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How to organize kids’ paperwork

Looking for the best way to organize the artwork and school papers your kids bring home? The amount of papers that come into our house from school is quite astounding, really. And even after the schools have made a concerted effort to take as much online as possible. There are math quizzes and vocabulary lists and artwork and fliers for this and that. It’s absolutely impossible to keep it all.

Boy with Graded PaperWhen Alfs was first in school, I kept way too much of it. Very soon, I was overwhelmed by all of it and the sheer mass of papers took on a life of its own. By the time I tried to tackle it, it was so big a job, it took me at least three times as long as if I had dealt with the papers as they arrived home. Some of it was the sentimentality of the first child in school and the first of everything, but some of it was just a learning curve as to what was really important and what wasn’t.

Initial triage

Much like dealing with the daily snail mail and the junk that comes into the mail box, a key for me is tackling the papers immediately on entry to the house. I have three piles: definitely keep, need to look at it further, and definitely toss.The definitely keep items go into folders by kid on top of my desk. The definitely toss papers go straight to recycling. The need to look at papers get further triaged into two piles: things I can take care of today, and things that take a little more time.The things I can take care of today, I try to do immediately. Is it a permission slip? I fill it out, put the date on the family calendar, and put the slip back in my child’s backpack. For the things that take more time, they go into my daily to do file, also on top of my desk. I’ll be going through that first thing next morning.This initial triage usually takes less than five minutes a day, and definitely helps keep things from getting out of hand. Any more than that would be onerous.

Weekly and monthly purging

The folders by kid that I keep on top of my desk? I go through those on a weekly basis, usually on Monday morning. Sometimes a few days later, whatever I thought was a “definitely keep” definitely isn’t. To the recycling bin it goes. For the other stuff – if anything is left – I try to file those immediately. I do keep files of various work samples of the kids from their academic careers thus far; I remember my husband’s mother showing items from such files she kept and how fun it was to learn about my beloved as a little boy. You don’t have to keep a lot of stuff – just a few representative samples.I try, also, to go through those files on a monthly or two- to three-times yearly basis. This helps keep the clutter down to a bare minimum while still keeping some bits for nostalgia.

What about the artwork?

Kids’ artwork is a special matter in all this. It tend to have more emotional attachment for parent and child alike – but again, it’s impossible to keep all of it. Much like the triage I do on other papers, I sort through what comes home regularly, purging what I can, either in discussion with my child, or when they aren’t exactly looking. Even then, the kids have been known to spy drawings in the recycling at which point I declare, “Oh no! That’s not supposed to be in there! I have no idea how that happened! Let me get it into the right place!” Which often is back in the recycling bin outside on pickup day before dawn.As for what artwork you keep, try displaying some of it! Dedicate a wall in your house (not the fridge in the kitchen – the artwork can be damaged by variable humidity and food stuffs in the kitchen) for a rotating gallery of kids’ artwork. Get some inexpensive frames and as new artwork comes in that you like, switch it around.For other artwork that you keep, try getting an artist’s portfolio at the arts and crafts store. It should be large enough to enclose the odd sized papers and such , and it can be store under a bed and keeps treasured drawings safe.

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