along WITH your child, pull out the trash can and recycle bin and begin to declutter the items in the scrapbook case.
DISCARD: All worksheets, tests, school announcements/newsletters, and used workbooks. This task will get rid of the majority of the items that are in the case. It is probably what the paper-burning mom enjoys setting fire to each year. However, my son enjoys keeping graded work that demonstrates his effort of studying/practicing hard for something. So we usually keep those papers (usually no more than 3-5).
DONATE: Barely used composition notebooks, pencils, erasers, and books. This year, we donated all notebooks except for math-that notebook happened to have really good notes and reference pages that he will use for his summer study routine.
KEEP: Interesting artwork; Memory items (Grandparent’s Day photo, 5th grade graduation program, thank you notes from teachers); special folders that showcase an experience (science camp folder, school visit in Peru, technology fair); certificates and awards.
Step 5: Place all KEEP items back in the scrapbook case. If your items do not fit, you may need to go through the steps of DISCARD-DONATE-KEEP again with your child. You might also consider showcasing your child’s artwork in the home or taking pictures of the projects/bulky items that your child wishes to keep.
Remember, your child should be an integral part of the process. Sure it’s much easier to go through all of those papers and throw (or burn) them without several interruptions and protests. But going through this process with your child is actually teaching them to make decisions and to be reflective about their choices.
If you find this process to be difficult for you or your family, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a decluttering session with your child.
Best wishes for the end of the school year and to transitioning to summer activities!